So, today we will talk about making your own practice at home. Whether it is a question of schedule, comfort, convenience, or simply because you want to practice alone, knowing how to build your own yoga practice is important because you can add variety, move at your own pace, and practice as much as you want!
To create a satisfying practice, one needs to consider two basic points: First you need to ask yourself what you really need from your practice on a particular day, and second you need an understanding of the principles behind sequencing yoga poses.
All Yoga poses are done in relation with all others. Therefore, the effect of each pose can be measured, in part, by the pose that came before it and the one that comes after it. When practicing, always begin with basic poses that involve the smaller muscles of the body, and gradually move towards more challenging poses. Working this way will not only take you deeper, it will also allow your body to warm up slowly, which will help to prevent injury. Avoid juxtaposing an extreme movement with its opposite extreme movement. For example, if you have just practiced a deep backbend, don’t follow it with a deep forward bend. Instead, after a deep backbend, transition with an easy pose that will gradually introduce the opposite movement to the body, such as a gentle twist.
Yoga poses fall into several groups:
- Standing poses – including poses such as Triangle pose, Side Angle pose, Warrior series, and Tree pose, as well as other one-legged balancing poses. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) also falls into this group.
- Arm balances – a relatively small group of poses that require both balance and strength. They include poses such as Cow pose and other poses that require arm strength, like Plank pose.
- Inversions – these draw on the vertical power associated with standing poses as well as the upper body strength needed for arm balance. Inversions include Shoulder stand, Headstand, Plough pose, Handstand, Forearm balance and others. Inversions are considered by many yogis to be the core of asana practice. When performed correctly, inversions are very powerful, but I strongly advise practicing them in class first, before incorporating them into your home practice.
- Backbends, which include Cobra, Locust, Upward-Facing dog, Wheel, and Pigeon variations.
- Twists are exactly what the name says. They are usually done sitting, but some can be done lying down, or standing (revolving triangle). Always remember that it is not a good idea to end your practice with a twist, as these poses are so one-sided in their effect on the spine. Instead, after twists, practice at least one symmetrical forward bend, such as Seated/Standing Forward Ben, before Corpse pose (Savasana).
- Forward bends along with various miscellaneous seated poses other than twists form the next group. All are done sitting, standing, or reclining on the floor. This group also includes meditation poses such as Lotus pose, hip and groin openers, like Bound Angle Pose, and Cow face pose, also reclining poses such as Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe pose and Reclining Hero pose.
- Restorative poses are the final group. These include Savasana, the basic relaxation pose that should be done at the end of every session, as well as other supported poses like Supported Bound Angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) and the supported Bridge (Setubhandha).
The foundation of a home practice os a basic, well-rounded pose sequence that attempts to move your spine in all directions and to equally increase balance, strength, and flexibility. Try to include at least one or two poses from each of the main groups. It’s a good idea, especially when you’re fairly new to creating your own sequences, to practice the pose groups in roughly the following order:
- Sun salutation – this is a yoga practice on its own. If this is all you can manage for the day, you are covered!
- Spine warm ups – Cat and dog stretch is a good one
- Hamstring stretches to prepare for deeper standing poses; our regular hamstring floss
- Inversions – Shoulder stand and headstands for experienced yogis and yoginis
- Seated forward bends (paschimottanasana) and deeper standing poses – such as hip openers (warrior series).
- Backbends – beginning with less intense poses such as Cobra, Bow
- Twists – Lord of the Fish is a good one
- Standing Forward bends
- End with Savasana or another restorative pose
Some poses do require a counter pose.
- Shoulder Stand – Fish pose
- Headstand – immediately move to child’s pose
- Seated Forward Bend – Bridge or Incline Plane
- Backbends – immediately followed by mild twist
- Twists – always followed with a standing forward bend or balancing pose.
For complete sequences that I like to use and that I find to be my strongest practices, contact me directly! Or, better yet, I’ll take your requests and post them next! 🙂
and write soon,