Enter Leo, and passionate, sunshine times are here. Ash Baker shares a simple yoga sequence and 2nd chakra meditation to honor your inner Lion, boost your creativity and cultivate the courage to truly love yourself and others. Image: Karolina Daria Flora
July 23 to August 22nd
Ruler: The Sun
Anatomy: The heart, spine & hair ( your Lion’s mane )
5th sign of the Zodiac
Queens & Kings rise to their cosmic throne this month! We are now entering the summery sign of Leo who worships the Sun, all things luxurious and leaps boldly into creative, fierce endeavors. This is a month of action rather than reaction, and for taking moments to connect with your inner child. Finding that magical place in your heart that defies logic and lives for the moment. Let these poses infuse your more solar side and add some sparkle to your courageous stride.
Surya Namaskar // Sun Salute // 3-5 rounds
A flowing salute to Leo’s ruler, the Sun. This simple series is great for beginners as well as the seasoned yogi. It will also help to alleviate some of the loveable but stubborn fixed nature that the Lion is known for.
Come to stand at the front of your mat. Feel your feet grounding downward by pressing your big toe mound, little toe mound and heel firmly against the floor. Scoop your tailbone slightly, giving the abdominals a slight inward moving squeeze. Draw your shoulders back allowing your collarbones to widen. Lengthen your neck by raising the crown of your head up towards the sky. Arms are softly at your sides with slightly open palms. Now you are in Tadasana or Standing Mountain Pose.
Take a deep inhale inflating the entire belly while simultaneously reaching the arms out and up, bringing the palms to kiss. Exhale and begin to fold forward with your arms following out to your sides like wings. Remember to create a hinge at your hips when you fold and keep a slight bend in your knees. Keep your back nice and flat until you reach your edge in the stretch. Then you can gently round the spine as you surrender to the fold. Inhaling, come up halfway, placing the fingertips on the floor or the palms to the shins. Exhale fold down again.
Inhale, place your hands on the floor and step or jump back into plank pose. Keep the tailbone tucked and engage your abdominal muscles. Exhaling, either bring the knees to the floor or keep legs lifted while slowing lowering down through Chaturanga push up position. Come all the way to the floor. Inhaling, with hands next to your shoulders, press up into Cobra or Upward Facing Dog.
Exhaling, bend the knees and press back and up into Downward Facing Dog. Root down through all ten fingers especially the thumbs. Press your hips up towards the sky and ground your feet into the floor, at least do so energetically if the heels don’t reach.
While in Downward Dog we are going to add in Lions Breath! A little pause to honor our inner fierceness. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale with an open mouth while simultaneously sticking your tongue out. Let the exhale be forceful, making a “ha” sound. Do three to five rounds of this breath each time you come into Down Dog. Take this opportunity to let go of anything negative in your inner landscape that may be hindering your growth or creativity. With each exhale imagine yourself releasing that negative attachment. The “ha” sound is you laughing at your fears. Just as any lion would do.
Walk or hop the feet up to meet the hands coming into a forward fold with a slight bend in the knees. Take your hands to your shins or take your fingertips to touch the ground and come up half way with a flat spine. Reaching forward with the crown of your head, take an inhale. Exhale and fold forward once more. Inhale while rolling your whole body up to stand from the ground up. Keep your knees slightly bent, allow your spine to unfurl and reach the arms to the sky. Bring the fingertips to touch, collect yourself, your intentions and place them before your heart with prayer hands.
Heart to Heart time.
Now that your body is warmed up we can move onto some more static yet deeply powerful postures. This next pose is a great way to open your heart and lungs. Leo rules the heart, and not in the way you may think. They can be great romantics but they are not the kind to wear their heart on their sleeve. It takes genuine courage to truly open your heart to another person, which is why harnessing Leo like courage within our bodies and towards ourselves is so powerful. The more we open to vulnerability with strength and grace, the more we can offer the ones we love.
