A healthy flow yoga practice teaches us many things — how to breathe through discomfort, how to lean into challenge, and how to connect mind and body. Whether you’re relatively new to yoga or a longtime resident of your mat, Schuyler’s alignment-based approach will help you build a strong foundation for your practice and good habits for the rest of your life!
The 21-Day Yoga Challenge with Schuyler Grant
A healthy flow yoga practice teaches us many things — how to breathe through discomfort, how to lean into challenge, and how to connect mind and body. Whether you’re relatively new to yoga or a longtime resident of your mat, Schuyler’s alignment-based approach will help you build a strong foundation for your practice and good habits for the rest of your life!
Schuyler Grant has been practicing and studying yoga for more than 20 years. Her signature style integrates the breath-based flow of Ashtanga with the precision of Iyengar. She is founder of Kula Yoga Project, co-founder of Wanderlust, and is dedicated to bringing her students deep and transformative mind-body experiences.
01: Day 1: Getting Started
This 21-day alignment-based flow series will start slow. If you’re a Type-A go-getter, please be patient! I jumped right into a fast and vigorous practice when I was 20, and developed some injuries I could have avoided if I had started a little slower and more thoughtfully... If I had started with something like this program! The foundation I will lay down in days 1–3 are imperative for building a safe and sustainable practice, and after the first three days you will be working and moving for almost the entirety of the class. If you are new to yoga—or new to flow style yoga—be prepared to make intelligent modifications as we get into more rigorous territory and the sequencing starts to move a little faster. By the end of our three weeks together, you will be well acquainted with 60 of the most common yoga poses, and you will have a handle on a 20-minute home practice that you can modify to fit your daily needs, and take with you to work or on the road. Today and tomorrow I will talk a fair amount, but we will also get to our first six yoga poses (each day three new poses—asanas—will be broken down). We will also go over some common physical landmarks and cover basic alignment principles for joint safety. On Day 3, I will introduce the first bit of ‘flow,’ the linking of poses together. And after that my friend—we are cruising! Every morning I will email you with a little info on the day to come. For now, your only real job is to carve out 20 minutes a day for yourself. Choosing the same time of day (and if possible the same place) to do your practice will enhance your chances of success significantly! So get ready to press play. Day 1 of the rest of your life is ON.
02: Day 2: Bending for Stability
How are you feeling this morning—YOGI? (Yes, you are now officially a card carrying yogi, should you choose to pop that card in your wallet. Congrats!) One important logistical issue may have come up yesterday: It’s important that you find a height and angle to view this program so that it is easy to view from seated, kneeling, and standing positions. A coffee table or the seat of a chair should make a pretty good height, positioned directly in front of your mat. It’s imperative that you’re not straining your neck to view your screen. It would be ideal if you are primarily following these classes by listening, rather than watching. Visual cues can be very helpful, but it will enrich your experience if you look at your screen only when necessary. Feel free to pause and even replay sections of class from time to time; or even to view an entire class before practicing it. Yesterday I closed class encouraging you to commit to this program because practicing yoga is a powerful tool for living in the present moment. If you’ve got a little extra reading time, check out these great insights into The Power of Disconnection. Today we’re going to review of our basic alignment principles and add in the importance of grounding of the hands to keep the wrist and shoulders happy for a lifetime of flow practice. We’ll explore our first deep forward bend (Uttanasana) and one of my favorite warm up backbends (Anjenayasana) and slip some upper body strengthening into the mix with our first plank pose. If you haven’t yet vibed out your practice space, consider putting some time into this today. You do NOT have to be over precious about this—have fun with it! A photo, a candle, even your favorite cookie will do. Just save the cookie for after practice... It’s a good idea to practice on an empty stomach. Love and luck for Day 2!
03: Day 3: Connecting Body & Breath
Sweet yogi, You’ve made it to Day 3! This means that you’re developing a habit. Starting anything new (or circling back to something that you have neglected for a long time) can be a little anxiety-inducing. (Will I finish? Will it be too hard? Will this really be life-changing?) But good news...This new habit is one that will reduce stress. As I touched upon yesterday, practicing yoga reduces perceived stress and anxiety, which in turn reduces the physical effects of stress on the body. By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of the stress hormones like cortisol. (Related benefits include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion, and boosting the immune system.) Today we start with focusing on the breath. Conscious breathing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to lower stress in the body. We are specifically working toward incorporating a style of breathing called Ujjayi (or “victorious” breath) into our yoga practice. This classic yogic breath heats the body, calms the nervous system, and gives the mind a meditative focal point. We add three new poses to your repertoire today, of course. We'll then link them together with the postures you already know, and we have our first sequence—a Moon Salutation. Today we get our flow on! Let’s have at it.
