Look, you’ve just made it thought a couple of really tough years, and I’m not going to be the one to tell you to run headfirst into a “new year, new you” challenge. That said, yoga is one of those rare activities that does double duty strengthening your muscles while also relaxing your mind, which we could all benefit from. A simple, easy-to-commit-to yoga challenge may be just what you need to start (or restart) your practice in 2022.
As a certified yoga instructor, one of my favorite things to do is to help yogis make magic on the mat, and that means reminding them that there’s no need to make a “new you” in the new year — you’re all good the way you already are. Practicing yoga is about so much more than just the asana, or poses. When it comes down it, a yoga challenge is all about creating a solid habit that you can sustain well beyond January 2022. As long as you’re willing to show up for yourself each day and give it a go, you’ll absorb the physical and mental benefits of yoga. Of which there are plenty, by the way. According to several peer-reviewed studies, a regular yoga practice can result in less stress, more flexibility, and even some unexpected perks like diminished inflammation and improved brain function.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why you get started with a month-long yoga challenge. What matters is that you get started at all. To help you out, here’s a weekly yoga flow sequence that builds throughout January to help you feel your best in 2022. If you’re unfamiliar with any of these poses, feel free to check out a YouTube channel like Yoga With Adriene for more guidance on how to do them.
January Yoga Challenge: Week One
There’s no getting around it: If you’re going to start a yoga practice, you’ll have to master the good ol’ sun salutation eventually. A sun salutation, or surya namaskar, is the base of a lot of yoga flows, and getting it down pat will only help you feel more confident on the mat. Plus, the repetition of practicing this flow again and again can be super soothing for the mind, almost like a moving meditation.
- Start in mountain pose.
- Exhale and forward fold.
- Step both feet back so you’re in a plank.
- Move into a yoga push-up, or chaturanga.
- Move into cobra pose
- Shift into downward dog.
- Step your feet toward your hands. Slowly roll up and start over from the beginning.
Do this mini-flow as many times as you want. You could even start with three times and increase in duration throughout the month as you build stamina.
January Yoga Challenge: Week Two
Now that you’ve got a handle on the sun salutation, it’s time to add on to your yoga flow sequence. Move through your surya namaskar as many times as you want or need to warm up. Then, when you’re ready, add on the following poses to your sequence.
- Step your right foot forward and bend your front knee so you’re in a crescent lunge.
- Plant your left hand on the floor beside your right foot (or on your ankle, calf, or anywhere that feels good). Twist to open your chest.
- Reset. Slowly come upright and step your right foot back so you’re once again in a standing position.
- Repeat sequence on the other side by stepping your left foot forward.
- Now plant your right hand beside your left foot (or ankle, calf, etc.). Twist to open your chest.
- Slowly reset and come back to standing.
January Yoga Challenge: Week Three
It’s time to add on again, and this time we’re going to hit the floor to strengthen your core (see what I did there?). Again, warm up as many times as you want or need with your sun salutations, and add on your crescent lunge sequence from last week. Now, it’s time to take it one step further to build some heat in your core.
- From a standing position, do a forward fold.
- Walk your hands out until you’re in a plank position.
- Lower your knees to the mat. You should be on all fours now.
- Slowly sit back on your heels and pull your feet out in front of you. You should be in an upright sitting position now.
- Lift your legs to a tabletop position and place your arms overhead, biceps by your ears, for boat pose, or navasana.
- Hold for three breaths. Release your legs back to the mat.
- Repeat three to five times.
This should feel challenging, but never painful. If you’re still building your core strength, a great modification is to keep both legs on the mat straight out in front of you. Lift your right leg and inch and place it back down, then do the same on the left side. Repeat the sequence three times. You’ll still be working your core muscles, and trust me, you’ll feel it.
January Yoga Challenge: Week Four
Finally, we end our month-long yoga challenge with the most important pose and a personal favorite: savasana, or corpse pose. An essential part of any practice, savasana is usually the final pose in a sequence, and best of all, it only requires that you lie on your back and let all the good vibes you just created soak in.
- Warm up with as many sun salutations as you’d like.
- Add on your crescent lunge poses for both sides.
- Complete your boat pose sequence.
- Lie all the way back on your mat for savasana, palms facing up toward the ceiling.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Allow your thoughts to drift by like clouds rolling through the sky. Spend the last five minutes of your practice resting in this position.
Remember, at the end of the day a yoga challenge is all about showing up for yourself, even when you’d rather not. It doesn’t matter how your poses look, or how many sun salutations you knock out; it’s about making a commitment to feel your best so you can take the world by storm in 2022 and beyond.