The hallmark of a serious yoga practitioner is having a home yoga practice. One of the most frequent reasons I hear why my students may not currently be practicing a home is that they are unsure what to do on their own. This month will be dedicated to offering simple home practices for the morning, afternoon and evening. Each will include mudra, pranayama and gentle movement to prepare the body and mind for the activities most of us engage in during these times of day. Join me in starting off 2015 by making a commitment to step onto your mat at home.
Curl tip of the ring finger into the base of the thumb and press thumb on top, extend index, middle and little fingers; rest back of hands on thighs.
Benefit: Activates energy at the solar plexus, stimulates metabolism, lengthens breath
Practice Tips: Use when feeling a lack of energy
Contraindications: High blood pressure
Cat: Exhale round the back and drop the head and tail bone towards the floor.
Repeat with your breath 10 times.
Cow: Begin on the hands and knees, toes pointed. Inhale lift the sternum forward and drop the pubic bone back between the legs to arch the spine.
Therapeutics: Massages the internal organs and warms-up the muscles along the spine.
Extended Childs Pose to Cobra Pose Flow
Uttita Balasana to Bhujangasana Vinyasa
Begin in Balasana with the arms overhead on the floor. Inhale keep hands where they are and move torso through arms to come first into a knee plank position with the shoulders over the wrists, the torso and thighs in a straight line. Then exhale back into Balasana. As you inhale a second time, bring the shoulders over the wrists, lift the heart and come into a gentle backbend with pelvis pressing towards floor. Exhale return to Balasana.
Repeat 5-10 times with the breath.
Therapeutics: Alternately stretches and strengthens front and back of body.
Downward Dog Flow
Adho Mukha Svanasana Vinyasa
Begin on Table Pose
Exhale back into Child's Pose
Inhale into Knee Plank or Cobra
Exhale back into Child's Pose
Inhale into Table Pose
Exhale into Downward Facing Dog
Inhale into Table Pose
Repeat 3-5 times with the breath
Therapeutics: Strengthens the shoulders and builds awareness of spinal alignment.
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose I
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana I
Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana. Bring right knee onto floor behind right wrist, place shin across mat so that the right foot is on the left side of the mat. Stretch left leg behind you and try to square hips using a folded blanket under right hip if needed. Inhale press hands into floor as you lift the heart. Hold 5-10 breaths.
Exhale and fold over bent leg. Hold up to 2 minutes. Release by pressing back to Adho Mukha Svanasana or all fours.
Therapeutics: Stretches outer hip of front leg, and lower back
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Sit with left leg cross-legged and that heel beside right hip. Step right foot down on the outside of the left knee. Inhale and wrap left arm around front of right knee. Exhale and twist into right leg, compressing the belly. Twist from belly, through ribs, chest, and then head.
Hold for up to 1 minute, then release and change sides.
Therapeutics: Compresses the belly to increase digestion, wrings out muscles along spine
Warrior II Flow
Virabhadrasana II Vinyasa
Stand with feet wide apart. Turn right foot out 90 degrees and left foot in 30 degrees. Inhale and raise arms up to shoulder height. Exhale bend right knee over the ankle and come into Warrior II. Inhale drop left hand to left thigh and raise right arm overhead into Reverse Warrior. Exhale back to Warrior II. Inhale straighten right knee. Exhale relax arms to sides.
Repeat on the same side 3-5 times, then come to center with the feet and repeat series to the left side.
Therapeutics: Gently stretches inner thighs and groins, helps to release tension in the body and is especially helpful for restless legs.
Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend
Stand with feet wide apart. Bend forward from hips placing hands between feet. Release spine forward with crown of head facing floor. Hold up to 1 minute, then return to standing by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Therapeutics: Intense hamstring stretch, opens back of body
Standing Forward Bend
Stand in Tadasana. Inhale arms overhead. Exhale and bend forward from hips. Engage quadriceps and draw belly in as you press heels into floor, and sit bones upwards.
Hold up to 1 minute. Release back into Tadasana by drawing hands onto hips and lifting entire torso up as a single unit.
Therapeutics: Stretches entire back body, especially hamstrings and low back
Begin to drop the hips down bending the knees until you are in a comfortable squat. The heels may be off the floor at this point if necessary. Hold for 5 breaths then come to a sitting position on the floor.
Therapeutics: Compresses abdomen to ease constipation, stretches low back and buttocks.
Lay on back with knees bent and feet hips with apart. Inhale and lift hips away from floor, rolling onto upper back. Press arms back into floor and lengthen tail bone towards backs of knees.
Hold 5-15 breaths and release.
Therapeutics: Opens chest, activates thyroid, tractions spine
Lie on back with legs straight and feet relaxed to sides. Move arms away from sides slightly and turn palms to face ceiling. You may use support under the knees for low back pain; and a folded blanket under the head if needed. Rest 5-15 minutes.
Therapeutics: Allows for integration of mind and body after asana practice, promotes restful awareness
Home Practice Blog
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.