04: Day 4: Yoga as Pain Relief
Today, yogis, we get into some delicious backbends. YUMMY! I hope you are feeling fully energized to open your chest and heart today after an extra good sleep last night. As we touched on yesterday, practices like yoga and meditation can have a profound effect on the quality of your sleep. When we are less stressed we sleep better, and when we sleep better we are less stressed. You are now on the path to regularly fueling this virtuous cycle! (If you’re looking for extra insights into the importance of sleep, and the effects of mind-body practices on stress levels and quality sleep, Dr. Michael Breus's Sleep Better course might be a great resource for you!) Today we add a few backbends into our Moon Salutation. Simple backbends like Cobra Pose both open the front chest and shoulders and strengthen the lower back. (If you are still feeling confused about the rhythmic breathwork, check out this article about Ujayyi breath.) We close class with one of my all-time favorite backbends: Half Wheel. Super yum. We will revisit this posture again and again. Let’s quickly touch upon the importance of Savasana. Now that you have our three foundational days dialed in, I hope you’re feeling ready for an extra credit challenge: Make time for a 3–5 minute Savasana at the end of each practice. (Or longer for extra extra credit!) It can be helpful to set a timer or choose a sweet song of the appropriate length that you play each time. (This way you can relax into your commitment and not watch the clock.) Backbends are known for being quite energizing. This makes a good rest for your nervous system especially important after today’s class!
05: Day 5: Open to Balance
Hip opening today, my friends. People who have (even moderately) open hips tend to love hip opening; people whose hips are locked up like a vault... not so much. But, of course, those of us in that second group need hip opening like plants (and humans!) need water. I spoke about yoga and chronic pain yesterday. Yoga can help to relieve pain related to issues as serious as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune diseases. It also alleviates chronic issues like back pain which may not be as dire, but are so widespread as to constitute a national epidemic. More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Heavy meds like opioids may be effective in the short run—but take a heavy toll on the body. Diet and mind-body practices can be a more effective long term solution. Unlocking the hips is key to lower back health. And if you hope to tap into the myriad benefits of a regular meditation practice, opening the hips is an absolute must. The asanas we will tackle today, like Tree Pose and Pigeon Pose, are great postures to incorporate into your daily life, even outside of our work together. I’ll teach you an easy standing hip opener (stacking one ankle on the opposite thigh in a Figure-Four shape) which you can do leaning your hands on a table or your desk. If you can make time to do this a few times a day, it will lead to incredible progress in unlocking the vault you’ve been carrying around for a few decades. Hip opening is good medicine... now for the qualifier. One person’s medicine is another person’s poison. This challenge is a Vinyasa (or flow style) program. It is not the right kind of yoga for everyone. If you have an injury that makes physical activity difficult, you may need to spend more time in each posture and be given a variety of modifications. (Do not despair if that is the case! A slower-paced Iyengar, Hatha, or Yin/Restorative practice may be your perfect yoga jam. And there are a whole variety of wonderful teachers available online.) If you have ANY question about whether Vinyasa yoga is appropriate, consult a knowledgeable sports medicine doctor or senior yoga teacher. I have healed my own body through an alignment-based flow practice—but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. The most advanced yoga is the yoga of TRUE inquiry, and that means meeting yourself exactly where you are. If you are struggling with serious limitations and you decide to stick with this challenge anyway—BRAVO. But here is your mantra: Modify, modify, modify.
