9 poses when you need to start over

April 30, 2023 0 Comments

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I have no regrets when it comes to my yoga journey. Even with all my injuries, disappointments, missed opportunities, and failures, I wouldn’t change a single breath or posture.

I don’t regret saying yes to a teaching job that didn’t work out. How many times in my fifteen-year career have I collected lessons that either didn’t develop or shrunk after I took them over? My first instinct was often to take it personally or assume I had failed, but in retrospect I can see that if those opportunities had worked out, I would be on a very different path today. I don’t regret doing the postures that probably contributed to my repetitive stress injuries. Through trauma, motherhood, and aging, I’ve really been able to learn about non-attachment.

I do not even regret that I blindly followed the teachers who eventually fell from their pedestals and caused me some damage. Experiencing frustration with a teacher or mentor was a huge opportunity for me to learn how to do things differently. It helped me see where to draw boundaries and how to better manage my energy in my own relationships.

Let’s try again

While I don’t regret those moments, I appreciate the idea of ​​being able to reset and start over. I don’t necessarily want to remake – not in such a way as to erase the past, with a clean slate. Rather, I want to do better.

When I start teaching a new class, learn a new pose, or learn with a new teacher, I want to go through the experience differently than before, using the wisdom I gained from my previous experience, but also knowing that this is a new beginning. It’s time to reset, not recycle.

In this sequence, we revisit familiar poses from a fresh, perhaps wiser lens. I hope this reminds you of the many possibilities available to you and helps you clear any old attachments or resentments.

A woman in purple pants practices child's pose with her head on a block
(Photo: Sarah Ezrin)

1. Balasana (child’s pose)

Is there any pose that symbolizes new beginnings more than the fetal pose? This pose represents a literal beginning—a return to the time when we were born. In this version of the pose, we will leave our hands at our sides, but keep our palms facing up, as a symbol of accepting new opportunities.

As: Get down on your knees. Bring your big toes together and spread your knees. Move your buttocks back to your heels and place your stomach on or between your thighs. Place your forehead on the floor or a bar, then spread your arms out to your sides. Turn your shoulder so that your palms face up. This internal shoulder rotation can cause your upper back to round too much, so keep your shoulders off the floor. Rest here for ten breaths. Then slowly, as if you were going to swim in honey, extend one arm and then the other in front of you.

A woman in purple pants practices a dynamic version of cat/cow where she makes a circle with her body
(Photo: Sarah Ezrin)

2. Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (cat/cow pose)

The dynamic Cat/Cow sequence allows us to see that each breath cycle can be an opportunity to begin again and again. We usually focus on extension (curving) and flexion (rounding) of the Cat/Cow spine. In this version, we will move the body in a circle. This rotational movement helps create space in the ball-and-socket joints of the hips and shoulders. A circle in one direction and a change of directions symbolizes a new beginning.

How: From Child’s Pose, inhale and move to Table Pose. On the next breath, pull your chest forward so that your shoulders are in front of your wrists, and arch your back. Then place your shoulders and hips to the right and back. Exhale into child’s pose with a rounded back, then circle your hips and body to the left, rotating on the other side into cow pose as you inhale and bring your shoulders forward from your wrists. Continue in this direction for three revolutions, then change direction.

A woman in purple pants practices a low lunge with outstretched arms
(Photo: Sarah Ezrin)

3. Low lunge

There’s something about pushing back, like a wet washcloth, to help release old energy. But squeezing does not mean drying completely. A little bit of moisture remains, but it helps remove excess stuff that we tend to hang onto.

As: Starting from the table, pass the right leg between the hands. Keep your left hand on the floor under your shoulder or on a block. Inhale and raise your right hand to the ceiling. Exhale and unfold the torso towards the front inner knee. If your neck is sensitive, keep looking down or to the side. Otherwise, you can look at your raised hand. Try not to drive yourself into a corner. Instead, let each breath take you a little further. On an inhale, stretch the spine from the top of the head to the tail; exhale, spin a little more. Do this for five breaths. Release the right arm down and return to the hands and knees and adjust to the other side.

A woman practices a variation of Bhujangasana
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

4. Bhujanagasana (cobra pose), variation

To begin again, we often need to reopen our hearts. Rising and falling in this gentle backbend, sometimes called Seal Pose, is a gentle way to open your heart after disappointment. In this pose we are on the floor so there is an element of grounding, but pressing up adds the energy of re-emergence.

