Fourth of July is always a very special day for my family. Of course like other Americans we love to gather with each other to enjoy the summer and the day off. We love the picnics and the fireworks. But July 4th is also the day my grandparents and their children (my mother and aunt) came to the United States, 65 years ago on Independence Day. Fleeing communist Lithuania, the irony was never lost on my family. My grandparents, unlike many immigrants at the time, actually flew here from worn torn Europe. And we always hear our grandmother recount the story of how they were supposed to land in New York but the plane’s engine failed so they made an emergency landing in rural Connecticut. As they were landing in the dark of night, with fireworks exploding all around them they weren’t quite sure what to make of this new land they would come to call home. Where was the promise land of peace and tranquility?
Every year since 1949 my grandmother takes out her American flag and hangs it outside her humble home; grateful for the opportunities that living in a country with freedom at its core afforded her family. Although there were incredible difficulties during those initial years, and deep sadness over all that was lost , solace was found in the light that shone ahead, a light that is fueled by the belief of a nation in the right of undying freedom.
Yoga’s aim is ultimate liberation; liberation and freedom from the limited mind. This Fourth of July why not unleash some of your own limitations. Free the body, mind and spirit with these simple yoga poses! Below explore some tried and true yoga poses with a little different spin for extra opening, release, and freedom!
1. Downward Dog wide base – Bring your body into an inverted “V” with your hands and feet on the ground. Now to find more opening by widening your bases. Bring your feet a little further away from your hands, most likely your heels will lift off the ground. Refocus the weight into your legs and breathe deep and free.
2. Warrior 1 with Eagle arms. – Come into Warrior 1 on the right. Right foot forward, bend the right knee into a lunge, stacking your knee over your ankle. Separate your feet about 3 and ½ feet apart and align the left heel with the right heel. Keeping the left heel down and the left leg extended long. Hips move forward and arms are extended up by your year ears to begin. Now to unleash a little more stuck energy and free up the spine a little more, wrap your right arm under your left and point your fingers up. Take the elbows up and back. Sink into the front thigh as you take a deep back bend. Hold a few breaths. Come back up to standing and switch sides.
3. Tree with slight backbend – Stand straight with your head extended to the sky and your feet together and weight evenly distributed into your fee. Shift your weight onto the left foot, pick up your right foot and place it to the inner left thigh or calf, avoiding the knee. Extend your arms over your head into a “V” shape. Now to find a little more opening and freedom, take your eyes up and walk them along the ceiling to the back wall coming into a slight back bend! Come back to standing, switch sides.
4. Wide-legged Forward Fold with Arm Bind- Bring your feet about 3 and ½ feet apart. Turn your toes in toward each other. Reach your right arm up and bend the elbow behind the head, bring the left hand up to meet the right hand. If you cannot claps the hands then use a strap or a towel between the hands. Take a deep breath in look up and back and bow forward. Every few breaths walk the hands a little closer together. Liberate stuck energy in the lymph nodes of the armpits. Ground through your feet. Come up with a flat back. Release the arm bind. Bring the left arm up and bend at the elbow bringing the left arm behind the head, right hand up to meet it. Hold hands or use a towel or strap between the hands. Take a deep breath in and then bow forward exhaling deeply. Stay for a few breaths.
To feel complete, end even a short practice with lying on your back in Savasana (Corpse pose). Let your breath be natural and your mind free.