Earth day is the perfect time to reflect on the magnificence of our planet with a yoga flow outside. My Namaste Nature vinyasa practice encourages visualization of different animals, plants, and locations from grounding to the earth, to flowing like ocean waves, to elevating towards the stars, moon and the sun.
This post includes about 20 minutes of the full 45-minute practice. For the full class, visit the NikkiFitness App for iOS or Android, which includes a grounding and sunny warm-up on all fours with cat/cow then sunrise pose, sun salutations and sunflowers, then the moving meditation roots into the earth with peaceful and humble warrior, tree pose and tree plank. Next we head to the night sky with crescent lunge, star pose and balancing half moon. Goddess pose nods to the majesty of Mother Nature. Animal (hip-opening) poses like lizard, frog, flying pigeon, and butterfly connect us to the wild things, then wild thing pose and rainbow (wheel), really open our hearts to the planet.
Aside from connecting to the earth with our bodies, we go to the beach with our breaths and l propose mindful mantras for each section of the flow before we say a final Namaste to Nature in relaxation pose. One of the mantras is “Letting go” of practice in our life that don’t serve the planet.
Even our yoga clothes can honor the earth! In this flow, I’m wearing CariCapri pants and sports bra, which are made from recycled, fishing nets, yet feel silkier than any I’ve worn. They work closely with suppliers who have dedicated themselves to cleaning up the world’s oceans and turning trash into treasure – treasure that you can wear.
The future of fashion is not linear – it's circular. It looks like taking products that always exist on the planet – ones that aren’t being used anymore – and turning them into something brand new. The ultimate goal is to reuse things that are always on planet Earth, so we don’t have to contribute to the global waste crisis. No. More. Trash.
Now that we’ve set our intention for our practice today, to celebrate and honor nature, we are ready to say “Namaste to Nature.” Lets begin…
Start with an 8 second inhale, tightening the back of the throat, creating an ocean wave "ujjayi breath" sound. Relax your shoulders with an 8 second exhale, bringing hands to heart center.
Mantra 1: Inhale the word “let,” exhale the word “go.” Letting go of any practices in our lives that don't honor the earth.
Cow pose. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Cat/cow begins with rooting down your hands and knees, arching the back to inhale into cow and exhale to round the back into cat pose. Do this 3 times, one breath, one movement.
Circle your hips by lifting one knee in the circle of life, inhale to go clockwise and exhale to go counterclockwise. Repeat on the other side.
For sunrise pose, turn onto your right knee and right hand with the left leg long and left arm overhead. Inhale and engage your left oblique muscles to rise, bringing the arms from vertical to horizontal like the sun coming up over the horizon. Exhale to lower. Repeat 3 times and then switch sides.
Next, we move to the beach. Back on all fours, we shift the hips forward into kneeling plank, hands under the shoulders and knees behind the hips, a straight line from knees to hips to head. As you shift forward, inhale and envision a wave crashing onto the shore. Then sit back on our heels into child pose with arms long stretching in front or the mat and exhale like the wave receding. Repeat 3 times.
Three-legged dog pose. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Then spread your fingers like starfish in the sand and bring the hips high into down dog, again rooting down your hands and walking the dog by touching one heel closer to the earth and then the other, bending the opposite knee. When comfortable, allow your ankles to be anchors by lowering as far to the ground as possible, and really stretch the calves. Continue the deep, slow breaths and inhale to lift your right leg up into three-legged dog and exhale to bend the knee, turn the knee out to the right and allow your right foot to reach towards the left glute. You can also make circles with your hips here, like the earth revolving around the sun.
Mantra 2: “Go with the flow,” breathing one breathe with one motion, thinking of the seasons flowing from one to the next.
