I’ve been practicing yoga for a long time. It was a natural transition for me after growing up dancing. Lara described this month’s theme, Intuition, as a deep sense of judgment, discernment, and deep-in-your-core feeling that helps guide your actions in a way that is aligned with who you are and who you want to be. So what does that look like or mean when it comes to yoga? We all have different bodies, live different lives, have different habits. So that also means we need different things when it comes to stretching and caring for our bodies. Classes and videos are great, I do them often, but sometimes it’s nice to get on your mat and just flow through what feels good in your body. Sometimes that might mean flowing through, sometimes that means holding a pose for longer, sometimes it means having a longer savasana at the end because you need the rest. Sometimes the best practices are basically a conversation with your body on your mat, an open dialogue on what feels good.
Here are some of my favorite poses for pumping up your power of intuition and getting more deeply connected with your body. Sometimes it’s nice to start with some breathing exercises and meditation at the beginning to focus your mind and intentions from the start. Check out these practices and poses for inspiration.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Find a comfortable seated position, feet flat on the floor and close your eyes. Place your left hand on your left thigh with the palm facing up, and your thumb and index finger touching. Using your right hand, place your index and middle finger between your eyebrows at the third eye point. With your thumb, block your right nostril and inhale for a count of 6 through your left nostril. At the top of the inhale, block your left nostril with your right ring finger, and exhale for a count of six out your right nostril. At the bottom of the exhale, pause for just a moment, then inhale through the right nostril for a count of six. At the top of the inhale, close the right nostril with the right thumb, and exhale for a count of six out the left nostril. This completes one round, complete at least 6 rounds of breathing.
Keeping your eyes closed, keep your left hand palm facing up with the thumb and index finger touching, and bring the thumb and index finger of your right hand to touch, but place that palm face down on your thigh. This pose signifies that we are open to receiving and letting go whatever it is that moves through us. Stay here for at least 5 minutes, keeping your head level.
Bring your forearms to the mat with your elbows underneath your shoulders. Keeping your elbows firmly planted under your shoulders, extend your forearms forward and make a basket with your hands by interlacing your fingers, pinky finger side on the mat. With your knees still on the mat, place the crown of your head on the mat, and cradle the back of your head/base of your skull in the basket of your hands. Press your forearms firmly into the ground so that there is almost no weight resting on your neck and head, tuck your toes under, and lift your knees off the mat. From here, walk your feet forward toward your elbows so that your hips come closer to being straight over your shoulders. You can stay here, or lift your legs into the air. If Headstand is not part of your practice yet, you may substitute a wide-legged standing forward fold to get a similar shift in your world view. Hold position for at least 10 breaths and up to 25 full breaths, then rest in Child’s Pose when you are finished.
Seated Knees to Chest Pose
From a comfortable seat, draw your knees into your chest, wrapping your arms around the front of your shins. Bring your forehead to your knees, close your eyes, and turn your awareness into the center of your chest: your spiritual heart center. Rest here for 5-10 breaths, noticing the images, feelings, and sensations that come up.
Bring one shin down at the top of your mat, as parallel to the top of the mat as is allowed by your body. Extend your back leg straight behind you. Fold your torso over your front shin and turn your palms to face up. If your front sits bone is high up off the mat, place a blanket underneath for support. If this pose hurts your knee, do figure four on your back instead. Hold for 10 breaths, then switch sides.
Step one foot forward and spin your back heel down to the mat with your back toes facing the same top corner of your mat. If your left foot is back, your left toes should point toward the top left corner of your mat. Make sure your feet are at least hip-width distance apart, then lift your torso and arms up into Warrior one. Clasp your hands behind your back, and walk the front foot even farther toward the side of the mat. On an inhalation, lift your chest skyward; on an exhalation, fold your torso down toward the ground on the inside of your front leg. Soften the sides of your neck so your head is heavy and try not to yank your hips to be perfectly parallel with the top of the mat. Hold for 5 breaths, then switch sides. On the other side, change the interlace of your fingers.
With your feet together at the top or back of your mat, bend your knees as close to 90 degrees as possible, with your torso at about a 30-degree angle from your thighs and your arms reaching skyward. Make sure your weight doesn’t rock forward into the balls of your feet, and squeeze your sit bones and inner thighs toward each other. On an inhalation, bring your hands to Prayer in front of your heart; on an exhalation, twist to your right, hooking your left upper arm outside your right thigh. Hold for 5 breaths, then switch sides. You may add in a forward fold between sides if your legs get too tired.
From Downward-Facing Dog, step one foot forward and then heel-toe your front foot out toward the side of the mat, enough that you can comfortably place both hands inside your front foot, directly under your shoulders. Press the floor away from you so that your hips lift a little, and keep your back leg fully engaged—glutes included! If you have the space in your hips, you may place your forearms down on the mat or on blocks. If you need to back off the pose a bit, place your back knee down on the mat. Hold 5-10 breaths. Switch sides.
From Downward-Facing Dog, step one foot forward and place your back knee down on your mat. Reach your arms behind you and interlace your fingers to clasp your hands, bringing the heels of your hands as close together as you can without over straining your shoulders and wrists. Reach the back of your heart up toward the ceiling so that the sensation of the backbend is not located solely in your low back. Hold for 5-10 breaths. When you switch sides, also switch the interlace of your fingers.
Stretch yourself onto the length of your mat, belly down, and extend your arms out in front of you with your palms facing up. Rest your forehead on the mat. Take 5-10 breaths here and release any blocks you may have between you and your intuition.
These are just a few of my favorite poses for taping into your intuition. Head over to our Smudge Wellness Instagram page to share some of your favorite poses.