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Colleen Saidman Yee's Yoga for Inner Peace

Colleen Saidman Yee, who leads Yoga Journal's upcoming Yoga for Inner Peace online course, discusses the importance of letting yourself feel sad, and demonstrates a sequence to release grief and other festering emotions. https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/yoga-for-inner-peace-12-poses-to-release-sadness

Poses NOTES
1

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Step 1

Stand with the bases of your big toes touching, heels slightly apart (so that your second toes are parallel). Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them softly down on the floor. Rock back and forth and side to side. Gradually reduce this swaying to a standstill, with your weight balanced evenly on the feet.

Step 2

Firm your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps, without hardening your lower belly. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches, then imagine a line of energy all the way up along your inner thighs to your groins, and from there through the core of your torso, neck, and head, and out through the crown of your head. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and lift the pubis toward the navel.

Step 3

Press your shoulder blades into your back, then widen them across and release them down your back. Without pushing your lower front ribs forward, lift the top of your sternum straight toward the ceiling. Widen your collarbones. Hang your arms beside the torso.

Step 4

Balance the crown of your head directly over the center of your pelvis, with the underside of your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, and the tongue wide and flat on the floor of your mouth. Soften your eyes.

Step 5

Tadasana is usually the starting position for all the standing poses. But it's useful to practice Tadasana as a pose in itself. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing easily.

2

Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

Step 1

Stand in Tadasana. Turn your arms outward (or laterally) so your palms face away from your torso and thumbs point backward. With an inhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and up toward the ceiling.

Step 2

If you're tighter in the shoulders, stop when your arms are approximately parallel to each other. But if possible without hunching your shoulders forward, press your palms firmly together by, touching the bases of your palms first, then the palms themselves, and finally the fingers.

Step 3

Extend your elbows fully and reach up through your pinkies so your thumbs turn slightly down toward the crown of your head. Making sure not to compress the back of your neck, tip your head back slightly and gaze at your thumbs.

Step 4

Don't let your lower front ribs protrude forward. Bring your front ribs down (toward your pelvis) and in (toward your spine), and lengthen your tail bone toward the floor. Then lift your rib cage evenly away from your pelvis to stretch the circumference of your belly. Hold for a few breaths.

Step 5

Exhale and, as you sweep your arms out to the sides, tip your torso forward from the hip joints to fold into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend).

3

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Step 1

Stand in Tadasana, hands on hips. Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, not from the waist. As you descend draw the front torso out of the groins and open the space between the pubis and top sternum. As in all the forward bends, the emphasis is on lengthening the front torso as you move more fully into the position.

Step 2

If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles. If this isn't possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Turn the top thighs slightly inward.

Step 3

With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. In this way the torso oscillates almost imperceptibly with the breath. Let your head hang from the root of the neck, which is deep in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.

Step 4

Uttanasana can be used as a resting position between the standing poses. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. It can also be practiced as a pose in itself.

Step 5

Don't roll the spine to come up. Instead bring your hands back onto your hips and reaffirm the length of the front torso. Then press your tailbone down and into the pelvis and come up on an inhalation with a long front torso.

4

High Lunge

Step 1

From Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), bend your knees and, with an inhale, step your left foot back toward the back edge of your mat, with the ball of the foot on the floor. Step back far enough so that your right knee can form a right angle.

Step 2

Lay your torso on your front thigh and lengthen it forward. To soften your right groin, imagine that the thigh is sinking toward the floor under your torso's weight. Look forward. Simultaneously, firm the left thigh and push it up toward the ceiling, holding the left knee straight. Stretch your left heel toward the floor.

Step 3

Exhale and step your right foot back beside the left. Repeat the above instructions, but reverse left and right. Or come into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), inhale, and step the right foot forward between your hands.

5

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Step 1

Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.

Step 2

Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.

Step 3

Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis.

Step 4

Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don't let it hang.

Step 5

Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It's also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child's Pose.

6

Plank Pose

Step 1

Kneel upright, with your knees slightly narrower than hip width apart and your hips, shoulders, and head stacked directly above your knees. With your hands, press down against the back of your pelvis.

