I have been writing this blog for over 2 years now and by far the most read post remains Tips to establish a personal practice , you may want to read that post before reading this one which goes a little bit deeper into how you can work out WHAT to actually do when you have managed to create the space and time in your life for a personal yoga practice.
I hope you enjoy these tips, if you want to know more, join me on 16th September for a half day retreat , details and bokings here
The process of developing a home sequence that works takes time but if you get these few basic steps in place you will be away in no time at all and you will be practicing with no handouts or videos.
STEP 1: choose your focus .What do you want to achieve with your practice , what is your intention ? Are you looking for a high energy sequence that will strengthen your body and give you a bit of a cardio work-out? Are you looking for a calming practice before bed-time? What area of your body do you want to focus on? The hips?The shoulders or maybe the spine? Take a few moments to focus on these two aspects: energy levels and anatomical focus, this is why we open the practice with a few moments of stillness and silence so that we can listen to our inner intuition.
STEP 2: ease into it .
One of the most important things I have learnt through my own practice is that any flow or sequence works better if I spend 5-10 minutes warming and preparing my body for the effort. Start from one end of your body ( the feet or the head) and work your way through all the joints you meet on the way , focusing a little bit more on the area you would like to concentrate on. The warm up should explore all the range of motion of each individual joint. If done carefully this method allows for the warming of every muscle in your body in a very short space of time and you will feel more limber and ready to explore.
STEP 3: choose your base
Will most of your practice be based on the ground or will you be standing ? Whatever you have selected in step one in terms of energy of the practice, the selection of the base will determine how the practice will evolve. Restorative , quieter practices will take place on the ground, more energetic practices will be standing. If you are short of time consider keeping the same base throughout the sequence.
STEP 4: start building a sequence.
Pick up to 4 base poses (TIP: start with two for example mountain and standing forward fold) , thread them into a flow then repeat the same flow adding on to the basic initial sequence, make sure you include all of these elements:
a sequence to build some heat and loosen up
poses to build strenght in the legs, the arms , the core
back bending and forward bending
poses to challenge your balance
floor based poses to cool down
at least one inversion ( even just bridge pose)
Here is an example using 4 base poses to build a simple vinyasa flow:
ROUND 1 : Mountain pose , Forward bend , Low lunge (Left)
Forward fold, Mountain pose
ROUND 2 : Mountain pose , Forward fold , Low lunge (Right)
Forward fold, Mountain pose
ROUND 3 : Mountain pose , Forward fold , Low lunge (Left), Crescent moon, Downdog, Low lunge (Right) , Crescent moon, Forward fold , Mountain pose
Any of the poses above invite for an add on at the next round:
Mountain pose ( add arm variations , for example clasp your hands behind the back for a shoulders stretch or take a side bend for side bending focus)
Forward bend ( take a twist with one hand on the ground and bending the same side knee for a hamstring stretch)
Low lunge (a great pose for arm variations and dynamic movements, clasping behind the back or L shape arms, add a prayer twist for a core focused practice)
Downdog ( one of the best all rounders there is , use it to twist and fire up the core or shift to plank pose to warm up the shoulders, for a hip focused practice stretch one leg back at a time and bend the top knee)
After 3 or 4 rounds of your favourite warming flow you can move on to some standing poses or thread them into the above flow by stepping forward from downdog with one foot at a time. Warrior 1 and 2 are great to stretch the legs and open the hip joints , use chair pose if you have not time for a full on flow and you want to warm up the legs quickly.
Just choose 3 standing poses and use 3 or 4 rounds of dynamic movements to increase heat and strenghten before holding the pose for 3 breaths or more.
If you want to work on your arms strenght you will need to add some planks or plank variations.
Back bending is also essential for strenght building , keep it simple , take 3 slow cobra poses working with your breath.
Choose a balance pose that makes sense , if you have been working on your hamstrings and your core a warrior 3 is ideal, backbending will go nicely with King of dance and hip opening sequences work well with standing pigeon or tree pose ( see pics above).
Things become more challenging when we move to the ground. The pelvis becomes less mobile and a lot of us find the act of sitting on the ground rather demanding because of tight hips and hamstrings. Ground poses are great for an evening practice and you may be able to just tune into the tension of the day in your body and move accordingly. So many great stretches , get some padding under your knees and start in table top , rock to and from child's pose , add some hip circles and proceed to explore the joints range of motion : the hips , the shoulders, the spine . Transition to sitting and explore various legs positions from stretched out to bent. Add some side bending and some twisting as well as some forward bending.
Transition to your belly or perhaps to your side and explore some more.
After a series of asymetrical postures make sure you even thing out by choosing an appropriate symmetrical pose. Lots to choose from : mountain pose and down dog for standing poses. Wide legged forward folds for an extra hamstring and lower back stretch. Seated forward fold when you move to the ground . Child pose after back bending.