A Soothing Yoga Flow to Help You Choose Yourself

Savor this gentle practice as part of your time to simply be present with yourself. Or, invite a loved one to join you and unwind together, if you so choose.

Illustration by Spender Creelman

Choose yourself with movement that is a valuable ally in bringing more calm, focus, and clarity to your state of mind. Gentle movement helps us tune in to the daily routines that we might otherwise go through on autopilot. This not only refreshes our perspective, it refills our cup with gratitude for what, and who, is present with us. Cultivating a spirit of playfulness and appreciation along the way lets us connect more easily with the people we care about, and it grounds and calms our nervous system.

While some yoga poses aren’t available to everyone, this slow-paced series of stretches includes options to customize each pose. The focus is on listening to your own body and moving in the way that feels best for your body, letting go of any comparisons to what others can do.

Optional Props:

  • A bolster or cushion to sit on
  • Yoga blocks, books, or paper towel rolls
  • A blanket
  • A bench or a chair without arms

A Soothing Yoga Flow to Help You Choose Yourself

Listen to the practice:

A Soothing Yoga Flow to Help You Choose Yourself

  • 24:00

Watch the video:

  1. Begin by finding a position that feels comfortable for you: maybe sitting cross-legged on your bolster; you can stretch your legs out long and straight, or out wide to the sides; or bring the soles of your feet together, which may be easier on the knees.
  2. Take a few minutes to tap into your breath. One option is to close the eyes and take your experience inward. If closing your eyes doesn’t feel safe or comfortable, you can also lower your gaze toward the floor, or toward something in the room in front of you.
  3. During this practice, we’ll breathe in through the nose for two, and out through the nose for two, if it feels comfortable. You can also choose to exhale, or both inhale and exhale, through the mouth.
  4. As you inhale, sweep your arms up to the sky. Bring your left hand down either to the bolster or to the mat and reach your right fingertips over toward the left. Inhale and bring both arms back up. Exhale and release your right hand down to the mat, and then reach your left fingertips over toward the right. Just swaying side to side, taking a side bend. Lengthen out of the crown of the head, really reach through the fingertips, and slightly turn your chest up to the sky as you move side to side.
  5. Let’s explore a couple of Cat and Cow variations, either on the mat or sitting on a bench or chair. From the mat, you’ll want to pad your knees and come onto your hands, fingertips spread out wide. Take your knees wider, soften your belly down toward the mat, squeeze between your shoulder blades—and then round your back up to the ceiling. If putting weight into your knees or hands doesn’t feel appropriate to you, you can sit on the chair or bench, placing your hands on your knees and curling the shoulder blades onto the back. Lift your gaze to the sky, and then as you exhale, round the chest. Repeat 3-5 rounds.
  6. Make your way onto your back. Make your way to the floor, and roll over onto your right side and lower yourself down onto your back. Bring the knees in to your heart, one at a time, and gently rock from side to side, just giving your lower back a little massage.
  7. Plant your feet firmly on the mat, then cross the right ankle over the left knee. Your left hand rests on the floor alongside your body, or it can rest out to the side like a cactus arm. With your right hand, you can gently press the right thigh away, noticing how that feels in your body. Or you can draw that left knee in toward the chest, holding on to the top leg, flexing through the heel and pressing your lower back into the mat. On an exhalation, plant your left foot onto the mat. Repeat on the other side.
  8. Next we’ll do Half Happy Baby. Holding on at the back of the right thigh, bring the knee close to the body. Hold on to the ankle, and lift the sole of the foot to the sky. Or, hold on at the outer edge of the foot and draw your knee back toward the floor. If you’ve been standing or sitting all day, this may be a nice release for tight hips. You can also do this in bed before you get up in the morning. It’s all about what feels best in your body: honoring that energy, that moment, that sensation, that breath. Repeat on the left side.
  9. Now, just let your whole body soften into the mat. You can gently tug the shoulder blades underneath you, turning the palms up to the sky, relaxing the jaw, closing the eyes if that feels good, or keeping the gaze soft. For the next few minutes, inhale deeply, and exhale completely.
  10. When you’re ready, begin to bring a little movement to your fingers and toes. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and safe and supported in this posture, always choose it for you. Stretching your arms, maybe your legs, rolling your wrists and your ankles, finding what feels good for you, just stretching the body in a way that feels delicious, as you prepare to end your practice.

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Black woman outdoors in nature with mountains and blue sky background, taking a deep breath with her eyes closed and a peaceful expression.
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