As: In Table Pose, curl your toes, lift your shins, and pull your hips up and back into Downward-Facing Dog. Inhale to come forward to the bar, then lower to the floor, kneeling first if necessary. Place your palms under your shoulders and spread your legs and feet hip-width apart. As you inhale, come off the floor with your arms extended half straight, and lift your chest and stomach off the floor. Your elbows will remain slightly bent. Take your shoulders away from your ears. On exhalation, lower your back to the floor. Repeat this three times. Think about lengthening your spine each time you lower so that each round informs the next. After the last round, curl your toes and press into downward facing dog.

Woman in purple pants practicing Warrior I pose with raised arms
(Photo: Sarah Ezrin)

5. Virabhadrasana 1 (warrior pose 1), variation

Warrior 1 gets a reputation for pushing and pulling a bit with his whole body. For example, your back leg strengthens to a straight line and pulls back, but then your back thighs wrap forward. And we wouldn’t be able to clear the space in our lower back if our back leg wasn’t standing firmly. This pose symbolizes the resistance we often feel when starting over and over again. But it is also an opportunity to free up space for the development of our past.

How: From downward dog, inhale and lift your right leg toward the sky. On exhalation, pass the right leg between the hands. Turn the toes of the left foot outward and bounce the leg slightly to the left until both feet are a comfortable distance apart. We’re going to keep our chests down today. Bring your thumb to your right hip and thigh and gently pull your hip back. Keep your right foot on the mat. Now bring your torso one inch away from your right hip and extend your left arm forward. If your lower back feels spacious and stable, extend your right arm forward as well. As your arms stretch forward, rest your feet on the floor and move your hips back. Hold for five breaths. Exhale, place both hands on the ground and step back into downward facing dog. Prepare for the left side.

A woman in purple pants practices Ustrasana, a variation of Camel Pose
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

6. Ustrasana (camel pose) variation

Let’s continue the theme of observing push-ups in the body, but this time the pull will bend backwards while we work to keep the energy moving forward. This variation is sometimes called Ardha Ustrasana (Half Camel Pose). This is a hybrid lunge form that shares many of the qualities we just explored in Warrior 1 and Camel Pose.

As: From Downward Facing Dog, inhale right leg up and back. Exhale, step your right foot forward and lower your back knee to the floor. Raise the body vertically and pause. Place your left palm on your sacrum, fingers pointing up or down. Inhale and extend your right hand to the sky. On exhalation, begin to bend back. Your left hand can slide further down the left leg to the buttock, thigh, or lower leg. As tempting as it is to go all the way back, focus on lifting your chest and pulling your torso toward your front knee. Hold for five breaths. Rest on the back leg, inhale and straighten the body. Place both hands on either side of the front foot. Return to Downward Dog.

A woman in purple pants practices Ardha Matsyendrasana, Demi-Lord of the Fishes
(Photo: Sarah Ezrin)

7. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Demi-Lord of the Fish Pose)

The twists also symbolize coming closer to yourself before reaching out to the world. It’s like we have to check the heart first before we can open up. Twists are one of the best preparation and counter poses for back bending.

As: Take a sitting position. Extend both legs straight out in front of you. Sit on a blanket or block if that helps you sit upright without rounding. Bend your right knee and cross your foot over your left thigh. Your right knee will continue to face up. Now bend the left knee and pull the heel beyond the right buttock. As you inhale, stretch your left arm up. On exhalation, turn the body to the right. Wrap your left hand around the front of your thigh, or try hooking your left elbow on the inside of your right knee for more leverage to turn. Choose any option that will allow you to expand your chest and breathe fully. Turn your head to look over your right shoulder. Hold for five breaths. First, turn your head to the left, then release the rest of your body. You will notice that the body unfolds organically. Extend both legs straight and repeat on the left side.

A woman practices Viparita Karani, Legs Up the Wall
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

8. Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose)

Often all it takes to start over is a change in perspective. Going upside down can offer us this. Viparita Karani also has a restorative element as you hold on to the wall and floor. It also means the surrender required to begin. We must trust that we are held and supported as we return to where we once were, but anew. This pose symbolizes trust, rest and new beginnings.

As: Go to the wall and sit next to it sideways. Lie down and lift your legs up the wall so that your sit bones touch the wall and your sacrum is flat on the ground. You may want to tuck a thin, folded blanket under you, placing it comfortably in the arch of your lower spine. Let your hands lie at your sides. Close your eyes or let them rest on a soft point of view. Leave for five minutes.

Getting out will be as important as getting in: bend your knees and slide your feet up the wall again. Turn to the side and stop in this position, curled up. Take your time, push yourself to sit up slowly, letting your head come up last. This means that we will enter this new phase guided by our inner self and heart. Find a comfortable place and dwell on the possibilities of this moment.

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