It’s Monday morning. I went to sleep relatively early last night, inspired by an incredible yoga class, and with every intention of going more deeply into my own personal practice first thing in the morning. At least that’s what I told myself. But then: I didn’t.
The dogs were yapping for a walk, I was a little hungry, better after a tea … there are always a hundred reasons not to practice. And, incredibly, I’m still sitting here now, typing, and somewhat mourning the missed opportunity. So, what can we do to get out of our minds and onto the mat?
Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for not practicing at home:
- I don’t know what poses to do
- I’m afraid I’ll hurt myself
- I don’t have the time
- My kids/dogs/cats/husband will bug me
- I need someone else telling me what to do
So… you don’t know what poses to do. There are two ways to organize a home practice and different days will call for different methods. The first, and my personal, undisciplined favorite, is to simply roll out the mat, lie down on my back (or stand at the top of the mat if I’m feeling invigorated though, personal disclosure: this rarely happens) and ask myself what would feel most yummy in this moment. If you’re trying this, it’s a good idea to either set a timer that will keep you on the mat for your allotment of time, or create a playlist of your favorite, most inspiring music to guide you through your practice. I love this method because it asks us to tap into the body’s immediate concerns, and opens the field to Prana to work her magic. This method also opens us to the possibility of ending up right back in bed. If you find that too often to be the case, you can try my second personal favorite: sequencing according to the six movements of the spine.
The vertebral column is our pathway for the millions of messages transmitted from the extremities up into the brain and back. Each and every message our organism sends and receives passes through this neural gate. In yogic view, it is Prana that travels up and down the sushumna, the central and primary channel; and pranayama and asana are the two primary ways of accessing and influencing this channel. Covering the six possible directions of stretch in the back keeps this neural/Pranic superhighway working as fluidly as possible.
The following sequence covers the six movements of the spine and can be completed in 20 to 30 minutes.
In this variation of baddha konasana, or cobbler’s pose, the emphasis is on forward hinging from the hips to accentuate the posterior stretch. Instead of keeping the heels close, take them about a foot to 18 inches away from the body. This is also an excellent hip opener, a multi-tasker’s dream. Remain in this for at least 3 minutes to feel the energetic effects of the pose.
Parighasana or gate pose fulfills the
lateral or side stretch component of the series. Try breathing and expanding the upper side body and opening the lungs toward the sky. Maintain parighasana for 8 breaths on each side.
Ardha Matsyendrasana Twists awaken samana vayu, a specific kind of energy that is in charge of digestion. Think of this not only as our physical ability to digest food, but also our capacity to take in experiences, both positive and
negative, and turn them into life lessons. When twisting to the left, spread the right side of the body away from the spine. Contract the abdomen on exhalations to deepen the twist. Like baddha konasana, the experiences of this pose ripen with age, so stay in it a few minutes to begin to receive its Pranic blessings.
Setu Bandhasana opens the chest and elongates the upper spine. In this sequence, it is the counterpose to baddha konasana. I choose to end with bridge pose because of its heart-
opening qualities. Press the outer upper arms into the mat to lift the chest to its max and keep in mind that the base of the neck should be off the floor in this pose.
This final breath practice has the intention of removing energetic obstacles to spiritual growth. It is said to awaken the feminine Shakti, who resides at the base of the spine. Energetically, when Shakti reaches her beloved Shiva, the masculine form residing at the crown of the head, all obstacles are removed and Kundalini is awakened. We can take the ancient esoteric symbology of this as a representation of humans reaching their maximum potential through conscious practice of the yogic arts.
Before starting a home practice, learning directly from a qualified teacher who is able to guide you personally is always a good idea. Move through sequences slowly and mindfully, and come out of any posture if you are experiencing pain.