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Practice with Clara

Arise & Illuminate (28-min) Vinyasa

This vinyasa yoga class opens with a reading of a poem by John O’Donahue to ease you into the practice with a meditative prayer. A smooth and straightforward sequence to start your day, you’ll connect to your rhythm of breath as you cycle through several variations of Sun Salutations. A seated spinal twist to wring out the spine, inner thigh, groin, and hamstring stretching from the floor, and a passive inversion with legs up the wall in Viparita Karani (dead bug pose) complete the class.

Style: Vinyasa

Duration: 28-mins

Level: Open-level class

Props: none

Focus: Sun Salutations, Twists, Inversions

Location: Lila Familia Production Studio, Vancouver, BC

“Surya” translates from Sanskrit as ‘the sun,’ and “Namaskar” translates from Sanskrit as ‘to bow.’ When we perform Sun Salutations, we bow before the sun to welcome a new day. The sun represents the life force and vital energy necessary to sustain life on this planet as it affects how we eat, drink, and breathe; through the sun, we receive heat, light, and attune to the cycle of the day. The sun represents the solar, active energy in the world, and within us, it is the balancing element against the passive, yin energy represented by the moon.

Sun Salutations are performed in the morning to greet the day and the potential that the day holds; they’re a way to stimulate and excite the body after a night of rest. Through Sun Salutations, we create and cycle pranic energy through the body. Prana represents our breath and life force. Diet, activity, breath, relationships, and the environment impact the prana and how it moves in the body. Prana travels through the nadis, energy channels in the body to provide energy. There are 72,000 nadis in the body for prana to move through. Prana also moves through each of the seven main chakras that align along the spinal column.

Ujjayi breath is used as you move through Sun Salutations and sustain the practice; it’s performed by inhaling and exhaling through the nose with a subtle constriction at the back of the throat. Each exhale may feel and sound like a cat purring. Benefits of ujjayi breathing include improved concentration on the asana (physical) postures, creates a meditative quality in the mind to focus, and stimulation of the nadis to move pranic energy.

Opening Meditation 

Come to stand at the top of your mat with hands in Anjali mudra (prayer at heart), soften your gaze and breathe. This practice opens with a reading of “a poem by John O’Donohue.

A Morning Offering

All that is eternal in me

Welcomes the wonder of this day,

The field of brightness it creates

Offering time for each thing

To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:

The quiet loyalty of breath,

The tent of thought where I shelter,

Waves of desire I am shore to

And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today

To the invisible geography

That invites me to new frontiers,

To break the dead shell of yesterdays,

To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today

To live the life that I would love,

To postpone my dream no longer

But do at last what I came here for

And waste my heart on fear no more.

Surya Namaskar Waves 

Move through several variations of Surya Namaskars (sun salutations) to connect to breath and open the body; sun salutations strengthen the body by toning the arms and legs and provide suppleness and flexibility to the muscles and connective tissues at the joints.

Sun salutations build heat and allow you to dance in the rhythm of breath as you move through the simple sequence of poses. The body’s overall function and health benefit from sun salutations, the endocrine, nervous, muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems are all supported by Sun Salutations.

Four progressive cycles of Sun Salutations allow you to add layers to the sequence and modify as you prefer. Add to the intensity by taking chaturanga through to upward facing dog and warrior 1, or keep the sequence simple with cobra pose and low lunges to support your practice.

Cooling Flow 

Ardha Matsyendrasana (seated spinal twist)

Come to sit and take one knee to your chest. Extend the opposite leg out in front of you, or bend the knee and tuck the toes toward the opposite hip. Keep your sits-bones anchored on the ground as you take your opposite hand to the outer leg. Each time you exhale, twist from your abdomen, and breathe into your chest and collarbones. Twists improve digestion, increase spinal flexibility, and cleanse the internal organs.

Ardha Ananda Balasana (half happy baby)

Keep your tailbone anchored on the ground and flatten your back against the earth. Breathe into the lower back and the back of the ribs. This pose opens the groins and inner thigh.

Supta Padangusthasana (reclined hand to toe pose)

Extend one leg down your mat and the other leg to the sky. Take your hands to the back of your leg at the hamstrings to start or use a strap at the foot’s base as you send your heel up to the sky. Press your leg into your palms or the strap. Stay here, or begin to draw your chin to the chest to deepen the stretch. Keep your tailbone anchored to the ground and as you keep pressing your calf or feet into your hands, lift your head and torso from the ground and take your toes past the crown of your head. This pose lengthens the hamstrings of the extended leg.

Viparita Karani (dead bug pose)

This variation can be done in the middle of your mat with heels and hands stacked above the hips and shoulders. Let your limbs become heavy and close your eyes. Or, move to a wall and take legs up the wall for additional support.