The 12 Days of Yoga-mas
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me... I love everything about Christmas. The decorating, the movies (Home Alone!), the food, the time spent with loved ones, the giving of gifts and the chance to relax. Oh yes and the Carols! I've decided to remix the Twelve Days of Christmas to give it a yogi twist; a collection of asanas, props & inspiration to carry you through the festive season and beyond. These are little gifts for yourself (i.e. your most valuable asset), to thank yourself for showing up every day, working hard, loving hard and being the beautiful, dynamic soul that you are.
So here’s the OLY 12 days of Christmas – enjoy!
On the first day of Christmas OLY gave to me:
And A Partridge in a Pear Tree-Pose
Tree pose or Vrksasana gently opens the hips, tones the legs and is great for emotional and mental balancing (yes please!) Begin in mountain pose with your feet together and your hands on your hips, focusing on a point directly ahead at eye level (your drishthi). Take your weight into your left foot then bend the right knee and turn your right foot to the side, resting your heel on your left ankle. You can remain here, or to take the pose further you can engage through the core, pick up your right ankle with your right hand and place the sole of the right foot on your inner left thigh (just be sure to avoid the knee joint). Inhale and raise your hands up towards the sky like branches. Don’t worry if your tree sways in the breeze a little bit (mine usually does!) To release, inhale to extend your arms up and then exhale to lower your arms to shoulder height. Stretch your right leg out in front of you, then release your arms and your foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Two Turtle Doves
Vajra Kapotasana or Dove pose is quite the backbend. Sit on your heels and press your palms into the floor behind your back. Lower your body backwards until the crown of your head is touching the floor and your back is fully arched which your palms on the floor either side of your head. Note: you can use a blanket under your hips for support here. Stay in the pose for 8 breaths then slowly release. Benefits of this asana include opening the chest, strengthening the lungs, stimulation of the abdominal organs and it can help to reduce fat around your back, hips and thighs.
Three French Hens
I’ve been very fortunate to teach yoga to some gorgeous children in the past and it’s something that I would love to do more of, maybe even specialise in one day. I make the yoga poses really fun for kids by incorporating animal movements and sounds. An absolute favourite is always ‘clucking hen pose’: sitting in malasana or yogi squat, bending the elbows and flapping the arms like wings and making clucking noises – give it a go with your little ones!
Four Calling Birds
Arm balances. I don’t think I’ve covered these in a blog yet! If you’ve never done an arm balance before, give it a go and don’t be afraid of falling on your face. This pose is called Crow and once you master it you will have so much fun! Start in malasana or yogi squat (see Hen pose above), with your elbows inside your knees and your hands in prayer. Now place your hands on the floor at shoulder width, spreading your fingers wide to give you plenty of stability. Shift your weight forward, coming up onto your toes and lifting your sit bones to the sky, gently allowing your knees to rest on your triceps, bending your elbows. Try to get your knees as high up into your armpits as possible, then play with easing your body weight forward and taking your toes off the floor one at a time. Keep your gaze forward to help with your balance. If you find yourself falling forward when you first start your crow journey, place a pillow or a folded blanket on the floor in front of you.
And be sure to make this a ‘calling bird’ pose by squawking like a bird “caw caaawwww!!”
Five Gold (yoga) Rings!
Incorporating a yoga ring into your yoga practice is a lot of fun! They can help to release tension, increase flexibility and improve your balance. I got mine from a company called Stretch the Soul on Etsy; you can also check out their Instagram (@stretchthesoul) for inspiration and postures to do on your wheel.
Six Geese a-Laying
Cakravakasana or Goose Pose (also known as cat pose) is often confused with Bidalasana (Cat/Cow) as the two look very similar. This posture has wonderful benefits for your spine and helps to relieve lower back pain. Begin in table top position with your hands slightly further forward than your shoulders. Inhale to draw your shoulders blades in towards each other and bring your chest forward, gazing forward and then exhale to round the lower back and send your hips back to come in to child's pose. Inhale to repeat.
Seven Swans a-swimming
Hamsasana or Swan Pose is a fantastic abdominal stretch which also builds strength in your arms – best to practice this one on an empty stomach as it involves putting pressure on your belly. Kneel on the mat with your legs slightly apart, then place your hands between your knees with your fingers pointing towards you. Bend your arms and rest your belly on your elbows, then gently extend both your legs backwards keeping your feet together. Your body weight should be supported by your palms and your toes. Look forward and breathe, holding the pose for up to 30 seconds.
Eight (mer)Maids milking
Bring the mythical mermaid to life with this variation of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon pose). Begin in pigeon with your right leg forward and your hands either side of your hips. Lift up tall through the spine and chest and straighten the hips and shoulders to the front on your mat. Bend your left knee to bring your left foot up towards you and take hold of it with your left hand. Pause here taking several full breaths to ease into the stretch. If you want to go further your can slide your left foot up into your inner elbow, then extend your right arm up high. Hold here for a few breaths, then gently release. This is a beautiful stretch for your hips, groin, back, quads, chest and shoulders.
Nine Ladies Dancing and Ten Lords a Leaping
I'm putting these two together as the words combine to make one of my all time favourite postures: Lord of the Dance. Begin standing in Tadasana or mountain pose with your big toes touching, heels slightly apart, micro bend in your knees, shoulders back and down and your fingers engaged, crown of the head reaching towards the ceiling. Shift your weight to your left foot and bend the right knee backwards, taking a hold of the inside of the right ankle. Pause, breathe, find your balance. Inhale, then exhale to pull your right foot further up whilst simultaneously lifting your left arm to the sky and reaching forward.
Eleven Pipers Piping
Music is a key component to a yoga practice in my opinion. Finding your flow accompanied by some smooth RnB or meditating to a Gregorian chant, music connects you to your practice and adds another element to yoga. Here is a small gift; a beautiful piece of music called Clara de Luna which features the soothing sound of South American panpipes. Click here to download.
Twelve Drummers Drumming
One final asana before we sign off: Mrudanga Bandha or drum pose, so called because you resemble someone playing a drum in this posture. Stand with your legs slightly wider than hip distance with the toes turned outwards and your heels in line with each other. Bend your knees slightly then raise your arms up to about waist height, as if you're holding a drum. Keep your upper body upright and ring length through your spine, keep gaze straight ahead. Hold for a few breaths, then release. This posture tones your legs and buttocks and also gently stretches the hips.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy festive season!
Much love and namaste,
Claire and the team at OLY