06: Day 6: Flexibility vs. Mobility
Feeling fierce this morning yogis? Or just sore? (If so... Congrats. Soreness is evidence that you are waking up sleepy muscles!) Tomorrow you may wake up REALLY sore, because today we tackle Chair Pose (Utkatasana) and High Lunge. Really, really good quad burners. One of the most powerful concepts in yogic philosophy is “tapas," which means “to burn” in Sanskrit. You could think of tapas as “fiery discipline,” in which we physically burn off impurities and energetically burn through the impediments that keep us from being our highest selves. The fire you're about to light in your quads = the gateway to enlightenment? Listen: We work with what we’ve got—and what we all have is this physical body as a tool for all kinds of experimentation and exploration! If you’re not quite sure that higher consciousness is what you’re after... Don’t worry, your yoga practice will meet you right where you are. Even on the most basic level, yoga will make you stronger and suppler. It’s a full-body workout, targeting all the muscles of the body with both static holds and dynamic movement, using nothing more than your own body. This never fails to thrill me. It is SO EFFICIENT. You're supporting your own body weight and building functional strength in areas where you really need it. This is strength with purpose. Yesterday you might have found during the Moon Salutation section of class that you missed the blocks under your hands that we used in Day 4. (If your hamstrings or hip flexors are tight, it can be difficult to lunge your feet between your hands.) You can ALWAYS modify these sequences, and use blocks, or you can pull your own foot forward into a lunge position, if that helps. Never shy away from getting creative with postures and sequences to meet your individual needs. But we keep ourselves young and flexible by our willingness to TRY new things. You may surprise yourself! OK. Deep breath yogis. Chair pose is in your immediate future… Hot bath and Epsom salts tonight.
07: Day 7: Twist it Up
My friends, I realized just now that I have been delinquent about disseminating a KEY piece of yoga intel! It is a good idea to practice yoga on an empty stomach. You don’t want your body busy digesting while you’re asking it to do all kind of other things—especially stuff like going upside down. A very light snack shortly before practicing isn’t the end of the world, and be SURE that you are well hydrated. Always! Today we get acquainted with our first twists, so be sure you give yourself AT LEAST two hours after a full meal and an hour after a light meal before you press play. A very light snack shortly before practicing isn’t the end of the world, and be SURE that you are well hydrated. Always! Yesterday we got into the importance of mobility vs. flexibility. One of the most common things I hear from beginners is that they're “not flexible enough to do yoga.” The whole point of yoga asana is to increase strength and mobility! This is like saying that you're not a good enough reader to learn to read. It’s not really about being flexible anyway. What is really important is mobility: functional flexibility that makes it easier for you to complete everyday movements that require kneeling, bending, reaching—or crawling under your couch to retrieve your keys. Yoga brings more ease to your movements so you don’t feel so stuck in your body. Twisting brings mobility all the way into your organs as well. All parts of the body, even our organs, are designed to move. When our organs get a good “workout” they function better. Our organs have an orbit much like the planets, moving independently and rhythmically toward and away from the mid-line of our bodies. Each organ quietly rotates on its own axis seven or eight times per minute in your little solar system. (How cool is that?) We increase our organ mobility and function through the breathing, bending, and twisting of a practice like yoga. Here’s to loving up our organs! (And enjoying a big healthy meal after.)
08: Day 8: Plug in to Stretch Out
If you are reading this here’s a huge digital high five! You are officially one-third of the way through this challenge. In week two we really dial in the flow. We’ll make friends with 21 more postures, and I will introduce the most common Vinyasa sequences that come up again and again in flow classes: Sun Salutations A and B. These rigorous moving sequences might bring on a good sweat. It is proven that sweating promotes happiness. I kid you not. And sweating ramps up the cleaning mechanism of the body. Combining what you now know about practicing yoga asana, and about the potential for deep yogic breathing to enhance organ function, we could think of the next two weeks as one drawn-out cleanse. Be sure you are drinking plenty of water (coconut water is great too), and consider making your diet as clean as possible to fuel your practice and pile on the good benefits of all your hard work. Today, in addition to flowing, we’re going to geek out a bit on taking care of the wrists—a delicate part of the body, which you might never have thought about strengthening before you took on this challenge. In our Facebook group there has been a lot of discussion about overcoming wrist weakness and pain. It makes total sense that bearing much of your bodyweight on your hands and wrists in Vinyasa style yoga will be challenging. If you’re new to yoga, it’s not likely you’ve spent much of your life walking around on your hands! The wrist strengthening exercise you will learn today is a GREAT thing for you to incorporate into your practice every day before you begin. One of my first great teachers Alison West taught it to me over 10 years ago, and I come back to it again and again—especially if I feel a little ‘tweaky’ in my wrists. You will be amazed at how quickly you will feel the effects. Before I close I want to reiterate how important it is that you all feel empowered to modify these classes as much as you need for your own body so the next 14 days are sustainable. If you find it difficult to lunge your feet forward from Down Dog, for example, consider going back to the hands on blocks Moon Salutation I taught on Day 4. The Moon Salutation is designed to open the body a little more slowly and gently than the Sun Salutation. Essentially, it's a series of forward bends and backbends (sometimes with a little twisting or hip opening thrown in). The exact postures that you do matter SO MUCH LESS than the gentle warm-up and ease you bring into your body early in class. Our mantra for this training could be: Modify, Listen, Modify. Now, bring on week two! With verve—and modifications when necessary!
