Awaken to You: 30-Day Yoga Challenge Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 11

Day 8: Breath Awareness

30 min - Practice


In Day 8, we drop deep into the quality of the breath while moving through a rhythmic and cleansing flow practice of twists, core work, and balancing postures. You will feel cleansed and aware.
What You'll Need: Mat, Strap, Block

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Greetings tribe. Welcome to day eight. Congratulations. Are you ready? I'm ready. So let's start. Come onto your back and hug your knees into your chest. Coming into that relaxed child's pose on your back and rock a little bit from side to side. Let's just close our eyes and ground into our breath a bit here. So breathing in and out of your nose as you rock and gently massage your back. We've been learning a lot of patterns and sequences and kind of reclaiming and reviewing different poses. And I'd love for you to start really dropping down below the surface and into the quality of your breath as we flow and practice from here on out. And think of your practice as a breathing practice that's accompanied by asanas. So from here, as you exhale, just roll over onto your right side, come into a fetal position. Make sure your knees are up at the level of your navel and draw the hands together. As you exhale, reach your top hand past your bottom hand. You'll feel a nice stretch on that bottom shoulder. And then inhale, circle up and over your head, opening up through a twist. And as you exhale, bring that hand down past it, past the bottom hand and inhale up and over, almost like you're tracing the face of a clock, right? So as you move and breathe here, inhale to reach up over your head towards 12 o'clock, top of the mat, open towards three, exhale down towards six, and then come back to nine. We might even use these kind of navigational points throughout this practice and later practices. So just take a couple more rounds here as you exhale, inhale up towards 12 o'clock, opening, circling all the way down towards six o'clock. And then the next time you go up and over, let's pause with your heart open towards the sky and just take a deep breath in here to the center of your chest. As you exhale, draw the navel center in, float your knees up over the midline and come all the way over to the other side, fetal position, folding the top hand on top of the bottom hand, slide your top hand past your bottom hand, feel the stretch on the bottom shoulder, and then reach up and over your head past 12 o'clock, all the way past nine. And then back down and around. And this is one of my favorite patterns to work with, especially if I've been swimming or surfing a lot and my shoulders get really tight and the spine can get kind of tight. Super therapeutic to just roll into the fetal position and take several rounds of this dynamic twist. So let's enjoy a few more, about three more rounds. Inhale up and over, really taking up a lot of space. Exhale down around the bottom. Make sure you slide past that bottom hand. Inhale up and over. Exhale, your hand may or may not be in contact with the floor. No big deal. Just let your body weight kind of naturally open up into the twist and then just hang out here. Take a deep cycle of breath. As you exhale, draw the navel center in, float your knees back to the center. And then if you have a block handy, it'd be good to have a block and a strap for this practice, you can take your block and just place it right between your inner thighs. And we were rotating the upper body for the first few moments there. Let's rotate into the lower body and activate our core. So squeeze the block, feet a little higher than the knees, and just rotate off to your left hip, head turns right, and then exhale back to the center. And then take your knees over to the right, rotating your head to the left. Exhale back to the center and let's continue like this, inhaling as you twist, exhaling to center everything, inhaling as you twist and keep going. Keep a good squeeze on the block. If you'd like a little more, you can do this with straight legs. We did this the other day, stretching through the feet and aiming the soles of the feet towards one wall, or since we're using the clock from three o'clock to nine o'clock and back and forth. But this adds a little more weight and it may or may not be what you desire. So it just depends on how you're feeling.

