As the year transitions toward cooler, darker months, slow down and dive inward, renew and recalibrate…
A yoga sequence from our FP Escapes instructor Mischa Varmuza!
Mischa Varmuza possesses a wisdom unlike many. Wearing a smile of honey-sweet kindness is inescapable, her yoga classes coax you to the very depths of your soul, to a place in which you can uncover the nectar of Self. Mantra and chanting gladly accompany you on your journey and then, with light bursting from within, an asana offers you a perfect balance of alignment and creative flow. We were humbled to share in Mischa’s magic during our FP Escapes retreat to Spain, and here she is today to share a fall-tinged sequence with you.
This practice is designed to bring you into your body, activating both the downward flow of energy (apana vayu) to ground and the equalizing force (samana vayu) which reflects our capacity to slow down and rest on a deep internal level. The sequence is both gentle and powerful, including hip opening and grounding postures to improve our ability to feel, surrender and let go, a twist to help relax contraction in the muscles and connective tissues, and improve internal digestive and eliminative function and gentle backbends to open our hearts to greater love and freedom.
Anahatasana | Heart Melting or Puppy Dog Pose
Start on all fours with the knees beneath the hips, shins parallel and the hands beneath the shoulders. Walk the hands forward until the forehead rests to the mat, a block or a blanket. To deepen the stretch, press into the hands, stretch the arms further forward and the hips back. Gently draw the belly and lower ribs in to support the lower spine. Relax the weight of the skull to help soothe the busy mind and melt the heart towards the earth in a gesture of surrender and receptivity to the wisdom within you. Stay here for 6 slow breaths.
Malasana | Squat or Garland Pose
Stand in Tadasana — mountain pose — with the feet turned slightly out and a little wider than the hips, bend the knees and lower the hips towards the heels. Bring the hands together at the heart in anjali mudra — prayer position — exhale slowly to relax into the hips and inhale to press the elbows open against the inner knee. Continue to lift the heart away from the hips to lengthen the lower back and spine upwards. Stay for 3 breaths with the head lifted and then bow the forehead gently to the back of the thumbs, acknowledging the space of the heart and your inner strength for a further 3 breaths.
If the heels do not touch the ground, place a rolled mat or blanket beneath them and, if there is pressure on the knees, sit the hips on a block for support.
Bharadvajasana II | The Sage Bharadvaja’s Pose
Sit on the floor with the legs extended straight forward. Bend the left knee, take the foot and place it at the root of the right thigh in half lotus. Bend the right knee out to the side and place the foot to the ground by the outer right hip, toenails facing down. Wrap the left arm around the back and take hold of the left foot and place the right hand to the outer right knee. Root down through the buttocks and relax into the hips. Breathe in, lengthen the spine upwards and rotate the chest and shoulders to the left. Stay for 3 breaths with the face and gaze toward the right shoulder and 3 breaths turning the face and gaze over the left shoulder. Draw the navel back to the spine and focus on staying bright from within whilst softening from the skin layer inwards inviting a deeper effect to unfold. Repeat on the other side.
Place a block beneath the hips and under the half lotus knee if it is lifted away from the ground. If there is any pressure on the knee, modify half lotus by placing the foot to inner thigh and the hand behind you instead.
Salamba Bhujangasana | Sphinx Pose
Lie on your stomach with the legs and feet together and toes flat against the ground. Stretch the hands forward with the forearms parallel and elbows beneath the shoulders. Press down through the fingers, hands and forearms and take a slow long breath in to lift up the head and curl up through the upper back, slide the shoulders gently back and down and lengthen the neck. Engage and press the legs and toes down to connect with the support of the earth below. Continue to lift the chest up and forward to invoke a feeling of spaciousness and love at the heart. Breathe here for 6 slow breaths.
Utthan Pristhasana | Lizard Pose
From downward facing dog, step your right foot between your hands to a lunge position. Bring both forearms to the floor inside the right leg. Lift the back knee and keep your inner left thigh active. Reach the left heel back and open the chest and heart forward to lengthen the spine. You can modify the pose by bringing your back knee down or placing your forearms on a block. Stay for 6 slow breaths. Change and repeat on the second side.
Baddha Konasana | Bound Angle Pose with head supported
From seated on the floor, bring the soles of the feet together, draw them towards the groin and open the knees outwards. Hinge forward from the hips and rest your forehead comfortably onto a block or support. Extend the arms forwards and bring the hands to anjali mudra — prayer position — on the ground in front of the block. Root through the sitting bones and gently extend the spine to melt the heart over the thighs, bow down and surrender your efforts to rest into the earth beneath you. Stay here for 6 slow breaths, relaxing more deeply into your body with each exhale.
If the hips or groin are tight, raise your hips on a foam block or folded blanket and take additional support under the head and arms/hands.
Photos by Jillian Guyette.