Crescent lunge and the middle of sun salutation. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Step the right foot forward between the hands and inhale to raise the arms overhead to the sky into crescent lunge, envisioning the body curved like a crescent moon. Exhale and step the left foot forwards into standing forward bend. Inhale, doing a reverse swan dive to the sky with a flat back and arms reaching to the sun. On the exhale, dive forward again, inhale the right foot back this time into crescent lunge on the other side with arms to the sky, and exhale into high plank chaturanga. Keep the elbows close into the body as you lower 3 inches off the floor. Inhale to up dog by straightening the arms and arching the back, with the knees still off the ground, and exhale back to down dog, the inverted V with hips to the sky and head down between the arms.
Mantra 3: “Be present.”
Step the right foot forward into peaceful warrior, rather than powerful warrior, thinking about how we can be peaceful and kind to the planet. The right arm reaches overhead and behind slightly, the left arm grazing the back of the left leg. The right leg is bent at 90 degrees and the back left foot is turned out 45 degrees with the heel on the ground. Enjoy 3 breaths here.
Twisting Lunge pose. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Next, interlace the fingers behind you and bow your chest down slightly inside your right knee into humble warrior, honoring nature and stretching the shoulders and chest. Take three deep, slow breaths.
Root both hands or forearms down inside the right leg so it goes left hand, right hand, right foot, and press the right knee slightly out to the right. Breath here in lizard as your hips release. You can add a twist by lifting the hand closest to the foot up to the sun and look towards the sky in twisting lunge. Notice the birds chirping and leaves rustling. Go back to crescent lunge briefly to flow into the next pose.
Twisting Lunge pose. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Turn the torso to the center of the mat while standing tall and straighten your right leg, so you are know facing the long edge of the mat with legs spread like rays of a star, and the arms together overhead to symbolize the top of the star, and the top of the heavens. Pay homage to the dark nights without light pollution where you can see all the stars sparkling overhead. Hold for 3 breaths.
Turn to the other short end of the mat and perform peaceful and humble warriors and lizard on this side for three inhales and exhales each as well. It’s like to see a different perspective or view of the world by turning to the opposite end of the mat.
Tree pose. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Speaking of trees, we can stand anywhere on the mat, or place the feet directly on the grass/sand/dirt to really root down in tree pose next. Stand on the right leg, and bend the let knee out to the left. Place the left foot firmly on the right leg as high as you can go, but avoid the knee joint. Press the leg into the foot and the foot into the legs evenly and do the same with the hands at heart center. Hold for three 8-second breaths, then release the foot and bend the right leg so you are pretending to sit in a chair, and the left leg crosses over the right in a right angle. Bring the hands towards the ground as if you were doing a chaturanga push-up and wrap your left toes around your right triceps. Lean forward to put the weight into the arms, stretch the left hip and glute, and maybe allow your back, right leg to take flight off the ground in flying pigeon. Stay here for up to 3 breaths, unwind back to sanding, circle the shoulders to reset, and repeat on the other side.
Flying pigeon pose. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Mantra 4: “Be grateful.”
Time to begin to relax as we reverse swan dive to the ground and lower onto the belly in locust pose. Lift the heart off the earth; reach your palms and the soles of the feet up as if offering yourself to nature, while strengthening your lower back here. Hold for three breaths.
Rainbow pose. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Roll over onto your back, flip the hands by your head with the fingers pointing towards your feet, bend the knees and plant the feet close to your hips. Press the hands into the ground as you strengthen your upper back in rainbow (wheel) pose. Note what a miracle a rainbow is, and how the earth gives us that magical gift many times a year. After 3 breaths, lower down with upper, then middle then lower back slowly touching down, and hug yourself for a counter stretch, but you are really hugging the Earth.
Savasana pose. Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.
Allow your body to be supported by the earth as you release everything and melt into the mat in relaxation pose, savasana. Stay here for as long as you’d like and repeat our mantras slowly to let them really sink in.
After your practice…you may to continue the world and your wellness journey to make every day Earth Day? Try forest bathing and meditating under a tree, in a garden, or by a body of water. Maybe take your family to volunteer cleanup events, recycle, reuse, upcycle, and compost at home, and take the time to notice all the little miracles of Mother Nature.
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Photo Credit Nikki Fitness.