09: Day 9: Return to the Breath
How is it going with the monkey-mind, yogis? The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are kind of like the Bible of yoga practice. The very first sutra (or aphorism) is Yogas chitta vritti nirodha, or “Yoga is the stilling (regulation, quieting) of the turnings of the mind.” Learning to step back from our churning thoughts to maintain a state of inner calm is a lifelong endeavor for most of us. But even with a small amount of dedicated mind-body practice, people usually feel a palpable quieting of their mental chatter. Enhancing your sense of inner calm doesn’t mean you move into an ashram—it means you get quiet so you can live loud. You’ve noticed that I always end our practices together with some led breathwork. I LOVE guided breathing (pranayama) because it is such a powerful gateway practice into a seated meditation practice. If you find that you feel ready to sit in meditation for five or more minutes after class, I strongly encourage you to go with that urge! But don’t get too precious with it! Just stick with the simple guided breath I set you up with—or simply breathe naturally and observe the flow of your thoughts. Remember that meditation is not a state you get into. Meditation is the practice of sitting still in a state of observation. The mind will do what the mind will do—that’s its job. You just cultivate your ability to sit by and observe the circus inside. Today I will give you a new standing pose flow sequence, incorporating many of the standing postures you already know. See if you can focus on using what is starting to become familiar. In other words, can you begin to make the flow of posture, breath, and attention a moving meditation? This, yogis, is the sweet nectar of asana practice!
10: Day 10: The Beginning of Arm Balances
As you read this, I challenge you to maintain a smooth, conscious breath throughout. You see, anything you do can become a mind-body practice! It’s really THAT simple. As we explored yesterday, breath and emotions are connected in a feedback loop. Yoga brings awareness and control to our breath patterns, allowing us to notice when our emotions are affecting our breath, and using the breath to calm your emotions. Sometimes a deep breath is what separates you from saying or doing something you will regret. The more you can connect with your breath, the clearer you think—even in difficult situations. Have you already lost the thread of your breath? No worries. Just come back. This is a practice. As I’ve said a number of times, maintaining an Ujjayi breath as you practice can be surprisingly challenging. But your breath will get stronger just like your quads will! Here’s the real challenge today: I introduce our first arm balance—the great Crow Pose. Can you breathe through it? I think you can. I think you might even be able to breathe and smile as your toes leave the Earth!
11: Day 11: Salute the Sun
Here’s what I want you to do, my yogi friends. After you read through this next paragraph, step away from your digital device for a moment. Close your eyes. Breathe smoothly and deeply. Then with your eyes closed, make some very simple physical movements, and REALLY feel your body moving through space from the inside out. Where are your legs and arms? What are they doing? Which muscles are active? OK. We’re back. Did you get any sense of your enhanced proprioception? As we touched upon yesterday, yoga helps you turn your mind inward and tune into what your body is feeling and doing from one moment to the next. This practice develops your skills of proprioception, which in turn leads to things like better posture and better balance. We only get one body to live in. Shouldn’t you get to know it intimately and inhabit it as sensitively as possible? This leads us perfectly into the two postures we’re getting to today... because they’re BIG ONES! Pose #31 is the great Chaturanga Dandasana (ooh ahh!), followed by Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). They are both wonderful poses, but challenging ones. I encourage you to approach them with a great sense of curiosity, playfulness AND caution. It is much better to build strength and flexibility slowly and intelligently over time. We are working up to the Sun Salutation A later this week. Both of these poses are key to that Vinyasa sequence, but it’s very important that you get a handle on how to modify as necessary, before you move fluidly through them in a flow sequence. Modifying Chaturanga—by putting your knees down and only lowering partway into the pose while maintaining the healthy shoulder alignment you now know so well—is a MUCH better way to build strength without compromising your rotator cuffs. And give Upward Facing Dog a go today—but if you feel ANY compression in your lower back (or anywhere in your spine, shoulders or wrists), please stick with Cobra Pose through this challenge. Cobra Pose is one of my all-time favorite backbends. Now, enough chit chat. Hit the mat yogis!
