Recently some friends have been asking me for suggestions for doing yoga at home- how to sequence asana and what makes a pretty solid practice. So I thought I would share some of what I know, on the advice of my best friend, Brooke :). I think attending regular classes for at least the first year of your practice is imperative and checking back with a teacher frequently is also very important. It is so easy to form bad habits and much harder to correct them, bad habits can also result in injury or muscle imbalances. I also think that the best yoga resourse is BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga which includes weekly practices and detailed intstruction on how to perform asana correctly. It is considered the yoga bible 🙂
Do not perform inversions when menstruating, the consensus is still out on whether practicing inversions during menstruation can result in polycystic ovaries syndrome or endometriosis but it is a long held belief that it does. For some women menstruation can be a time of low energy and its important to listen and honor your body’s messages. Menstruation is considered apana vayu one of the five vital forces, apana vayu is considered downward and outward energy and it is thought that inversions contradict this flow of energy in the body. You may also feel that backbends or twists disturb your period so be curious about your body and listen to its responses. A dynamic practice leading up to and post your period is highly recommended and beneficial.
Sequencing, is very important you can’t forward bend of twist until you have sufficiently lengthened the spine . Generally speaking a good way to sequence poses is a small warm up, standing poses, inversions, backbends, twists and then forward bends. Always seal your practice with savasana and paying gratitude to yourself for making an investment in your health and wellbeing.
I like to work with the lunar cycle as the moon has a powerful effect on our energy levels and moods. During full moon week my practice has an emphasis of on backbends and twists, during the waning moon it is forward bends, new moon inversions and waxing moon is standing pose week. In saying this it is important to have a well rounded daily practice that incorporates elements from the above list.
I have heard lots of people say they practice Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar (see image below) on a daily basis but nothing else. This is great and 2 x rounds of Surya Namaskar can be a great warm up but too much Surya Namaskar can really overwork the shoulders and under work the legs, so I would advise to add a few standing poses- you even build in some standing poses into the vinyasa or flow of postures. For a home practice I do believe it is a great start, it is easy and intuitive to move with the breath and can easily be adapted for those that require it.
When you come to step 5. the lunge you could easily come into virbhadrasana 2 (warrior 2) and trikonasana (triange pose) and the same on the second side.
- Virabhadrasana 2. see the torso remains over the hips and the knee moves more to the little toe edge side of the foot so you don’t roll in on your ankles.
- Trikonasana, fore most people coming to the shin with a light horse shoe grip is better then straining to come to the floor. See the back heel is in line with the front foot instep. Feel you rotate the lower ribs around to make your torso more parallel to the ceiling. If it troubles your neck to look up, simply look forward or down.
In the morning it is best to practice dynamic energetic poses to wake up the body and light the fire in your belly. While if you find yourself practicing in the evening make it a more passive practice and always try to not eat for two hours before a practice. On recommendation from my yogi friend Dominique some almonds, seeds and dried fruit is a great little energy booster if you think you may pass out during your practice! Especially in winter be mindful that you have enough energy. Everyday at some point I practice supta padangusthasana, I find it lengthens and stabalises the lower back and can be a great way to really evaluate how the body feels on a daily basis.
- Supta Padangusthasana. You can easily use a belt or dressing gown belt as a strap. Starting with both feet to the wall can be a great assistance, don’t forget about the down leg, its your foundation. Don’t let the down hip lift when taking the leg out to the side think about anchoring through the down hip and buttocks.
This is a good start, but a well rounded practice involves additional hip openers, abdominal work, deeper back and forward bends, but I think this a is a good start to taking your practice home. spending some time lying out on your mat to begin with watching your breath is a nice addition. Remembering that yoga isn’t just physical postures and if you wanted to take your practice to the next level BKS Iyengar’s Light on Pranayama is a great introduction to breathing exercises. Our breath is a wonderful tool and can have profound effects on our health and wellbeing.
I’ll continue to post suggestions for your home practice, but remember some days simple legs up the wall may be all you need. Happy yoga-ing but remember yoga is devotional practice so always come to the mat practicing ahimsa or non-violence, you are your greatest teacher.