Camel // Ustrasana
Come to hands and knees. Go through a few rounds of cat/cow just to get a nice spinal flow forwards and backwards. Then come up on your knees. If you have crabby knees like I do, take a blanket or towel underneath them. Take your hands to your lower back with the fingertips pointed towards the floor and begin to press your hands downward. You should feel your lower back lengthening and your collarbones widening. Just stay with this for 3 rounds of breath.
Then take one arm behind you grabbing your heel or ankle. Stay there breathing for a moment and then take your other arm behind you clasping your heel or ankle.. Draw your shoulders open, tuck the tailbone down while also drawing the top of your hip points up and inward. This will naturally engage your abdominals. Stay in this pose for up to 1 minute if there is no pain in your low back or knees.
Once released take your hips to your heels, reach the arms out in front of you and rest your forehead on the floor. Allow yourself to surrender to your heart’s requests. Breathe deeply for a minute.
Locust Pose // Salabhasana
Now that the front of your body is open and ready to receive, we will strengthen the back of the heart. Leos also rule the back which is key in developing self courage. Many of us are courageous in the name of others but not so much for ourselves. We always have a choice and it requires deep work to not always be a people pleaser! The Lion speaks his truth with fearless ease.
Plus this pose always makes me feel like Superwoman!
Come onto your belly. Keep your arms along your sides, point the fingers and let your forehead rest on the floor. Inhaling begin to unfurl your head, shoulders and chest upwards. Allow the arms to follow the upwards motion like you are in flight! Keep pressing the pubic bone and belly towards the floor to keep your low back supported. Now begin to zip up the legs by squeezing them together and engaging your glutes. With pointed toes begin to lift the legs up. Now all limbs should be flying. Breathe and feel how strong you are. Hold this for five rounds of breath. Come back down, releasing for a few seconds. If you feel energized by this pose go into it once more.
Make your way into Childs Pose.
If you need a little help softening or just want a sweet pose this month try a Yin heart opener – Yin being the soft, receptive and cooling side of the circle. Use this to say to the Universe that you are open for business, fearless and ready for what’s next.
You will need two blocks, a bolster or blanket and a pillow.
If you don’t have a bolster just roll up a blanket. Place your bolster or blanket horizontally across your mat. Come down onto your back with the blanket just under the tips of your shoulder blades. This will create a nice opening in the chest. Draw your feet to touch creating a diamond shape with the legs. Place a block under each knee allowing the legs to gently relax into the stretch. Your arms should be outstretched to the sides comfortably. Lastly, take your pillow and place it under your head. You should feel fully supported and safe. Stay here for as long as you need.
Sun meditation // 2nd chakra
This would be a great meditation to do while in the supported Yin pose, but if you prefer you can sit cross legged on a pillow with the hands gently resting on your legs. The 2nd chakra, Svadhisthana, is the seat of our creativity and passion. Leos are pleasure hunters, and it’s our energetic pleasure hub and. When one has a clear connection to this chakra they are in tune with their feelings, desires and can communicate that easily to others. This is the birth place of artistic divinity and when flowing freely we experience pleasures in every moment.
Close your eyes. Take one hand to your heart and one to your belly. Really feel both areas of your body and picture them being harmonious in their communications to each other. What seeds do you want to plant within yourself? Where do you want to be more open? More creative? How could you cultivate more pleasure in your life? The answers to these questions are your seeds.
Now imagine a garden within yourself filled with all your favorite plants, flowers and creatures (unicorns are welcome!) Take all of those seeds (desires) and start to plant them in the dirt, knowing in your heart what they will look like in full bloom. Look up and see a big, radiantly beaming Sun pouring down upon your garden, nourishing all you have sown. Feel the warmth and know that you are actively pursuing the things in life you want or need. Again you are courageous and always have a choice. Just stay here breathing, opening and surrendering to your own strength.
Monthly Mantra: I am the ruler of my heart, my strength and all things contained within my inner kingdom.