12: Day 12: Spiral Open
Today we add in two of my favorite standing poses my Yogi friends: Triangle and Revolved Triangle. I love these two postures because they ask you to rely on a strong foundation in your feet and legs in order to facilitate length and freedom in your spine. This is a beautiful metaphor for the foundation that you are building day by day for your self-confidence. If you diligently work on the basics—including grounding your feet into the floor—you create the potential for your higher self to soar. There is a yogic concept called a Vasana, which is basically a tendency you have in the present, based on the actions, thoughts, and emotions you have had in the past. You could picture a Vasana as a groove in the sand created by a particular pattern of water. Redirect the flow and the grooves change. Or use your will to change your actions (and thoughts), and over time a new (and hopefully more beneficial) Vasana is created. Yoga asks you to challenge yourself—physically, mentally, and sometimes emotionally. You will struggle, sweat, and probably (hopefully!) tip over more than once. And guess what? No matter how you look in your practice or how many poses you fall out of, no one is going to judge you—and you’ll feel great in Savasana. If you dedicate yourself to practicing, you will see improvement. Together, these experiences build confidence to take on challenges beyond the mat. Creating new, healthy Vasanas goes far beyond the work you do on your yoga mat. Here are some simple ways to boost your commitment to self-care. And how about letting up on “strugglasana”!?! (Yeah most of us are really, really good at that one!) Now time to get your Triangle on! And have your blocks handy—they will be good friends to have for these postures.
13: Day 13: Strong Roots
Lucky day 13, yogis—today we FINALLY get to Sun Salutation A! We’ll start class with some wrist strengthening and stretching exercises. Many people have weighed in with questions / concerns about their wrists. It is absolutely normal that you will find it challenging to bear your body weight on your hands! You may not have spent much time doing that up until now. We will touch upon the two different Moon Salutation transitions we have learned to move from Plank to the floor—either Ashtangasana (knees/chest/chin) or passing through Chaturanga straight down to the floor. If you have been struggling with Ashtangasana—I suggest you use the second transition from here on out! I took almost two weeks to get us to Sun Salutations because I feel like it’s a pretty ‘advanced’ sequence. Chaturanga and Upward Facing Dog are BIG postures—and if practiced improperly (especially over time) they can lead to some pretty gnarly injuries. This is also an awesome strength and heat-building sequence—but be prepared to modify as necessary. Remember that we are going for building a LIFE-LONG practice! And that it is a ‘practice’—not a performance. The ‘challenge’ in this challenge is not WHAT you do, but how sensitively you navigate your way through these three weeks, and how you make it your own. Yesterday I touched upon how yoga relates to weight management. The idea that we are practicing rather than chasing a goal is absolutely key here. Body image issues are a big deal for many of us, and every single one of us (of all ages, shapes and sizes) is affected by our crazy culture. If you are someone that is looking to yoga as a way to lose weight, I encourage you to consider tweaking the inner dialogue a little. Doing ANYTHING ‘to lose weight’ becomes a dirge. Yoga is exercise, and you do burn calories doing yoga. But nothing is sustainable when it is a chore. All styles of yoga—even those that don’t bring on a good sweat—can help you control your weight by reducing stress, bringing mindfulness to your eating habits, and providing a heightened sense of well-being and self-esteem. But obsessively doing yoga in order to lose weight is a thinly disguised eating disorder. I’ve said this many times, but this practice is ultimately about fine-tuning your ability to listen, to TRULY LISTEN, to what you need from one moment to the next. My great hope is that you can cultivate a yoga practice that will be fiery and vigorous on the days when you need to sweat, and soft and nurturing when you need restoration. When we feed our souls, we become strong enough to face the challenges that life throws at us. When we bludgeon ourselves with anything (even exercise) we exhaust our deep resources to be useful and engaged parents, partners, workers, bosses, and stewards of the Earth. So let’s salute the sun my sweet yogi friends! What a privilege it is to bow to the Earth with you.
14: Day 14: Straighten Up!
