Start Where You Are – Building a Home Practice, One Step at a Time

You might think you have no time for yoga outside of your once-a-week studio class.  Think again.  I’ve broken down your yoga practice into three sections – “Wake Up”, “Focus” and “Relax.” The sections correspond to morning, mid-day and evening.  Each should take no more than five to ten minutes.  You don’t have to do every pose listed in the section – choose what resonates and what you have time for.  Choose what feels good.  Stop if it feels bad.  Don’t rush.

These routines are very, very simple and exclude classic standing asanas (we’ll save that for later).  Still, it’s  not for someone brand new to yoga.  You should have enough beginning experience to be familiar with the movements.  Take your time and take care.  And remember to breathe.

Equipment:  Yoga mat, bolster or a firmly rolled blanket, a strap.  Anything else you may need for support.

“Wake Up – The Morning Routine”

 Begin Supine on Floor

Pelvic Rolls:  Inhale the tailbone toward floor; exhale the tailbone toward the ceiling.  You can add arm movements after the fourth or fifth cycle simple by taking the arms up and back on the inhale and bringing them down by your side on the exhale.

Knees to Chest: Alternate one knee at a time, extending the opposite leg.  Hold for several breaths and switch sides two or three times.

Windshield Wipers: Knees are bent and the feet about hip distance apart.  Drop the legs gently from one side to another.

Both Knees to Chest:  Hold the knees toward your chest for a few breaths and then allow the knees to move with the breath.  You’ll find they move away as you breath in.  You can tuck them tighter on the out breath.

Supported Bridge:

  • Place the bolster under the hips – keep the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor
  • Stay in supported bridge for a few breaths
  • Extend the legs along the floor and take the arms behind you if it’s comfortable – if this bothers your lower back return to supported bridge
  • Extend the legs toward the ceiling for a bit of an inversion
  • Bring one foot down at a time

Reclining Twist:

  • Cross the right knee over the left knee
  • Shift your hips to the right a few inches
  • Drop your knees to the left
  • Allow the right shoulder to drift toward the floor
  • Repeat on the other side

Table Top/Hands and Knees

Cat/Cow:  On the in breath lift the tail bone and face; on the out breath tuck the chin and the tailbone.

Downward Facing Dog:

  • Come to table top
  • Walk the hands a hand length forward and take them about shoulder width apart
  • Tuck your toes
  • Inhale the hips up
  • Exhale the heels down toward the mat
  • After five breaths step forward to a standing forward bend and then curl up slowly to a standing position

 Finish with any standing stretches that feel right – your body will know what to do. And then standing breath awareness.  I love “pancaking” both hands over my heart to feel the beat of my heart and the warm of my hands meeting one another.

“Focus for the Afternoon”

We begin seated in a chair

Neck Stretches: Move slowlyand hold each position for several breaths.  ‘Tease’ the stretch a bit to find what I like to call the ‘sweet spot’.

  • Right ear to right shoulder
  • Right ear toward right shoulder blade
  • Right ear toward right armpit
  • Repeat on left side

Chin to chest:  Allow the chin to drop to stretch the back of the neck.  Don’t force the position.

Shoulder Shrug:  Shrug shoulders to earlobes and hold (but don’t forget to breath); count three and then drop the shoulders.  Repeat three or four times.

For Your Ankles and Feet:

  • Cross the right knee over the left
  • Circle  the ankle ten times in each direction
  • Point and flex the foot three or four times
  • Repeat on the left side

Piriformis Stretch:

  • Cross right ankle over left knee
  • Sit close to the edge of the chair
  • Hinge gently from the hip
  • The sensation should be in right hip
  • Repeat on left side

Seated Back Bend:

  • With your hips toward the edge of the chair place your hands on the seat of the chair behind the hips
  • Lift through the sternum
  • Think less about bending the lower back and more about opening the front of the body

Seated Twist:

  • Place your right hand on the left leg, left hand behind left hip, twisting to your left on the exhalation.
  • Breath in – lengthen the torso.
  • Exhale and settle into the twist.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Seated Forward Fold:

  • Sit toward the edge of the chair with your feet wide
  • Allow the spine to round forward until your upper torso is folded forward between your thighs
  • Hold for a few breaths and then inhale and curl up slowly

Standing

Standing Stretch with Flat Back:  Use the edge of your desk or the wall.  Stand about three feet away and hinge at the hips.  Let your hands rest on the desk, arms extended and legs perpendicular to the floor.

