Much to my surprise, a couple of years back, science proved that yoga can count as cardio. Sure, it can be relaxing AF and feel like a lullaby acted out by your body, but sometimes a vinyasa flow can get your heart racing. I’ve learned that the cardio-esque aspects of yoga lie in sun salutations (and fast transitions).
For the days when you want a more chill yoga sesh—as opposed to a replacement for a run or a spin class—you can turn to a standing yoga flow. “If you don’t want to get on the ground, this doesn’t involve any of the up-down that you’d do in a typical yoga flow,” says yoga pro Tess Koenig, who’s teaching us a standing yoga series in our latest episode of Good Moves. “It’s just focusing on a standing series.” Think asanas like tree pose and mountain pose.
You don’t even need a mat—just your fave pair of leggings and you’re good to go. One thing to keep in mind, though: “All we’re trying to do in a standing series is get to a neutral spine with a neutral pelvis,” says Koenig. Be aware of your body and your form, and you’ll reap the mind-body benefits.
1. Big toe pose: Come to the top of your mat (if you’re using one), and bring your feet hip-width distance apart, which you can measure by placing two fists between your inner arches. With your hands on your hips, inhale, lift your chest and gaze up. Exhale, fold forward and wrap your peace fingers around your big toes. Your thumbs rest on your toenails. Bend your knees as much as you need to. Inhale, look forward and lengthen your back, then exhale to fold further, tucking your chin to your chest.
2. Hand under foot pose: Inhale, look forward, exhale and slide your hands underneath your feet so that your toes hit your inner wrists. Reach your head down to the mat with your chin tucked, and your weight in the balls of your feet.
3. Mountain pose: Bring your hands to your hips with a slight bend in your knees. On an inhale, rise all the way up. Heel-toe your feet together to touch. Fingers should be reaching down to the ground, and your spine should be neutral—tuck your tailbone toward your heels.
4. Flow: Inhale, bringing your arms overhead, letting your hands touch. Exhale, fold forward. Breathe into a half lift, then step back into down dog.
5. Downward-facing dog: Pedal out your feet and press into your hands while pulling your chest close to your legs. Inhale, lift your right leg up. Breathe in and lift it higher, then step it forward.
6. Low lunge: Your foot is between your hands, then come up to all 10 fingertips. Grab a block and place it on the highest height outside of your right foot.
7. Triangle pose: Spin your back heel down and straighten your front leg. Peel your arm open, pressing the bottom hand onto the block for support. You want your front leg to externally rotate and your back leg to internally rotate—once you find that, lean back so your shoulders are on your back.
8. Warrior II: Inhale to rise up and exhale into Warrior II. Most will widen your stance, toes facing in. Arms should be in line with your shoulders, and your gaze is over your front middle finger. Sit lower as you breathe out.
9. Downward dog split: Exhale, bringing your hands to the mat. Breathe into downward dog split. Keep your right leg lifted, pressing your heel away form you. Square your hips to the mat, then step back.
10. Low lunge: Find your block again, then spin your back heel down.
11. Extended side angle: Keep that knee over your ankle as you reach your arm up. Flip your palm out in front of you and send your arm over your ear. Use the connection of your arm and leg to rotate your chest open. Look either at your top hand or forward. Exhale, bringing your hands to your mat, then inhale into downward dog split for one breath.
12. Warrior I: Step forward into Warrior I, spinning your back heel down. Bend the left knee over the ankle and reach your arms up, relaxing your shoulders. Keep pressing the outer edge of the back foot down so you can send your hip forward.
13. Plank: Put your hands down onto the mat, both feet back, shoulders over wrists into a plank pose. Inhale your left leg up into a downward dog split, then move into a low lunge, beginning the same flow on your left side.
Once the other side is finished, it’s time for balancing poses.
1. Tree pose (right) : While standing, press your weight into your left big toe mound, the outer edge of your heel, and your inner heel. As you do that, hug your right knee into your chest and give it a tug. Press into your whole foot and send the right sole of your foot to your inner thigh or your calf into tree pose. Bring your hands to your hips. Send your right knee out so that you can feel your right hip pressed forward. Bring your hands to heart center and inhale as you bring your arms up (optional).
2. Figure 4 chair pose (right): Send your knee forward, but don’t step down yet. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, just above it and sit back into a figure four. Flex your right foot and press into your palms so much that your elbows want to move away from one another. Inhale, press into the left foot, hug your right knee, then step it down.
3. Tree pose (left): Now put all the weight into the right ball of your foot, inner heel, and outer heel—all four corners of your foot. Hug your left knee, give it a tug, then bring the sole of your foot either to your thigh or your calf, avoiding the knee. Bring your hands to your hips, then feel your left knee move back in space, left hip move forward, and bring your hands to heart center. On an inhale, reach arms overhead, shoulders down and back, top of your head reaching up.
4. Figure 4 chair pose (left): On an exhale, bring your left knee forward and cross it above your right knee into a figure four chair pose. Keep the left foot flexed. Then shake out your arms and legs, and you’re done with your standing series. Bring your hands together at your heart center, take a big breathe in, really filling up, then exhale and let it go.
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