After most people take their first yoga class, their initial reaction is: “Wow—I feel so calm!” There’s a reason why: Yoga activates your parasympathetic nervous system (that’s your body’s rest and digest setting). On this week’s episode of Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month Club, Paris Alexandra and Alicia Ferguson—co-founders of Brooklyn Yoga Club—lead you through a calming yoga sequence that’s basically a 20-minute chill pill.
To kick off the flow, you’ll just need to grab two blocks or a water bottle and your mat. Then, Alexandra and Ferguson will lead you through a quick series of forward folds, twists, standing poses, and even a little taste of core work. Get ready: This might just be the best thing you do for your parasympathetic nervous system all day.
20-minute calming yoga sequence
1. Balasana (child’s pose): Come onto your knees and push your hips back to come into child’s pose. Keep your knees together or spread them apart depending on what feels best in your body. Stretch your arms forward and breathe.
2. Bitilasana Marjaryasana to Chakravakasana (cat-cow): Come to tabletop with your shoulders over your wrists and your hip bones over your kneecaps. On an inhale, press your chest forward through your arms (this is cow pose); on your exhale, curl your spine and tuck your chin (this is cat pose). Move through different patterns with the spine: Draw circles with your hip bones, come into child’s pose, and move through your spine freely.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog): Press into your hands and lift your glutes back into downward-facing dog. Bend your knees slightly and think of angling your sitz bones to the sky. Take deep breaths here, bending one knee and straightening the other as if you’re pedaling a bike.
4. Uttanasana (forward fold): From downward dog, bend your knees as much as you need to place your hands firmly on the ground and walk forward to the front of your mat. Release the tension from your neck and jaw and swing your arms back and forth, moving freely. Interlace your elbows if you like and just let everything hang.
5. Tadasana (mountain pose): Slowly roll all the way up to standing. Close your eyes and rotate your palms forward. Bring your palms to your heart and dedicate your practice to someone or something that you love.
6. Ardha Uttanasana (half forward fold): Fold all the way forward, then flatten your back (including your neck) and bring your hands to your shins. Fold back into Uttanasana.
7. Bhujangasana (cobra pose): Step back and lower yourself all the way down onto your belly. Bring your fingertips alongside your ribs. Use the strength of your back muscles to lift your chest off the ground, looking forward at the ground so you don’t strain your neck.
8. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (three-legged downward dog): From your belly, press through your knees and back into your downward dog. Extend your right leg straight back. Bend the knee and open your hip, rolling your foot or leg around if that feels good. Extend your leg straight back once more and come into plank pose, bringing your knee toward your nose. Extend the right leg back again. Repeat this movement twice more.
9. Virabhadrasana II (warrior II): Step your right foot forward and spin your left foot down so that it’s parallel to your right arch. Bring your arms up so that they’re in a T-shape. Bend more deeply into your knee and tuck your pelvis under. From here, straighten your right leg and bring your palms to touch overhead. Re-bend the leg and return to Warrior II. Keep alternating for two more reps.
Repeat poses eight and nine on your left side.
10. Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana (high lunge): From your downward-facing dog, step your right foot forward between your hands and lift your arms straight up to the sky.
11. Parivrtta Anjaneyasana (revolved lunge): Place your left hand on the floor or a block on the inside of your right foot and stretch your right fingertips to the sky. Engage your belly to revolve your chest in the direction of the sky.
12. Parsvottanasana (pyramid pose): Step your left foot forward slightly so that both feet are planted firmly on the ground. Fold forward and feel the stretch all the way through your hamstring.
13. Virabhadrasana III (warrior III): Shift your weight forward onto your right leg and lift your left leg off the ground so your body forms a T-shape. Place your hands on your block or bring your prayer to heart’s center.
14. Ardha Chandrasana (half-moon pose): If your hands aren’t on the floor or a block already, place them there. Pour your weight into your right hand and lift your left fingertips toward the sky, spiraling your chest open as you do.
15. Utkatasana (chair pose): Return to standing. Bend your knees, push your butt back, and scoop your arms up so they’re tracking right alongside your ears.
Repeat poses 10 through 15 on the left side.
16. Vasisthasana (side plank pose): From a downward dog, come forward into plank pose. Bring your weight into your right foot and stack your left hip on top of your right hip. Stack your left foot over your right, stagger it, or lift it up depending on how you’re feeling. You can also place your left knee on the floor for additional support. Return to downward dog and do the vasisthasana on the left side.
17. Parsva Balasana (thread the needle pose): From child’s pose, thread your right arm under your torso, placing your right ear on the ground if that feels accessible. Return to child’s pose and complete thread the needle on the opposite side.
18. Apanasana (knees to chest pose): Sit up and swing your legs forward. Slowly lower down until you’re lying on your back, then hug your knees into your chest. Rock from side to side, smoothing your lower back into the floor. (Flip to minute 14 of the video if you want to add some core exercises in here.)
19. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose): Come to lie on your back and bring your feet directly behind your sitz bones. Press into your feet and hands to lift your hips off the ground and press them up to the sky. Slowly lower back down to the ground. Repeat this twice more.
20. Parivrtta Sukhasana (easy pose with a twist): Extend your legs. Bring your arms overhead and twist your body to your left. Bring your right hand to the outside of your left knee; bring your left hand to the floor. On your inhales, lengthen the spine. On your exhales, twist deeper. Repeat on the right side.
21. Savasana (corpse pose): Extend your legs and arms and rest.