I'm going to stay with bent knees today and just rotate side to side so you start to feel a little awakening and activation through the core, supported twist through the spine. And working with your breath as always, so let's inhale to the twist, exhale back to the center, inhale twist, exhale center. Once more each side, inhale twist, exhale center, inhale twist, and then exhale center. Place your feet on the mat and lift your hips up. We'll set the block just to one side for a moment. We'll bring it back. Reach your arms over your head and then roll down your spine one vertebrae at a time. Come all the way to the sacrum. Exhale, coil the tailbone under towards the posterior tilt. Lift up at the front of the body open and then exhale roll down. You could just leave your arms over your head today. We'll take this twice more. Tailbone draws under, lifting up. I always like to kind of practice equal opportunity when I'm activating my front core and also to activate the back core. So feel into the back body as you lift and then roll down, relaxing the back body, feeling the front core activate. Once more, lifting up through your hips. Let's stay lifted. Take your block, place it on its lowest width right underneath your sacrum. Make sure it's not too high and then extend one leg long and slightly down a diagonal and the other leg long. And you'll feel a bit of an opening here through the hip flexors, through the psoas. If you feel any compromise or arch in your low back that feels a little pinchy, just try moving your block down a little lower or you can just passively stretch one leg at a time. It's up to you. So hang out here, either both legs straight or one leg straight. Inhale, reach your arms over your head and then exhale, circle the arms wide. Just a simple backstroke, simple awakening with the breath. Inhale, exhale, circle the arms wide. We're going to come up to standing pretty soon and kind of start to activate things. So just enjoy this simple kind of relaxing movement here, swimming through the breath. Once more, inhale, exhale, circulate wide, bend your knees, place your feet on the mat. Let's lift the hips up, take the block out from beneath you and then roll down your back. Hug your knees into your chest. Let's rock and roll along the length of the spine, forward and back. Three or four times, just massaging your back. Try to round it out as much as you can. You can let your feet toss over your head, head drop between the knees and then come on up and sit tall. Good morning or good afternoon or good evening. Take your hands behind you. Let's come up into table pose. So as you inhale, lift your hips and create a table from the knees all the way to the crown. And as you exhale, just melt back down. We'll move in and out of this a few times. Inhale, lifting up, draw the tailbone underneath you, open up across the chest. Exhale, melt it down. Now from here, turn your fingers away from the midline, fingertips towards three and nine o'clock. And as you lift your hips, we're going to start paving the way for side arm balance. So let's put a little more weight in the right hand and sweep your left arm across the horizon and reach back towards 12. And then just return that as you come back down. You'll start to feel a little stabilization through the shoulders, lifting the hips, let the right arm lift and sweep across the horizon and exhale back down and just move slowly and kind of explore what your range is with your shoulders and your hips and feel how the pelvis can really power up this transition and this movement. So rather than sinking in your shoulders, open through the chest, use the legs, use the hips to activate this lifting and opening through the back and the side body. And let's take that one more time. Inhale to lift, sweep the left arm along the horizon, reaching back. Exhale, come all the way back down. And once more, inhale, lift the hips, sweep the right arm and exhale slowly come all the way down. Let's come open over into forearm plank. So can lower to your forearms.

