Spring awakening: Yoga for the spring equinox

Wherever you are, right now; However you think and whatever you feel, it always fluctuates. It will be different; it will turn into something new.

Spring is an opportunity for renewal and rebirth – to plant seeds, to nourish them, and to witness the endless cycle of growth and change. It is also a reminder that we cannot be reborn until we experience some kind of death – a shedding of old layers, habits, and outdated beliefs. When we realize that each waking moment is an opportunity to be reborn, we can experience the pure joy of awareness for the present moment here in the now.

In the northern hemisphere, the Vernal Equinox has been honored on March 20th for thousands of years as a celebration of life and fertility. A time to find a balance between Yin and Yang – and as a “spring cleaning” for stagnant energy that was stored in the long, dark and cold winter months.

This yoga sequence is intended to facilitate this awakening; To collect and draw energy inwards and then release it outwards as a metaphorical planting of seeds.

Dynamic Chair Posture (Shakti Uttanasana)

In Hindu mythology, Shakti is described as primordial cosmic energy, which represents dynamic forces that move throughout the universe. In this variation on a traditional chair posture, attention is directed to the cosmos and then to the future and past, thereby empowering us in the present.

From Mountain Pose (Tadasana), inhale your arms above you to squeeze your palms together, then exhale to put the weight on your heels and recline in a chair position. Explore the feeling that the tailbone extends backwards while the palms of the hands and the gaze reach the sky and experience these powerful opposing forces. As you inhale, lower your palms to shoulder level and look at the tips of your thumbs. Inhale and then exhale to reach your right hand all the way back. Keep your hips straight and look back over your right shoulder. Inhale and then exhale deeply to bring your right hand back and meet the left. Inhale to bring both palms of your hands up to the sky again.

Cactus Crescent Lungs

From Chair Pose, come palms together above your head, step your left foot back into a high lunge position, keeping your back heel raised. The right knee remains stacked over the right ankle with the kneecap facing forward. Following the same dynamic movements as before, lower your palms to shoulder level, then straighten your right palm all the way back before bringing it forward to meet the left again. Also, don’t be afraid to make a great clapping sound. From here, open your heart and chest by pulling your arms into a cactus position, bending your elbows about 90 degrees, and contracting your shoulder blades at the back of your body to let out a big exhale. Inhale to bring the pressed palms back together.

Kali Goddess Squats (Utkata Konasana)

Kali is the Hindu goddess of death who is often associated with sexuality and fertility. She is also considered a matriarchal figure. We can work on the equinox with Kali’s energy to honor the infinite cycles of life and death that embody the nature of duality. Inhale to straighten your front leg, twisting all ten toes to the left to keep your feet parallel to your feet. From a wide position, exhale with your heels turned only slightly inward to sink into a goddess squat, pulling your thighs parallel to the earth and knees bent at 90 degrees. Inhale to straighten both legs and exhale to crouch. Repeat up to four times.

Legs apart, forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana) according to Scandasana

The key to achieving harmony within this movement lies in the balance between effort and ease. Maintaining the same wide posture and straight legs, bring your hands to your hips, then pivot them forward at the waist, exposing your fingertips to the ground with your arms straight. Inhale, lengthen your waist and stretch the crown of your head forward. Then exhale to lower your torso forward and surrender. Take a deep breath here, then move your hands to the left, sinking into your left hip to sit on your left heel with the ball of your left foot raised. Keep your right leg straight, except that your toes bend up toward the sky (your heel may have slipped further to the right by now). Optionally, you can reach the right arm above you and step into the full lunge Scandasana. Enable an energetic exchange between your fingers and the proverbial fertile soil by creating more length with each inhalation. Everyone exhales for more release and grounding. As you exhale, lower your left fingertips back to the ground and straighten both legs to return to a wide-legged posture with a long back.

Pyramid Pose “Pumps” (Parsvottanasana)

Wide-legged, move your hands all the way to the right to frame your right foot and keep your back heel raised for more freedom of movement. Inhale to drop your hips and bend through your right knee, lifting your chest and looking up at the sky. Then exhale to stretch through both legs. Inhale again to bend your front knee. Exhale to straighten both legs and fold them forward and inward. Let your head be heavy and your neck relaxed. Repeat this process up to four times to examine a deep release feeling of the outer right hip and a gentle extension of the front of the left thigh (the psoas).

Forward folding with half lifts (Uttanasana)

To complete the sequence on this side, step right with your back foot and inhale to look forward with a long back. Exhale to bend forward and inward. Keep your knees bent so that your waist can be hinged. Make sure that the back is not excessively rounded. Release your head heavily and your neck for minimal exertion. Repeat this process up to four times before placing your hands on your hips. Inhale and return your heart to a standing position. After you’ve established your foundation in Mountain Pose, now is the time to repeat these movements on the other side of your body.

Photos courtesy of Beth Kessler Photography

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Author Bio-ShotAndrea Rice is a writer, yoga and meditation teacher and presenter of the Wanderlust Festival. Her articles and essays have been published in the New York Times, Yoga Journal, Wanderlust Journal, NY Yoga + Life, mindbodygreen and SONIMA, among others. She has been teaching yoga since 2010, first in Brooklyn and Manhattan and now in Raleigh, NC, where she currently lives. She is the co-author of a book on the application of seasonal rhythms and yoga philosophy to modern life that will be published by New Harbinger in early 2020. Connect with Andrea on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to her quarterly newsletters on her website: www.andreariceyoga.com.

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