* Originally published in Yoga Connection magazine (March 2013).
Spring. It’s a season of growth, opening and expansion. Of transformation and change.
Finding expression in budding treetops and morning birdsongs, Spring rekindles gratitude for nature’s cycles. Playful and full of promise, it renders hopeful expectation in vibrant greens.
In Chinese Medicine, Spring is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder, Wind and the Wood element.
It’s a dynamic, rapidly changing time. One full of intention, direction and movement. A time ripe for hatching plans—and acting on them.
Following nature’s lead, we sprout, grow and spring forth in new ways. Emerging from the still of Winter, we explore our edges and engage our surroundings, opening to more creative expression of ourselves.
When all is well in body-mind, this transition is smooth and free flowing.
We invite change but don’t demand it—always allowing, never forcing. Like a stalk of bamboo, we are strong yet bendy. We sway with shifting winds yet do not break. Our strength lies in our capacity to yield.
In yoga, this play of fortitude and flexibility calls to mind the qualities of sthira sukham—steadiness and ease.
Here, balanced between effort and release, we find the “true” yoga asana, or posture. We also find wisdom for life off the mat, where the merger of mindfulness and intention allows change to unfold organically, along a steady, sustainable path.
From this place of acceptance and aspiration, we honor where we are even as we envision a future self.
With gentle curiosity, we explore the subtle tension between being okay with “this” and opening to “that.”
On our yoga mats, this work finds expression when cultivating a strong, supple spine.
With steadiness and ease, we develop strength and flexibility. Rushing ahead turns a healing path into a harmful one. So we proceed slowly, patiently—mastering foundations before bending into spectacular shapes.
By caring for our spine, we bring stability and lightness to our whole body-mind. This means less pain and more possibility—on the mat and in our lives.
Wherever your places of springtime evolution and unfolding—whether your spine, your work, your relationships or elsewhere—yoga is an excellent support.
Chinese Medicine is another.
For many patients, this involves balancing the “Liver-Gallbladder system,” which includes but is not limited to the actual organs. Its scope also influences eyesight, sleep, ligaments and tendons, emotional well-being, even menstruation and reproduction.
Together with yoga, Chinese Medicine can help you align with the spirit of the season and meet springtime with steadiness and ease. Both offer excellent supports as you play with possibilities, cultivate change and grow beyond limited versions of yourself.
So, in the spirit of Spring, we invite you to explore the following yoga sequence. And, off your mat, we encourage you to consider Chinese Medicine as an additional source of guidance, care and support.
Spring Forth Yoga Sequence
1. Begin in Balasana (child’s pose), feet resting on heels and spine rounding over a still, compact core. Pausing, seed-like and full of potential, honor this beginning and the journey that brought you here. Visualize what you long to manifest, who you aspire to become.
2. Focusing awareness on your spine, rise into “table.” Allow your breath to guide you through a series of “cat-cows.” Exhaling, round and tuck chin to chest. Inhaling, arch open, expand outward, and gaze skyward. Be curious. Close your eyes and feel how your spine wants to move. Bring gentle attention to places of stiffness and places of flexibility.
3. Finding a neutral spine, a place of steadiness and ease, settle again into “table.” Then curl your toes under, straighten your legs, and lift into Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog). Let it be playful. Organic. See how it feels to lift an arm or a leg, perhaps finding “flipped dog.”
4. Returning to a steady, still Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog), shift your gaze forward and step or float your feet to the space between your hands. Release into Uttanasana (standing forward fold). Then rise to Tadasana (mountain pose), arms branching overhead as your feet remain grounded.
5. Bring your hands to heart center and let them guide you back to Uttanasana (standing forward fold). Lift your torso halfway, placing hands on shins or leaving fingertips grazing the earth. Gracefully, lightly, step one foot back into high lunge.
Stay here, or rise into crescent, arms extending overhead. With fingertips touching the earth or reaching toward sky, allow the sole of your back foot to find the floor. Angle it 45 degrees toward the top of the mat, aligning the heel of the back foot with the heel or arch of the front foot. As one hand finds the outside of the front foot, sweep the other up and over, moving into Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose).
6. Mindfully, straighten your front leg, allowing the hand touching the earth to rise to the shin if needed. Sweep your other arm from front to overhead, transitioning into Trikonasana (triangle pose).
If you’ve been practicing for a while and your body feels ready, try a more dynamic, open variation by arching the spine. Or perhaps reverse your triangle, lifting and bending your torso toward the back of the mat as the top arm arcs above. Once you’ve explored these shapes, re-bend your front leg, let your raised arm reach toward the earth, and return to high lunge. Repeat Utthita Parsvakonasana and Triokonasana on the other side.
7. From high lunge, step back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog) before finding your way onto your belly. To get there, choose a route that honors where you are in your practice. This may mean lowering to your knees and then to your stomach.
Or perhaps you’re ready to hinge forward into high plank and then Chaturanga Dandasana (low plank). However you get there, lower slowly, consciously, to the earth. Always choose a variation that supports steadiness and ease, even as you embrace challenge and change.
8. Resting prone, place your hands, palms face down, beside your torso below your shoulders. Bring your inner legs together with the tops of your feet touching the mat, rooting your tailbone into the earth. Moving from the low back with little to no weight in your hands, rise into Bhujangasana (cobra pose). Be sure to elongate the back of your neck by looking down and a few inches ahead. Hold for a few breaths, then rest, turning your head to one side.
If you are new to the practice, repeat this posture—strengthening your spine slowly, patiently, in preparation for future backbends. If you’ve been practicing for a while and your spine feels ready, reach back with your hands to take hold of your feet. Roll forward onto the soft upper abdomen and lift your legs skyward, rising into Dhanurasana (bow pose). After a few breaths in your chosen expression, rest back to the earth, turning your head to the opposite side.
9. From prone position, place your hands by your shoulders and push up into high kneeling, knees hip-width apart and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rest your palms on either side of your low back, offering support to your spine. Begin to arch backward, searching for an evenly distributed curve while avoiding compression into the low back.
Stay here, or reach back to hold the heels or even arches of your feet, finding Ustrasana (camel pose). Honor where you are today, cultivating change and growth yet never pushing beyond a steady, easeful place. After a few breaths, return to high kneeling then sit back on your heels.
10. From low kneeling, sweep your legs out to one side and settle onto your back. Bend your knees so your heels are parallel and as close to your sitting bones as possible, with straight arms resting alongside your body. Contract the front of your thighs and lift your pelvis into Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose), pressing feet and arms actively into the floor. Stay here, or reach beneath your bridge to grasp opposite hands, finding further expansion in the spine and heart space. After a few breaths, rest your pelvis back to the earth.
Repeat, or if you have a regular backbend practice, place hands along either side of your head and arch into Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose). Savor the rush that comes from giving your spine’s strength and flexibility full expression.
11. Lowering to supine position, hug knees to chest and rock gently, massaging your spine along the earth. Extend your arms to a “T” and allow your knees to fall gently to one side and then the other in a supine twist.
Hugging your knees back to center, recall the small, rounded seed from which your practice emerged.
12. Finally, as you rest back into final Savasana, take a moment to honor this poignant, playful time of year. Consider how you might move through springtime with steadiness and ease. Bowing to your beginning. Always allowing, never forcing. Moving with mindfulness, intention and playful curiosity toward a fuller, more complete expression of yourself.
The Springtime and Light in us bows to the Springtime and Light in you. Namaste.