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If you are like most yoga practitioners, doing yoga means attending a class. This is a great way to practice and has many benefits. However, it isn’t always realistic to take a class every day.
A home practice is an integral element to a continuing, committed yoga practice. Even on the days you can’t make a class, your practice is available to you. To many new yoga students, this is an intimidating thought and may even seem unattainable. I know it was for me when I started practicing.
What I discovered was that I really only needed a commitment and a plan. Below, I have outlined the basic sequence of a well-rounded yoga session, along with suggested poses for each grouping. Use this as a standard to start your home practice and fill in the details based on your needs and time limits.
If you are unfamiliar with the poses, look for a book that outlines the steps for specific poses to help guide you. With this approach, you can learn in a way that will stay with you, and you will learn a lot about your body and yourself. In class, you can use your time to refine your practice and to ask questions that will help you in your solo practice journey.
Sometimes it helps to have an outline to work with as you begin to practice at home. You might try outlining a default sequence, and then follow that sequence as you begin to cue into your body and what works best for you.
It’s always a good idea to start with centering. Centering helps us to bring awareness to the present moment and allows the body to relax and the mind to begin to calm. Examples of centering poses are Easy Pose (Sukasana) or Mountain Pose.
Always begin your practice with a few gentle warm-up poses to help get the major muscles moving, to warm up the joints, and get the breath flowing as you get in the flow of movement and breath.
Warm-ups like a Sun-Salutation Series can be a primary practice in itself. You can also alter the pace and number of repetitions to meet your needs. Other examples are Forward Fold, Cat/Cow Stretch, and Child’s Pose.
Standing poses work for the major muscle groups and are a foundation of practice, creating stamina, strength, and stability. Examples are Warrior I and II, Chair, Tree, Extended Side Angle, and Triangle Pose.
Arm balances can be intimidating. If you’re not confident in your upper arm strength, remember that many arm balances require you to keep your feet on the ground while helping strengthen the arms and shoulders. Practice will help you build balance and strength. Examples include Crow, Plank, Downward Facing Dog, and Side Plank Pose.
Getting upside down can have benefits— they are a natural stimulant of the central nervous system, but they are not for everyone. Gauge where you are and take a look at different inversions. See if you can find some that work for you. Some examples are Bridge, Rabbit, Supported Shoulder Stand, and Supported Headstand.
Backbends can be demanding, yet very energizing. These poses stretch the front of the body and strengthen the back, and help bring the body into balance. Back bend poses also help the chest and lungs. Examples include Camel, Bow, Cobra, and Upward Bow Pose.
Twists allow us to stretch the spine, hips and shoulders gently while relieving tension and creating a balanced energy in the body. Examples are Half Lord of the Fishes, Revolved Abdomen Pose, and Revolved Triangle.
Seated Forward Bends
Forward bends typically calm the mind, the emotions, and the nervous system. This is why they take place near the end of a practice. Facilitate deep relaxation by including a couple of these asanas at the end of your practice. Forward bends can also stretch the hamstrings and open the outer hips to promote balance. Examples include Child’s Pose, Head-Of-The-Knee, Cow Face, and Seated Forward Bend.
At the end of your practice, it is important to close with postures that quiet the mind and relax the body. This is the time to surrender and allow all that you have done in your practice to be absorbed and integrated into your body. Take as much time as you can here – it is a must for a well-rounded practice and to be able to reap all the benefits of your practice. Examples are Corpse or Savasana and Leg-Up-The-Wall.
A home practice is an opportunity like no other to be able to connect with your truest self. Through that connection you can begin to heal, expand, and bring more joy and presence into your life!