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Try it: a.m. and p.m. movement rituals

The morning routine:

Start with a body scan: Lie face-up on a yoga mat with eyes closed as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for 6 full breaths. Throughout, take notice of every part of your body, starting with the head and moving down the shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, and so on all the way to your toes. Wiggle your fingers and toes, open your eyes, then dive forward with your hands reaching for your feet.

Next, sit comfortably with eyes closed. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply through your nose for 6 full breaths, pausing at the top and bottom of each. Now you're ready to start the sequence below.

Half-seated twist pose

Begin in a seated position with legs extended in front of you. Bring your left foot to the outside of the right knee. Inhale as you place your left hand on the floor behind you, then exhale as you rotate to the left and extend your right arm along the outside of your left leg, pressing elbow into your knee. With each inhale, lengthen your spine. With each exhale, rotate more deeply. Hold for 3 breaths, then switch sides and repeat.

Hip flexor & runner’s stretch

Start on all fours on the mat with a yoga block on either side of the mat, under your hands. Step your right foot forward into a lunge, shifting your hips forward and keeping the back knee planted on the ground. Extend the left arm overhead and look up to your fingers, opening the left side of your body (top). Hold for 3 slow breaths. Bring your left arm down to reach for the block as you shift your weight back, straightening the right leg to stretch the hamstring (bottom). Rest your hands on the yoga blocks for support. Hold for 3 slow breaths. Return to all fours and repeat on the opposite side.

Walk-out to plank 

Stand at one end of your mat and bend over into a forward fold, placing hands on the mat in front of your feet (top). Slowly walk your hands out until you’re in a high plank (bottom). Tap right hand to left shoulder and left hand to right shoulder. Walk your hands back toward your feet and return to standing. Repeat 2 more times, adding one set of shoulder taps per side with each walk-out. (You should end with 3 taps per side.)

Sun salutations

Stand with feet at hip width and inhale as you extend your arms overhead (top left), then exhale as you move into a forward fold. Inhale to a flat back with hands on shins (top right). Exhale and place hands on the floor. Inhale and step back into a high plank. Exhale, lowering your body into a half push-up, then inhale as you move into Up Dog (bottom). Exhale as you move into Downward Dog. Return to standing, then repeat 2 more times.

Tree pose 

Stand with arms at your sides and feet at hip width. Lift your right foot and hold the ankle with your right hand, drawing it to the inner left thigh, above the knee. Press the palms together at your chest. Fix your gaze on a single point in front of you and hold for 3 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Forward fold 

Stand with arms at your sides and feet at hip width. Inhale as you extend your arms overhead, then exhale as you move into a forward fold. Repeat 3 more times.

The evening routine:

Start your nightly routine with a body scan: Stand with feet at hip width and arms by your sides, shifting your weight from toes to heels and back again. Close your eyes as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for 6 full breaths. Throughout, take notice of every part of your body, starting with the head and moving down the shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, and so on all the way to your toes. Now you’re ready to begin the routine below. 

Wrap up the flow with 4-7-8 breath work. To do it, sit comfortably, inhale deeply for 4 seconds, hold at the top for 7 seconds, then exhale for 8 seconds. Complete 5 full breaths.

Standing deep breath 

Stand with feet together. Interlace your fingers and place the knuckles of your hands against the bottom of your chin. Simultaneously inhale deeply through the nose and spread your elbows out to either side, separating your palms but keeping knuckles under your chin. Exhale deeply as you move your head back, bringing the palms, forearms, and elbows together again at the midline. Inhale for 6 counts, then exhale as you reverse the motion, spreading the elbows wide so the forearms and backs of your hands frame your face. Repeat 5 more times.

Wide-leg forward fold

Stand in the center of your mat with arms at your sides and feet spread wide, toes turned slightly in and a soft bend in the knees. Loosely cross your arms and roll down slowly, starting with your neck. Move one vertebrae at a time. Once you’ve folded over as far as you can, allow your spine, neck, and shoulders to hang. Hold for 30 seconds, taking deep, long breaths. Roll up, one vertebrae at a time, to return to standing. 

Calf stretch

Place a block in the center of the mat at its lowest height. Rest the ball of your left foot on the edge of the block and lean into the foot to stretch the calf. To deepen the stretch, shift your hips back. Complete 3 full breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.

Cat/Cow

Start on all fours with shoulders stacked over wrists and hips stacked over knees. Inhale as you arch your back, lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling (top). Draw the shoulder blades away from the ears. Exhale as you round your back, shift your gaze downward, and release the crown of your head toward the floor (bottom). Repeat 6 more times.

Shoulder stretch

Move into Child’s pose, folded forward with arms extended in front of you and glutes pressing against the heels. Extend the right arm toward the ceiling, feeling the stretch in your chest, arm, and shoulder (top). Lower the right arm and thread it underneath the left arm, resting your head and right shoulder on the mat (bottom). Hold for 3 full breaths. Return to Child’s pose, then repeat on the opposite side.

Figure four & Happy Baby

Lie down on your mat with both knees bent. Raise and bend the right leg at 90 degrees (so the calf is parallel to the ground), and rest the right ankle above the left knee. Grip the left leg with both hands and pull it toward you (top). Hold for 3 breaths, then repeat on the opposite side. Move into Happy Baby by bending both knees at 90 degrees and bringing them to your chest so that the balls of your feet face the ceiling. Grip the outsides of your feet with both hands, spread the knees, and press them toward the floor (bottom). Hold for 5 full breaths.

Fitness formula: release + stretch + activate

The recipe for mobility: release + stretch + activate

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Yin yoga as acupuncture

A regular practice will help you excel in any other physical pursuit.

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