  • Bend right knee and drop right hip for stretch in left hip
  • Bend left knee and drop left hip for stretch in right hip

A standing stretch with a flat back is a great stretch for any time of day, anywhere. It’s particularly good if you’ve been standing all day – it brings a lightness to the feet and legs.

Wall Stretch:

  • Keep right foot about twelve inches from desk
  • Step left foot back about three feet
  • Hinge at hips, keeping hips level.
  • Allow your hands to rest on the desk or a wall for stability

With the right foot forward this will wake up the right hamstring and left calf.

Repeat on left side.

Shoulders:

  • Standing with feet hip distance and the arms by your side, turn the palms out and inhale the arms up.  Extend the fingers toward the ceiling and, if it’s comfortable for your neck, look up between the hands.
  • Turn the palms out and exhale the arms by your side.
  • Repeat three to five times.

Ideally the Focus practice ends with 5-minutes of seated meditation,

quiet reflection or breath awareness.

“Relax Yourself to Sleep”

 Seated on Floor in Easy Cross Legs

Seated Spine Stretch*:

  • Sit in easy cross legs with your hands on your knees.
  • Inhale – lift the chest toward the ceiling.
  • Exhale – hollow out the front of the body and round the spine to stretch between the shoulder blades
  • Inhale – lift the chest toward the ceiling
  • Exhale – fold forward

You can do this for as many cycles as you wish. I suggest beginning with at least three.

Seated Twist*:

  • Bring the right hand to the left knee
  • Place the left hand behind the left hip
  • Inhale – lengthen the torso
  • Exhale – twist to the left

Take a few breaths to move into your full expression of the pose and then settle into the twist for a bit. Avoid “cranking” into the twist by using your arm strength to pull the torso.  Repeat on the other side.

Lateral Stretch*:

  • Place the right hand on the floor next to the hip and then walk the fingers out until you begin to lean to the right.
  • You’ll notice the left hip is lifting from the floor.
  • Inhale – Bring the left arm up and over until it’s arching over the head.
  • Exhale – Press through the heel of the right hand in order to encourage the left hip to move toward the floor
  • Repeat on other side.

Forward Fold:

  • We want this to be as gentle as possible as this practice is supposed to a “winding down from the day” practice.
  • Sit with your legs in front of you, feet and knees slightly apart
  • Place the bolster underneath the knees
  • Round the torso forward
  • If you need to, use your hands to help support the torso but know that this forward fold is heavy and relaxed as opposed to a forced struggle.  Make it as gentle as possible and just trust that the spine is going to become more and more giving with each practice.

Supine on Floor

 Alternate the Knees in the Chest – just like you do in the morning practice

Hamstring/Hip Stretch– TAKE YOUR TIME WITH THIS!

  • Place a strap at the ball of the right foot.
  • Extend the leg toward the ceiling, opening the back of the knee and stretching through the heel.
  • Extend the left leg along the floor.  Stretch through the heel and point the toes toward the ceiling.
  • Take the strap in the right hand and drop the leg out to the right, rotating from the hip so the toes of the right foot point toward the floor.
  • Continue to work the foot toward the head to stretch the inner thigh.
  • Bring the leg back up and take the strap into the left hand.
  • Drop the leg a few inches toward the left to stretch the outside of the thigh.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

Knees to Chest and Windshield Wiper

Rest quietly in Savasana for ten minutes.

I need to thank teacher Kelly McGonigal for the Seated Spine Stretch, Seated Twist and Lateral Stretch in the “Relax Yourself to Sleep” section.  I first learned those movements from her at Avalon Yoga Center in Palo Alto, California.

3 thoughts on “Start Where You Are – Building a Home Practice, One Step at a Time

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