We wrap up week 2 with Sun Salutation B, my friends. This is basically Surya Namaskar A with your old friend Utkatasana (Chair Pose) and your new friend Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) thrown into the mix. These two sequences have been the pillars of the Vinyasa yoga practice since its inception by the great grandfather of modern yoga Krishnamacharya, teacher of the creators of both the Iyengar, alignment based, lineage (B.K.S. Iyengar) as well as the Ashtanga, flow-based, lineage (Shri K. Pattabhi Jois). Whether you know about any of these master teachers or not, their wisdom is flowing THROUGH YOU—just by virtue of the fact that you are doing this challenge. I like to think of any lineage—whether it’s the family you are born into or a family you choose—as a continuous river, into which smaller streams and bits of organic matter merge and flow. When you practice yoga, you become a part of the illustrious lineage that has come before you—and will come after you! We are a culture without particularly deep roots, for better and for worse. Whether or not it’s a good thing for Americans to stitch together our identity from many places, there’s no question that we are open to embracing other practices and cultures. When we practice yoga, we become a part of a 2,000-year-old tradition that gives us tools for enriching our lives with philosophical and spiritual—as well as health-enhancing—practices. As you flow through Sun Salutations A and B—for the last week of this challenge and for the rest of your life!—you can think of yourself as merging with the millions of yogis who have practiced these same sequences (probably billions of times in total) over the years. While keeping an eye on safety and alignment, also enjoy the experience of merging into this great river of The Practice! Your homework: an extra long Epsom salt bath to close week 2 tonight, sweet yogis.
15: Day 15: A Balancing Act
We are cruising down the final stretch now, yogis (pun intended). In this final week we bring it all together with seven flow classes, each with a different focus: standing balances, back-bending, hip-opening, core work, twisting and finally, the great frontier (drum roll please)...inversions! Today, for standing balances, you will be working with everything we spoke about yesterday: By combining core strengthening with core mobility and proprioception, yoga can help improve posture. Better posture helps you breathe better, reduces anxiety, improves productivity, and reduces back pain. Inspired yet??! Today’s class I call Finding the Moon because we are exploring Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana) and Revolving Half Moon (Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana)—as well as another challenging standing balancing pose, Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana 3). One small step for mankind, my friends. Go bravely! (And have your blocks at the ready.)
16: Day 16: Cracking the Heart Code
Today we are cracking the heart code, sweet yogis. Translation please? We are going to focus on opening the chest and upper spine without straining our lower backs. The concentration that a regular yoga practice begets is a great tool for working intelligently in the body. True concentration requires you to shift your focus from many things at once to one thing at a time. For example, shutting down your email and concentrating with single pointed focus on the sensations throughout your spine as your open the chest and shoulders. Observing your body, breath and emotions through yoga practice is an antidote to constant multi-tasking, something all of us need in this hyper-fast digital age. It is proven that as you observe your breath, it will slow down, and that as the breath slows down, the mind will follow suit. Over time, practicing focus will shift you into a restful but aware state, which will recharge the mind and can help with enhanced mental facility and creativity. Distraction and obsessive ‘multi-tasking’ is one of the major neuroses of our time. Yoga will open your tight shoulders, change your brain, and it just might crack open your heart! Take your time today, focus on your breath, and enjoy the flow. Life goes by too fast to not take it slow.
17: Day 17: Hip Hip Happy
I’m genuinely curious to know, my friends, if yesterday’s back-bending practice resonated throughout your day. Did you feel more open-hearted? If your day aligns, please let me know when I’m live on our Facebook group later today. Why would we ever choose NOT to stimulate the feel-good chemicals in the brain (read: free, healthy drugs)? Or to enjoy a boost in energy, better sleep, and less aches and pains? Good thing scientists are as interested in feeling good as the rest of us plebs, and they can prove these things!! Science and spirituality agree that an attitude of gratitude is the path to well-being. Today is a hip-opening practice. Those of you with open hips will rejoice at this news, but this class is not so much for you... This one goes out to the folks who really need it! That’s why I call this class "Open Hips are Not Just for Chicks." (OK—there are some ladies with really tight hips out there—but you get my drift.) Hip opening and heart opening pair very nicely, because once you have opened both the top and bottom of your torso, big shifts can happen—both physically and emotionally. Many yogis begin and end their practices by dedicating their time on the mat to someone or something important to them—called a Sankalpa. I think we can all agree that the world can always use a little more gratitude. Well, I am grateful to all of YOU. You are still reading—and rocking out this challenge! I bow to your fierce persistence and willing hearts.
