Spring is a season characterized by rebirth, renewal and growth. Many of us are looking forward to longer, lighter evenings and the uplifting energy of Spring. To celebrate the season (and to help you out of bed before the sun has risen), we are putting a fresh spin on a traditional sequence. Each pose within the sequence becomes a hybrid — and a hip opener — by keeping the legs in tree pose. Challenge your balance and flexibility by practicing this variation of Sun Salutation that pays homage to blooming trees and fresh routine. Remember to practice the sequence on both sides of your body, and breathe deeply through each pose.
1. Tree Pose
Start in Mountain Pose at the back of your mat. Toes are spread, spine is lengthening towards the ground. Slowly shift your weight into your left foot and pick up your right foot. With the help of your right hand, place the sole of the right foot onto the inner left thigh. Find stability in this pose by pressing your right foot firmly into your left thigh, and your left thigh firmly into the sole of your right foot. Keep your right knee pressing out. Bring your hands together at heart center. Take 5 deep breaths, then on your next inhale sweep your hands up towards the sky.
2. Standing Forward Fold with Tree Legs
On an exhale, swan dive down into this Standing Forward Fold variation. Continue to keep your right knee open to the side. Feel the hamstring stretch along the back of your left leg and the stretch in your right hip. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
3. High Plank Pose with Tree Legs
Rather than stepping or jumping back into Plank Pose, as you would in a traditional Sun Salutation, on an exhale, slowly walk yourself out into Plank Pose with Tree Legs. Continue pressing your right foot firmly into your left thigh, and try to make a straight line with your body from head to heel. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.
4. Side Plank Pose with Tree Legs
Before moving into your Chaturanga Dandasana, which is usually the next pose in the Sun Salutation, take a short detour into Side Plank Pose with Tree Legs. On an inhale, shift your weight onto your left hand, roll onto the outer edge of the left foot and pop up onto your right fingertips. Find your balance here. On the exhale, slowly extend your right hand up towards the sky. Keep your hips lifting as you continue to root down through your left hand. Look up at your right hand for an added challenge. Stay here for 3-5 breaths and return into your High Plank Pose with Tree Legs.
5. Low Plank Pose with Tree Legs
From High Plank Pose, slowly shift slightly forward. On an exhale, bend your elbows coming into Low Plank Pose (or Chaturanga Dandasana) with Tree Legs. Hug your elbows in and engage your core to maintain stability.
6. Upward Facing Dog with Tree Legs
On an inhale, roll over the left toes and come into Upward Facing Dog with Tree Legs. Feel free to modify by taking the Cobra Pose variation with hips on the ground. Press into your hands, lift your heart and relax your shoulders. Take 3-5 breaths.
7. Downward Facing Dog with Tree Legs
On an exhale, roll back over your left toes and come into your Downward Facing Dog with Tree Legs. Spread your fingers wide, relax your shoulders and engage your belly. Stay here and hold for 5 deep breaths. Complete your Sun Salutation by walking your hands back to your left foot and then slowly lifting back up into Tree Pose! Release the right foot, shake it out and repeat on the other side.
8. Optional: Supported Headstand with Tree Legs
For an added challenge, feel free to add an inversion at the end of your Sun Salutation practice. Keep your elbows hugging in, neck long, belly engaged and legs energized! To maintain our tree theme, slowly bend on knee and bring the sole of the foot to the inside of the other thigh, then switch! Remember to continue breathing. Take a well deserved Child’s Pose after you come down.