So from your forearm plank, we also did this a couple of practices ago where we were rolling our heels from right to left and really feel into the edges of your feet here as you start to rock and roll. And notice how if you let the hips drop too low, then it becomes really heavy and kind of too much weight in the shoulders. So keep the hips high and we'll pave the way towards exploring sidearm balance and one of our popular kind of fun transitions in vinyasa yoga when we turn our downward facing dog inside out. So the next time you come to the outer edge of the right foot, stay there, pitch a tent with your left fingers and then just make a little kickstand with the ball of your left foot. Try not to let the hips drop low, keep them lifted and really press into the outer edge of your right foot and the ball of your left foot. And you might just stay right here and elongate through your crown or you might reach up through the left arm and just feel this kind of tracing of the pathway of sidearm balance. Now, as you exhale, slow and steady, bring the left forearm back to the mat, roll over the ball of the right foot and return to forearm plank. Just take a moment and lower the hips, turn the palms face up and inhale to sphinx. Exhale, lace the fingers, bow the head, tuck the toes, lift your hips. Let's explore that onside too. So rock a little bit, heels from side to side, you might slightly shorten the stance and bring your toes a tiny bit closer towards your elbows and then roll to the outer edge of the left foot, pitch a tent with the right fingers and then bend your top knee and place the ball of the foot behind you, close to the mat. From here, keep the hips lifted and if you'd like, you can float your right arm up to the sky, grounding down through the left forearm. Hips are the highest point here, so really feel the power in the side of the bottom leg. Take one more full breath and then exhale, slow and steady, bring your forearm back to the mat, roll to the ball of the left foot, keep the hips lifted and then last but not least, lower the hips. We really start to build strength and mindfulness in our transitions. Turn the palms face up, lift your heart, exhale completely and then spin the palms down, elbows wide, let's ground our forehead for a moment, take a deep breath in here, exhale back to child's pose, folding in, home base. Inhale, hands and knees, curl the toes, exhale downward basing dog. Let's walk our dog all the way up to the top of the mat into a forward fold so you can bicycle pedal, saunter your way up to an easy forward fold right at the top of the mat, relax your head and neck. Inhale to lift your heart halfway, come up onto your fingertips or shins, exhale forward fold. Come all the way up to standing, lift your head, your heart, circle the arms wide, reach way up, exhale, draw your hands to your heart. Hey, let's step the feet together and start to flow a little bit with the breath, so bend your knees, come into chair pose on an inhale, keep the lower body in chair, just sweep the arms back as you exhale, moving into a rhythmic Utkatasana, inhale, exhale. On some of these rhythmic patterns I learned from one of my wonderful teachers, Shivare, so you can feel into this pulsation that's really a part of every cell in our body, right, we're not meant to be frozen like mannequins, so you can keep a little bit of a flow here and just take about three more cycles, inhale to sweep the arms, exhale, press back, inhale, lift your heart, exhale. Once more, inhale, lift your gaze, exhale, root down. Now as you come to standing, stretch the legs long, reach to the sky and let's take a tree pose here and we're just passing through trees, so your left foot can be at the ankle, the calf or the inner thigh, your choice, but root down as you rise, lift your heart, lift your gaze, take a deep breath here and as you exhale slowly release that left foot and step back as slow as you can towards warrior one and we've already paved the way for this pathway, so just kind of feel into your feet, feet or hips width apart, lift your heart and exhale, take a bow, just like we did in chair, inhale, reach to the sky, exhale, float down under the water, come back up for a breath, inhale, exhale, this time stay low, you can lace the fingers behind your back or take a strap and open the shoulders. Let's hang out here for an extra couple of breaths, since you can see your back foot, lift the inner arch and press down through the outer edge, really ground the outer edge of the foot and pull the right hip back, take one more full breath, stay for the exhale, inhale, come back up to warrior one, exhale, bring your fingertips down to the mat, spin on the ball of the back foot and then step right into your forward fold, bend your knees, come to chair pose, inhale, exhale, just sweep the arms back, inhale, reach forward and up, exhale, sweep the arms back, come all the way up to standing, inhale and find your tree pose on the second side, so again your foot can be at the ankle, calf, inner thigh, try to be above or below your knee and it's the right foot that's lifted this time, keep breathing here, let your breath be the center point of your practice, one more breath, just passing through and then as slow as you can, release the right foot from your leg and step back slightly wide to your warrior one, exhale, take a bow, inhale, reach forward and up, exhale, take a bow, inhale, nice big generous movements to go with your big generous breath, once more inhale, exhale, stay low, lace your fingers or take a strap and send your knuckles up and over, see if you can find that same little refinement with your back foot, lifting the inner arch and sealing the outer edge, stay for one more breath, good and then inhale, come on up, fingertips to the top of the mat, spin on the ball of the back foot and then step into your forward fold, bend your knees, come to chair pose on an inhale and let's stand tall, hands to your heart, circle the arms out and up, full breath in, exhale, forward fold, we're going to pass through that pattern again but let's add a vinyasa before we do so, so lift your heart and then step back to plank, we have lots of vinyasa choices, shift forward maybe a stage one or a stage two, so we can lower the knees in stage one, lower all the way down to the belly, inhale to cobra and then exhale back through hands and knees to downward dog, couple of breaths here, inhale to your tippy toes, let's keep it moving, bend the knees step or float top of the mat, lift your heart halfway, exhale forward fold, bend your knees, come to chair pose on an inhale, just sweep the arms back exhale, inhale forward and up, exhale generating your energy, come all the way up to standing, lift your left foot and knee into your tree pose, once again that eight foot can rest