Are you ready to break free from the winter season? If you’re like me, you enjoy the buzz of the holidays, the beauty of snowfall and a good book while cozying up to a crackling fire. The grounding energy of winter is great for hibernation and reflection, but there comes a time when we’re ready to shake off the cold, dark season like a butterfly breaking free from her chrysalis. As a longtime certified yoga instructor, I know how the liberating techniques below connect women with our wild sacred energy held in the abdomen, pelvis and lower body. During your practice, you may notice sensations such as tingling, pulsing, shaking and warmth as you stimulate blood flow in the deepest layers of your connective tissues. Stay in the moment and fully savor what you feel, without expectation or judgment.
As you practice these poses, please listen to your body and give it what it needs. Remember to make adjustments and use props along the way. I like to say: There’s no such thing as cheating in yoga — and you may become hooked on this restorative and ancient time-proven practice. Yoga is a tradition that can be traced back more than 5,000 years to northern India. An ancient text called the Yoga Sutras tells us the way to liberation is through this practice.
What you will need:
- A yoga mat
- Two yoga blocks or supportive pillows
- A blanket
- Cellphone timer
- Music you love
Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)
Energizes your body and mind
Tones and strengthens the muscles of your core and pelvic floor
Stimulates circulation and stokes your internal flame
Step-by-step: Facing the long edge of your yoga mat, start in a wide stance with toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle. Spread your toes to feel grounded for balance. Engage your core and lengthen your spine. Bend your knees in the direction of your toes, lowering your hips to a comfortable height. Reach your arms wide and bend your elbows to point your fingertips to the sky. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to find strength in the back. Take three to seven breaths — inhale plus exhale equals one breath — then exit the pose slowly. Practice this pose three times, then transition to the next pose.
Modification: Place hands on the kitchen counter or a wall for support. Remember, there’s no such thing as cheating in yoga!
Modification: Place palms together at heart center if it feels safer for the shoulders.
Reclining Queen Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Opens your heart space to boost your mood
Stretches your abdomen and diaphragm to encourage deeper breathing
Improves flexibility along your entire spine
Step-by-step: Propping a bolster or large pillows on the floor, lie back with your entire spine supported and your head a bit higher than your heart. Use a small pillow under the head. Bring your feet flat, knees bent, then open your hips. Rest your arms to the sides. Set your timer to three minutes, close your eyes and relax in your Reclining Queen Pose.
Melting Heart Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Grounds your heart space to cultivate grace and self-love
Stretches the muscles of the pelvic floor to release tension and relieve pain
Relaxes the low back and low belly to boost sexual energy
Step-by-step: Move onto hands and knees, tuck the toes under, lower your upper body down to the floor (or a folded blanket), reach the arms out in front with palms down, and allow the tailbone to point up high to the sky. Rest on one cheek, close your eyes, breathe through the nose for 10 breaths, then turn to the other cheek for 10 breaths. You exit the pose the same way you entered: Reach the hands closer to the chest to push the upper body back to hands and knees. Gently transition to a seated position. Pause and feel the peace. Tucking the toes under is a technique that stretches the fascia on the soles of the feet. This line of fascia runs up the legs, through the pelvic floor and connects at the base of the jaw. This technique encourages hydration and fluid movement in this entire fascial line.
Breathe deeply, ahhhhhh
Yoga breath work (pranayama) is the ancient practice of consciously controlling one’s breath, our vital life force. The benefits of pranayama are varied and many, focusing on a range of outcomes, from relaxation to clarity to digestion. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, tells us: “Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves. Learning how to breathe … is an essential tool for recovery.”
The Lion’s Breath (Simhasana) will free your mind, improve energy and reduce stress. You’ll need three minutes for this practice. To prepare, sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and a bit wider than hip-distance apart. Take a long, deep inhale. On the exhale, stick out your tongue, open your eyes wide, and lean forward with hands on knees. (For even more power, bring hands into a forceful claw gesture.) Then pause and breathe naturally for one minute. Repeat two more rounds of Lion’s Breath, pausing for one minute between, then gently move on with your day, feeling powerful and revived.
Dance your way to freedom
Laughter and dancing are two activities that I always practice together. Both benefit the body, mind and spirit in so many ways. They keep you in the moment, create a rush of endorphins, reduce pain, release stress, free the mind and help to condition your heart and lungs. Most importantly, laughter and dancing spark the fire of your primal needs to express emotion through movement. For the last 20 years, my best friend, Bonnie, and I spent a good part of our time together laughing and dancing. In early July 2022, she passed away after her long brave bout with cancer. She was the wildest of wild women. I smile and feel her spirit when I dance. Dance your heart out wildly, alone or with a buddy. And always dance like nobody’s watching!
Wild woman, awakened!
These liberating practices will stimulate multiple layers in your body and mind — and stretch your spirit. Yoga tradition tells us that practice is the holy grail. It’s our first step toward freedom! So, join me on the wild side — and awaken your best self to spring into spring!
What do you think of the above techniques? Would you try them? Let us know in the comments below.