Step 2

On an inhalation, tuck your chin toward your sternum and lean your head and shoulders back as far as you can without pushing your hips forward. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and lift the top of your sternum. When your chest is maximally lifted, gradually release your head back.

Step 3

Before you arch all the way back and place your head and hands on the floor, bring your palms together in front of your sternum in Anjali Mudra. Then separate your hands and reach them overhead toward the floor behind you. Bring your hips forward enough to counterbalance the backward movement of the upper torso and head. Keep your thighs as perpendicular to the floor as possible as you drop back. Place your palms on the floor, fingers pointing toward your feet, then lower your crown to the floor as well.

Step 4

Press your palms, lift your head slightly off the floor and raise your hips, opening your front groins as much as possible. Lifting your pelvis as much as possible, lengthen and extend your upper spine and walk your hands to your feet. As you do, lower your forearms to the floor. If possible, grip your ankles (or, if you're very flexible, your calves). Draw your elbows toward each other until they're shoulder width apart, and anchor them firmly on the floor. Extend your neck and place your forehead on the floor.

Step 5

Take a full inhalation to expand your chest. Then, exhaling softly but thoroughly, press your shins and forearms against the floor; as you do, lengthen your tailbone toward the knees and lift your top sternum in the opposite direction.

Step 6

Hold the pose for 30 seconds or longer, further expanding the chest with each inhale, softening the belly with each exhale. Then release your grip, walk your hands away from your feet, and push your torso back to upright with an inhale. Rest in Child's Pose for a few breaths.

7

Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

Step 1

Perform Adho Mukha Svanasana, then Plank Pose. Firm your shoulder blades against your back ribs and press your tailbone toward your pubis.

Step 2

With an exhalation slowly lower your torso and legs to a few inches above and parallel to the floor. There's a tendency in this pose for the lower back to sway toward the floor and the tailbone to poke up toward the ceiling. Throughout your stay in this position, keep the tailbone firmly in place and the legs very active and turned slightly inward. Draw the pubis toward the navel.

Step 3

Keep the space between the shoulder blades broad. Don't let the elbows splay out to the sides; hold them in by the sides of the torso and push them back toward the heels. Press the bases of the index fingers firmly to the floor. Lift the top of the sternum and your head to look forward.

Step 4

Chaturanga Dandasana is one of the positions in the Sun Salutation sequence. You can also practice this pose individually for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. Release with an exhalation. Either lay yourself lightly down onto the floor or push strongly back to Adho Mukha Svanasana, lifting through the top thighs and the tailbone.

8

Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Step 1

Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your waist so that your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor.

Step 2

Inhale and press your inner hands firmly into the floor and slightly back, as if you were trying to push yourself forward along the floor. Then straighten your arms and simultaneously lift your torso up and your legs a few inches off the floor on an inhalation. Keep the thighs firm and slightly turned inward, the arms firm and turned out so the elbow creases face forward.

Step 3

Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don't harden the buttocks.

Step 4

Firm the shoulder blades against the back and puff the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Look straight ahead or tip the head back slightly, but take care not to compress the back of the neck and harden the throat.

Step 5

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana is one of the positions in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. You can also practice this pose individually, holding it anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor or lift into Adho Mukha Svanasana with an exhalation.

9

Child's Pose (Balasana)

"Step 1

Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.

Step 2

Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.

Step 3

Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.

Step 4

Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. Stay in the pose from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis."

10

Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Step 1

Perform Baddha Konasana. Exhale and lower your back torso toward the floor, first leaning on your hands. Once you are leaning back on your forearms, use your hands to spread the back of your pelvis and release your lower back and upper buttocks through your tailbone. Bring your torso all the way to the floor, supporting your head and neck on a blanket roll or bolster if needed.

Step 2

With your hands grip your topmost thighs and rotate your inner thighs externally, pressing your outer thighs away from the sides of your torso. Next slide your hands along your outer thighs from the hips toward the knees and widen your outer knees away from your hips. Then slide your hands down along your inner thighs, from the knees to the groins. Imagine that your inner groins are sinking into your pelvis. Push your hip points together, so that while the back pelvis widens, the front pelvis narrows. Lay your arms on the floor, angled at about 45 degrees from the sides of your torso, palms up.