wherever you like but lift up, binding your breath here, now we're about to step back to a lunge but this time as you lift your left knees, you disengage your foot from the standing leg, can you draw your left knee up a little higher towards your left shoulder, really pull the knee up towards your shoulder, then step back this time land on the ball of your left foot, kind of technical so take a moment get yourself sorted, lift up through the heart and let's come into a twist, so you have an option to take your left hand down the right hand to the sky or you can come into prayer twist, stacking the elbow tricep to the outside of the knee and pressing the palms, if balance is a little squirrely just lower your back knee down, no big deal and let's enjoy a couple of breaths here, returning to the sound of your breath, getting a little quiet inside, from here slowly come back to crescent pose, so the back knee is down you can lift it, inhale come on up, eyes steady, now as we step to the front of the mat let's step through warrior three, so sweep your arms wide like wings, push off the back foot and lift, take flight and I always like to visualize the pelicans gliding right over the ocean how they get nice and low and long parallel to the waves, so feel that in your body, and straighten the standing leg and then come all the way up, reach to the sky, exhale forward fold, inhale lift the heart half way, exhale all the breath out forward fold, bend your knees come to chair pose inhale to reach, exhale just sweep the arms back, inhale just the arms reach, exhale come all the way up to standing, bind your tree pose on the second side the right foot is going to lift place it anywhere along that whoa inner leg just try to avoid the knee go above or below the knee and then lift up, from here as you disengage your right foot lift the right knee a little higher we'll feel this action in some later practices as we start to work towards crows really draw that knee up and then as slow as you can step back into crescent pose land on the ball of your foot make sure you're not on a tightrope feet a little bit wide so let's come into the twist and either lower one hand and reach one hand to the sky or you can come into prayer twist elbow tricep on the outer thigh palms together once again you can stay right here or lower your back knee just turn and open through the chest getting long through the spine as you inhale and as you exhale dialing in the twist any amount listen to your breath slowly release your hands if the back knees down lift it up let's come back up into crescent pose as we inhale super conscious as we move from one shape to the next we'll come into warrior three so lean forward spread your wings and engage through the back body as you lift the back leg you're welcome to keep the bottom knees slightly bent or you can straighten it and then slowly come all the way up to standing nice big inhale exhale ah forward fold lift the heart halfway open up your knees like a diamond but keep the big toes heels touching if you can and walk your hands forward for malasana there's lots of different versions of malasana yogic squat this is just one of them breathe into the low back and hips enjoy a few breaths here breathing into the back body lift your head slide your hands in and slowly make your way to plank top of a push-up adjusting back and once again just like we did in our forearm plank at the very beginning of the practice you can roll the heels from side to side and feel that potential the next time you roll to the outer edge of your right foot stay there come up onto the fingertips of the left hand and just touch the ball the left foot behind you just feel the potential for side arm balance let's do the other side roll to the left come up to the right fingertips and touch the ball the foot behind you and we'll kind of save that full pose for later like a cookie like dessert so come down to your hands and knees and we'll come into a kneeling vashisthasana and when we do this one we want to ground the right knee right below the hips stretch long through the left leg stretch long through the right arm and open up your chest so this is a really great option and again if we were kind of touching the ball the foot behind us we can just feel that relationship but let's add a quad opener and when we do this one just for today if you have a strap or towel handy you can use that as like an arm extender so just take a little loop around the bottom of your left foot and then as you reach back bend your knee and open up through the quadricep the shoulder and chest on the left side it feels so good and you want to have a pretty not too long of a length between your hand and your foot on the strap so try to choke up as close as you can to your foot so that eventually you're holding your own foot so let's stay here for one more breath and then exhale slowly bring that foot forward you can take the strap off and put it to one side and through your hands and knees simple transition will extend long through the right leg long and up through the right arm feel you're kneeling about shistasana we're just paving the way for some really good technique and refinements so when we move into the full pose in our later practices can lift the right leg bend your knee and just feel how the ball the foot can spiral behind you to support the pose right and from here let's go ahead and loop up the foot with our strap just slip it around the arch of your foot and then when you reach back you have that really nice quadricep opener and shoulder opener it's a half done your rasana half bow pose basically on the right side of the body so breathe through the heart you can press your foot into the strap a little bit let your head and neck totally relax enjoy your breath here and then slowly release take the strap off of your foot set it down to one side and let's come onto our back so just turn set yourself up right in the middle of your mat and then roll down and once you come down draw the knees into the chest rock a little bit from side to side just like when we started and then let's stretch our legs long and find the support of the ground of the earth beneath you get comfortable here and become really heavy in your physical body close your eyes and then really listen and feel into your breath let's take 10 really deep long breaths together so full inhale through the nose exhale through the mouth 10 deep long inhale through the mouth exhale 8 and just continue on your own counting your next seven breaths down from seven down to one notice that you can start to slow the breaths down and elongate the breaths those breaths And even after you've completed those 10 breaths, just continue to breathe really deeply, slowly. Allow your breath to be a really beautiful internal breeze, cleansing breeze.

