Calling all brides: Your big day is approaching, and you want to look and feel amazing. However, right now, your life is crazy. Your planning is stressful, and you aren’t sleeping well. Your partner thinks you’ve gone temporarily insane. The vision you’ve had since you were 6, of being a calm, gorgeous bride floating down the aisle, is getting fuzzier with every pothole on the road to your dream day.
The good news is that a regular yoga practice is the perfect way to let the ultimate relaxed and glowing version of yourself shine and steady you through the seemingly endless lists and planning.
This sequence is designed for the post-walk or -run to target your waist, outer hips, arms and shoulders, so you can arrive on your day beaming with confidence. All these postures can be held for longer or shorter amounts of time, and this simple sequence can be practiced at least once a day. Beyond the physical benefits, by approaching these postures with a calm mind and with attention to your breath, you will find more emotional and mental balance — creating space to begin this new chapter of your life.
1. Uttitha Balasana (Extended Child’s Pose)
Targets: Shoulders, upper back, hips
Props: One or two thick blankets or towels
Begin your practice by centering your breath and mind. Start on your hands and knees, bringing your big toes to touch and your knees as wide as the sides of your mat. Stretch your hips back and bring your forehead to the ground, closing your eyes. Extend your arms long in front of you and press into your hands so that your forearms lift away from the floor. Stay here for 15 to 20 breaths, noticing how your body feels, how your breath is moving, and the connection your hands and forehead make with the earth. Return to this position as often as you like throughout the practice.
2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Targets: Shoulders, hips, spine, legs
From extended child’s pose, inhale and press into your hands and lift yourself to hands and knees, bringing your knees and feet hip-distance apart. Make sure that your hands are shoulder-distance apart and your index fingers are pointing to the top of the mat. Tuck your toes and reach your hips up and back with an exhalation, keeping your knees bent or straightening one leg at a time to open tight hamstrings. Press down into your hands and extend the sides of your waist. As you open the muscles in the backs of the legs, engage your thighs to lightly lift the toes and bring more weight into your heels (they don’t have to touch the floor) to take some of the weight out of your wrists. Take five to 10 breaths.
3. Phalakasana (Plank Pose)
Targets: Shoulders, upper back, core, legs, glutes
Inhale to shift your weight forward from downward-facing dog so that your shoulders are directly above your wrists, body parallel to the floor, in a top-of-a-push-up position. Reach back through your heels and lift your thighs so that they are strong. Press down into your hands and imagine a beach ball between your arms that you are trying to hold on to. Take five to 10 breaths and move back to downward-facing dog.
Repeat moving from downward-facing dog (on the exhale) to plank (on the inhale) three times, ending in plank pose, taking five to 10 full breaths in each pose and feeling your breath grow stronger.
4. Knee to Chest
Targets: Core, shoulders, glutes
From plank pose, inhale and lift one leg an inch off the ground and exhale to bring the knee into your chest, rounding your upper back and kissing your knee. Step the leg back to plank pose and regain your balance. Repeat with the second leg. Repeat both sides four to six times each. Reset in plank pose.
5. Ardha Vasistasana (Half Side-Plank Variation)
Targets: Waist, sides of hips, glutes
Exhale and bring your right knee to the floor, leaving your left leg extended. Staying on your right knee, place your right foot out to the right in a kickstand position and pivot your left foot down so that your entire foot is on the floor. Inhale, rotate your torso so that your belly button is facing the left-side wall, and reach your left arm high to the ceiling. Press your right hand strongly into the earth and feel your right oblique begin to work. Balancing on your right knee and right hand, slowly lift your left leg parallel to the floor. You can hold in stillness here for five to 10 breaths or gently pulse, lowering your left leg with an exhalation and lifting it with an inhalation. Try to keep the rest of your body as still as possible. Reset in plank pose and repeat on the left, lifting your right leg.
6. Repeat Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
7. Repeat Phalakasana (Plank Pose)
8. Ardha Chaturanga (Half Pushup)
Targets: Arms, shoulders, core
From plank, bring both knees down, look to the top edge of your mat, exhale and slowly bend both elbows close to the waist to 90 degrees (higher is OK, lower is not). Keeping your core strong, inhale to press back up to a plank from the knees. Repeat six to 10 times.
9. Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
Targets: Upper back, shoulders, hamstrings
Lower your entire body to the floor, resting on your belly. Stretch your legs long behind you and connect all 10 toes to the mat, feeling your legs strengthen as you do so. Interlace your hands behind your back, relaxing your neck and connecting your forehead to the floor. Pull your navel up, away from the floor, and start to lengthen your clasped hands behind you. Inhale and let the tips of your shoulders lift away from the floor, keeping the back of your neck long. If your lower back feels OK, squeeze your inner thighs together and lift your legs, softening your glutes. Stay and breathe for five breaths, lowering your body to the ground and releasing your hands to rest for five breaths. Repeat, switching the interlace of your fingers.
10. Repeat Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
11. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
Targets: Hips, spine
From downward dog, exhale and bring your right knee forward until it touches your right wrist, keeping your right thigh parallel to the sides of your mat. Slowly inch your right shin and foot toward the midline of your body until your foot is directly below your left hip. Straighten your left leg toward the back of your mat. As your pelvis releases, be sure your hips don’t lean to the right; you’ll know this is happening if your left hip rises higher than your right. If you are tilting, place a folded towel under the right hip to help keep you in good alignment to receive maximum benefit from the pose.
Walk your hands forward, inhale deeply as you lengthen your torso, and exhale as you fold forward, lowering your elbows to the floor. If the stretch feels too intense, lift away from the floor and use your arms to support more of your weight. Stay for 15 to 20 breaths or longer, letting tension release and focusing on the breath. Step back to downward-facing dog and repeat on the second side.
12. Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Sit in an easy, cross-legged pose with your hips on a thick blanket or two so that your knees and hips are comfortable. Bring your hands to your knees, thighs, or lap and close your eyes. Imagine your hips rooting down into the earth and the crown of your head reaching towards the sky. Set a timer and sit for five to 20 minutes, listening to your breath and enjoying the space you have created in your body. Each time you notice your mind beginning to wander to your to-do list, gently remind yourself to refocus on the rhythm of your breath. This is the most important part of your yoga practice — don’t skip it!