18: Day 18: Supercharging the Side Body
Did any of you feel any emotions bubble up during yesterday's hip-opening practice?! Your mat is a safe space to work through emotions you may not have allowed yourself to address directly (or didn’t even know you needed to address). When students have a good cry in one of my classes I am always deeply honored. It is cathartic to unlock stuck emotions, and for teachers it is a privilege to create a safe space for people to process the issues that live in their tissues. Sometimes a pose will start you crying, and it won’t stop. That’s totally normal, so don’t try to rein it in—just consider it good (and cheap!) therapy. Now that we’ve worked through the heart and the hips, we’re going to circle around to opening up the sidebody. This isn’t a part of the body that we think about very much, but it’s one of my very favorite areas of the body to dig into: The outer shoulders, ribs, hips, and that pesky tight band of fascia that you may have heard of called the ITB (or iliotibial band), which runs from your outer hip to your outer knee. Today we supercharge our lungs and sidebody and feel the power! Let’s go.
19: Day 19: Core is Not a Bore
My friends, we are sprinting down the home stretch of this challenge! Now be honest—are you huffing and puffing still? Or is it becoming easier for find a deep, rhythmic breath? I hope the side body opening yesterday gave you a little more access to your lung capacity. If you struggle with Ujjayi, consider adding sidebody stretches into your daily life. Just reach your arms over head (both seated or standing will work), grab one wrist with the opposite hand and pull yourself up and over until it feels deep and delicious! This opens up the muscles that connect your ribs as well as your diaphragm, and facilitates easier breathing. The benefits of deep breathing are profound. You probably already know about the stress reduction—but did you know that deep breathing has been proven to reduce inflammation and chronic pain and to physiologically impact the heart, brain, digestion, immune system—and maybe even the expression of genes. (What??!) Deep breathing also affects the body’s Ph balance, helping it to maintain its natural slightly-alkalinized state. Up next... Core is Not a Bore. I’ve tasked myself to make you love ab work. (OK—um—grudgingly embrace core work?) It’s time for me to crack the whip! Hit the mat, yogis.
20: Day 20: Hands are the New Feet
Yeah, I just HAD to bring it below the belt, didn’t I? (I let you in on a dirty little secret yesterday, but in case you missed it: Practice yoga because you will have steamier sex!) Truthfully, I weighed the wisdom of adding this benefit to our long list. The studies, however, are fascinating—I love a good study about hormones. And as of yet, not many of us have taken a vow of celibacy, donned a dhoti and hit the Himalayas, and—let’s be honest—most of us like to talk about sex. Studies have found that a regular yoga practice significantly increases levels of testosterone in the blood, which correlates to an increased sexual desire and activity in both men and women. Other studies have link yoga and a variety of satisfaction factors in bed, including confidence and performance. And beyond the studies, there’s just the obvious fact that when you feel more intimate with yourself, your capacity for healthy intimacy with others naturally follows—on ALL levels. Now that we’ve had the birds and the bees talk, today we can get to Flying Pigeon (Eka Pada Galavasana). Yes—another arm-balancing bird pose is in your future, yogis. Do those wrist stretches before we get started—and let’s move.
21: Day 21: Lose Your Aversion to Inversions
So we come to the end, my friends. I could pull out all kinds of platitudes about endings being new beginnings, yada yada. But instead I will just say that I am truly sad to bring this challenge to an end. It is my great hope that the tribe we have created over the past month will continue to thrive and will inspire real world connections. There are more than 35 million Americans practicing yoga in the U.S.—that’s around 15 percent of adults. This is huge. There’s an estimated 200 million of us worldwide. I’m not sure how they measure these stats—number of Oms registered in the universe daily?—but there’s no question that our global community is exploding. Yoga is such a potent seed for discovering new friendships, new communities and new ways of living in the world. Go out and fearlessly explore! Find inspirational teachers. And inspire and be inspired by your fellow practitioners.
22: All-in-One: Forward Bending, Twisting and Balancing Poses
This is a strong yet soothing sequence of poses that progressively turn you inward, ending with a guided breath practice. Give yourself at least 5-10 minutes of savasana to really soak it in!
23: All-in-One: Back Bending, Hip Opening, and Arm Balancing
A solid dose of backbends, a few spicy arm balances, and hips on hips on hips! Plus, prepare yourself for quite the core strength kicker at the end... This class has a bit more emphasis on continuous vinyasa, moving and flowing through poses on the breath.