Just take one more breath here together, full inhale, big exhale, letting go, releasing anything you need to let go of on that exhale. And then just reach your arms over your head, reawaken, stretch through your fingers, through your toes. So you exhale, draw your knees into your chest, open your eyes, and let's roll on over to one side. Come on up to a comfortable seated position. Once you sit tall, bring your hands together with your heart, feeling to that really nice sense of accomplishment.

Congratulations. Thanks so much for joining me this morning, this afternoon, this evening, wherever you're at. I'll see you in the next practice, namaste.


Ted J
3 people like this.
I'm enjoying the variety of this challenge from day to day. Today's practice really flew by.
Samantha E
2 people like this.
I started my own challenge of 30-60 minutes of yoga 4 days before this challenge and I’m finding my body transforming; 2 lbs less in 12 days and developing visible abs. I’ve enjoyed this a lot w Shelley but with being back to work this week it’s been a stress to fit in. My core has also been quite sore (it’s hurt to laugh two days now) so when we entered core work immediately I found myself weak and struggling. This class, compared to gratitude and joy felt in the early ones, I found myself very frustrated with not being able to do what I wanted my body to do. I’ve been practicing for almost 15 years but never done a challenge more than 10 days! Also, When I hit the gym this week I was able to run faster and reach 1 mile better than I ever have!
Shelley Williams
Ted HI Ted~ I am glad you like the variety. I find it important to vary the practice as well as build on some basic pattern repetition. Its a good challenge for our brain, nerve proprioception, as well as patience and perseverance with learning new things :)
Shelley Williams
Samantha Wow, it sounds like you are making some leaps with your integration, and keep in mind (as one of my buddies says "you sometimes have to crack an egg to make an omelette") and the way I interpret that in my own practice is maintaining wise patience and perseverance through the phases when you feel sore, unmotivated, or like you are plateauing. We never progress in a solely uphill trend, it tends to waver and meander. When you feel frustrated, or overly challenged, just do what you can, take little breaks as needed, and be patient with your time of building strength and truly integrating new movement patterns. Stay with it, and now that you are back to work....try to carve out 30 min first thing in the morning before work. It is beneficial to practice any time of day, but you will get the MOST out of your practice (and it will truly serve your whole day) if you can accomplish it in the morning. So perhaps try that... My best to you!
Tracy S
2 people like this.
Shelley Williams thank you!!!! Everyday gets more rhythmic and lyrical. I am so enjoying your beautiful positive energy. This tribe student is excited for more journeys on the mat and in the world. Full steam ahead! Happy Sunday for Summerville SC!
Susan J
2 people like this.
I found this class rather hard as however much I practice I find doing the upside down table really hard. I persevere.
Shelley Williams
Tracy Hi Tracy, Rock on in Summerville... this is one of my favorite patterns, glad to hear you liked it too, and happy to meet you on the path! And you aren't too far from Costa Rica, you are welcome to join live sometime on retreat! Have a great week :)
Shelley Williams
SusanHi Susan! This practice is not easy. The upside down table asks a lot of our shoulders and quads (as far as flexibility) as does the whole practice. As with any of these sequences, do what you can, and just keep showing up. Acceptance/Contentment/ Perseverance is part of our path of yoga (Santosha and Tapas) so stick with it and I applaud your patience and practice! Have a great week!
Gabriel W
3 people like this.
Thanks again. Great
Nadia I
3 people like this.
I've never looked forward to practice as I do with you, Shelley Williams
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