Whether we’re ready or not, summer is just around the corner. That means a plethora of gorgeous sunny days requiring energy, ease, grace and confidence. Don’t worry if those qualities seem far away right now—they always do, don’t they? Summer seems to sneak up on us every year, no matter how hard we promise that this year will be different.
Well, summer is different; schedules change, workloads lessen, and we try to cram in every drop of summer we can get our hands on.
Doesn’t sound very relaxing, does it?
Plus, there’s that other thing about summer: the body, out there on display more than during any other time of the year. Now, yoga will help tone your body, sure. But more importantly, yoga will guide you toward respecting that body, to be grateful for it, and to realize that, no matter what, it is an honor to live here, to be blessed with movement, grace, ability and potential.
No matter what, yoga has the uncanny ability to meet you where you are and help you get where you’re going. Even if you just have ten minutes, get on the mat, switch up your routines, and invite spontaneity, strength, and ease. The yoga sequence below challenges your deep core strength—that not only keeps you fit, strong, and determined, but also works to keep you grounded, cool, and in the moment, all summer long.
The best time to get on the mat is when you feel inspired to get on the mat. The second best time? First thing in the morning in order to inspire and super-charge your day. The sequence below only takes a few minutes. If you have more time, cycle through it three to five times.
Twists for Core Strength
Begin on all fours, then step out into Downward-Facing Dog (if this is too much for your body today, you can stay on all fours). Inhale here and raise the right leg to the sky (Three-legged Dog); exhale and shift the body forward, bringing the right knee to the right triceps. Inhale and lift that leg again, back into Three-legged Dog; exhale the right knee to the left triceps. Inhale and return to Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat on the left side. Work up to five repetitions on each side. Relax for a few breaths in Child’s Pose.
Vasisthasna (Side Plank Pose)
From Child’s Pose, inhale up onto all fours. Exhale. Inhale and lift the right hand up toward the sky, then stretch it out over your right ear, opening the right side of the body. Exhale and step the right over in front of that left leg. Then, extend that left leg out so that the outside of the foot rests against the floor. Keep the hips lifted, and the body in a nice long line from the foot all the way to the tips of the right fingers. Draw the navel toward the spine, lifting through the waist to maintain that straight line. If you’re okay here, feel free to step the right foot out to meet the left for full Side Plank. Hold for five breaths. Come back onto all fours (or full plank pose) and then repeat on the left side. (Feel free to come down onto the forearm if this is too much on the wrists). Relax in Child’s Pose.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
Up-Dog is fantastic for invigorating the body, correcting the posture, focusing the mind, as well as strengthening the arms, back, and core. From Child’s Pose, inhale and come forward onto the belly. Slide the hands back so they’re close to the bottom of the ribcage. Draw the navel toward the spine, press the pubic bone into the mat, and draw the knees up into the quadriceps. Inhale and press firmly and evenly through the hands, lifting the hips from the mat as you straighten the arms and extend the crown of the head toward the sky. This is a backbend, but we’re thinking up, not back. Think about extending so strongly toward the sky that the backbend is the expression of that extension. Slide the shoulders down the back. Hold for five breaths, breathing deeply into the abdomen and heart, then relax down. Bring your arms to your sides, turn one ear to the mat; rest. Turn your head to the other side.
Navasana (Boat Pose)
Roll over onto your back. Hug the knees into the chest and rock up and down until you come to a seated position. Bend the knees and plant the feet. Straighten the spine and inhale, lifting the feet off of the floor. Raise the lower legs until you form a 90° angle with the legs, if you can. Feel free to hold onto the legs, right behind the knees, if you wish. You can also keep the hands behind the hips for support, or extend the arms alongside the legs. If you have the strength, you can begin to straighten the knees. Just be sure to keep the navel in toward the spine and a nice straight back. As soon as you feel bowing in the lower spine (the lumbar region), bring the legs back in. We’re using the deep core here, not back muscles.
Hold for three breaths and repeat twice more, if you can. Remember—you’re stronger than you think!
When you’re finished, roll onto your back and hug the knees in for a few breaths. Feel free to lie on your back in Savasana (Corpse Pose or final relaxation) or roll over into Child’s Pose for a deep spinal release.