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20-Minute yoga flow to freshen your day

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Let the good feelings flow

I developed this yoga flow when I was just one "namaste" shy of tossing my child out of the window on a road trip. You, too, can regain your mental and physical composure by flowing through these poses.

Feel the heat

Start this flow by warming up your entire body with several sets of sun salutations.

Begin by standing in mountain pose, with your hands at your sides and your eyes closed. Breathe deeply by exhaling from deep in your belly and inhaling through your nose. Repeat this breath sequence until you begin to feel relaxed — about five huge breaths. Raise your hands above your head, and then sink into forward fold.

Forward fold

Forward fold

Walk your hands forward on the mat until you reach a push up position. Hold for one deep breath.

Push up position

Push up position

Push back through your shoulders until your hips pike up into the air to reach downward-facing dog position. Try to move your shoulders behind your wrists, and hold your neck steady without straining it. Work your heels to the mat as you're able — until you're warm, you may feel pretty tight. Hold for one breath.

Downward-facing dog

Downward-facing dog

If your calves are super tight, try walking the dog by alternating a bend in each knee. This will help loosen up your calf and leg muscles. You can keep doing this for as long as you like to feel warm.

Walk the dog

Walk the dog

Move back into your push up position for just a moment, and then drop into chatarunga pose. This is a low push-up position. Make sure you're not piking your booty into the air. Hold this chatarunga for one deep breath.

Chatarunga pose

Chatarunga pose

Now push back into an upward-facing dog pose. Don't sink your shoulders — instead, raise your head up like you're a turtle pushing out of his shell. Try to lift your quads off the ground and balance on your feet. Hold for one breath.

Upward-facing dog pose

Upward-facing dog pose

Once you're done with up-dog, move into your push-up position again, then pike your booty into down-dog again. Walk your hands back towards your feet, until you're standing in a forward fold. Breathe, and then do a reverse swan dive so you're standing again.

This is one set. Repeat this set three times, each time increasing the number of deep breaths you take for each pose.

Work into your aching muscles

Once you've done your sun salutations three times, you should feel pretty warm for deep stretching. Sink back into your down-dog, lift one leg towards the sky, and swing it through so it's between your hands in a runner's lunge. Hold for three deep breaths.

Runner's lunge

Runner's lunge

Then, lift into a crescent lunge. Keep your back leg as straight as possible, and sink into your folded leg so it's in a 90-degree angle. Lift your hands to the sky and keep your arms straight. Hold for three breaths.

Crescent lunge

Crescent lunge

Now, vary your pose slightly by dropping your foot from a tippy-toe position into a flat-footed position. You're now in Warrior One. Keep your hips facing forward as best you can, as it's easy to sink into a sideways pose. This should feel pretty incredible for your tired hips. Hold for three deep breaths.

Warrior one

Warrior one

Slowly sink your body down until your left arm is resting on top of your left leg. Feel the stretch through your straight leg, and recognize that your left booty cheek is probably burning a bit at this point. Hold this side angle preparation pose for three breaths.

Side angle prep

Side angle prep

Now, remove your arm from your leg and move it down towards the floor. Shoot your opposite arm towards the sky in a straight line. Hold this side angle pose for three breaths.

Side angle pose

Side angle pose

If you're feeling adventurous and your hip isn't about to explode, you can try a side angle bind. Reach your hand that was on the floor through your legs, and drop your arm from the sky until it meets your other hand behind your back. Bind your hands together, and open your chest. Hold this side angle bind for three deep breaths.

Side angle bind pose

Side angle bind pose

Have some fun with it by trying bird of paradise, if you're able. This is an advanced pose and you shouldn't try it unless you feel fully comfortable with the bind pose first. You can move into bird of paradise by bringing your straight back leg forward on your mat as you remain in a bind. Carefully lift your bent leg off the ground, and extend your body into a standing position as you remain in a bind. Now straighten your leg and hold for three breaths. Come out of the pose by gently returning your extended leg to the ground and stepping back into the side angle bind.

Bird of paradise

Bird of paradise

You're done with one side. Now, straighten your legs and walk your hands toward the center of the mat. Allow your head to drop towards the ground, and work it close to the earth in straddle pose. This should feel fabulous after all that glute and quad work. Hold for as long as you like, while breathing deeply.

Straddle fold

Straddle fold

Move into the other side of your body by walking your hands across to the other side, and dropping once again into runner's lunge. Repeat on the other side.

Balance for mental clarity

You've had a pretty good workout by now, but you can boost your mental clarity further by practicing a few balance poses to finish your flow. Find yourself in straddle fold again, but this time bend your knees and rise up to standing. Extend your arms out into a straight line for sun god pose. Hold for three seconds.

Sun god

Sun god

Now, drop your elbows into your sides and squeeze your shoulders together for sun goddess pose. Hold for three breaths.

Sun goddess pose

Sun goddess pose

Give yourself a chance to fly by practicing crow pose. Drop your hands down from sun goddess pose to reach the floor. Move your legs onto your arms and carefully lift your toes off the floor. Hold for three breaths. Side crow is a little trickier, but go ahead and play with it by dropping your thigh onto your folded elbows and releasing your toes from the floor.

Crow and side crow

Crow and side crow

You can play with the flying balance poses as long as you like, but once you feel sufficiently relaxed and clear-minded, move into a seated position. Close your eyes and breathe deeply to finish your practice — and if your body tells you that you need any additional stretches, go ahead and enjoy.

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