Step 3

The natural tendency in this pose is to push the knees toward the floor in the belief that this will increase the stretch of the inner thighs and groins. But especially if your groins are tight, pushing the knees down will have just the opposite of the intended effect: The groins will harden, as will your belly and lower back. Instead, imagine that your knees are floating up toward the ceiling and continue settling your groins deep into your pelvis. As your groins drop toward the floor, so will your knees.

Step 4

To start, stay in this pose for one minute. Gradually extend your stay anywhere from five to 10 minutes. To come out, use your hands to press your thighs together, then roll over onto one side and push yourself away from the floor, head trailing the torso.

11

Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

Step 1

Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Inhale, lift your pelvis slightly off the floor, and slide your hands, palms down, below your buttocks. Then rest your buttocks on the backs of your hands (and don't lift them off your hands as you perform this pose). Be sure to tuck your forearms and elbows up close to the sides of your torso.

Step 2

Inhale and press your forearms and elbows firmly against the floor. Next press your scapulas into your back and, with an inhale, lift your upper torso and head away from the floor. Then release your head back onto the floor. Depending on how high you arch your back and lift your chest, either the back of your head or its crown will rest on the floor. There should be a minimal amount of weight on your head to avoid crunching your neck. (For more about this, see the Beginners Tip below.)

Step 3

You can keep your knees bent or straighten your legs out onto the floor. If you do the latter, keep your thighs active, and press out through the heels.

Step 4

Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, breathing smoothly. With an exhalation lower your torso and head to the floor. Draw your thighs up into your belly and squeeze.

12

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Step 1

Lie on your belly with your hands alongside your torso, palms up. (You can lie on a folded blanket to pad the front of your torso and legs.) Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your heels as close as you can to your buttocks. Reach back with your hands and take hold of your ankles (but not the tops of the feet). Make sure your knees aren't wider than the width of your hips, and keep your knees hip width for the duration of the pose.

Step 2

Inhale and strongly lift your heels away from your buttocks and, at the same time, lift your thighs away from the floor. This will have the effect of pulling your upper torso and head off the floor. Burrow the tailbone down toward the floor, and keep your back muscles soft. As you continue lifting the heels and thighs higher, press your shoulder blades firmly against your back to open your heart. Draw the tops of the shoulders away from your ears. Gaze forward.

Step 3

With the belly pressed against the floor, breathing will be difficult. Breathe more into the back of your torso, and be sure not to stop breathing.

Step 4

Stay in this pose anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. Release as you exhale, and lie quietly for a few breaths. You can repeat the pose once or twice more.

13

Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Step 1

Fold a thick blanket or two into a firm support about six inches high. Sit close to one edge of this support and stretch your legs out in front of your torso on the floor in Dandasana (Staff Pose).

Step 2

Cross your shins, widen your knees, and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you bend your knees and fold the legs in toward your torso.

Watch a video demonstration of this pose

Step 3

Relax the feet so their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. You'll know you have the basic leg fold of Sukhasana when you look down and see a triangle, its three sides formed by the two thighs and the crossed shins. Don't confuse this position with that of other classic seated postures in which the ankles are tucked in close to the sitting bones. In Sukhasana, there should be a comfortable gap between the feet and the pelvis.

Step 4

As always, you should sit with your pelvis in a relatively neutral position. To find neutral, press your hands against the floor and lift your sitting bones slightly off the support. As you hang there for a few breaths, make your thigh bones heavy, then slowly lower your sit bones lightly back to the support. Try to balance your pubic bone and tail bone so they're equidistant from the floor.

Step 5

Either stack your hands in your lap, palms up, or lay your hands on your knees, palms down. Lengthen your tail bone toward the floor, firm your shoulder blades against your back to you're your upper torso, but don't over arch your lower back and poke your lower front ribs forward.

Step 6

You can sit in this position for any length of time, but if you practice this pose regularly, be sure to alternate the cross of the legs. A good rule of thumb: On even-numbered days, cross the right shin in front of the left, and on odd-numbered days, do the opposite. Alternately, you can divide the practice time in half, and spend the first half with your right leg forward, and the second half with the left leg forward.