As the leaves blush, crisp and fall, and we draw closer to hibernation season, I thought I’d give you a few pointers on developing a regular home practice. It’s not that I want to discourage you from attending classes (that would be a decidedly bad career move), but given the busy lives we lead, making it to a studio daily may not be possible. We know, however, that the benefits of regular practice are innumerable. Making it a habit to spend 10, 20 or 60 minutes – anything you can manage! – in dedicated self-awareness is an investment in yourself with huge returns. For me, self-practice is an indispensable part of my lifestyle and often the time when I get to work most deeply and explore new territory in asana and meditation.
One of the most intimidating parts of developing a home practicing is deciding what to do to stay dedicated and safe. If you’re going to sit and meditate, you may not need to do much else other than get yourself settled comfortably, close your eyes and be quiet. But if you want to get your wiggles out and use your body as a tool for deeper focus and integration, here’s a quick primer on how to construct your own asana sequence.
1. Take a few moments to gather yourself together, become more attentive and “present,” either seated or standing. With your eyes closed, lengthen and listen to your breath until you feel ready to move.
2. Warm-ups are basic movements that slowly awaken the spine and major joints, and coordinate movement with breath. Try Cat/Cow movements, a few easy lunges and slow, basic poses from sun salutations, eventually working up to variations of Surya Namaskar.
3. Standing Poses come next, building endurance, strength and a sense of grounding: Warrior Poses, Tree Pose, Standing Wide-legged Forward Fold and Pyramid Pose.
4. Options: For more advanced/adventurous practitioners, this is a good place to throw in Handstand, Forearm Balance and Headstand since you’re warm but not too tired. Abdominal work fits well here, as do backbends (but make sure you’ve thoroughly stretched your quads and hip flexors if you’re heading for full Urdva Danurasana.)
5. Twists and Seated Forward Bends begin to slow the pace of your movements and lead you to…
6. Mediation and Savasana. Take the last few minutes of your home practice to relax and be still, acknowledging the subtle changes within you and feeling gratitude for dedicating time to your self.
Let’s be clear: I don’t want to discourage my students from practicing in community. It’s important to connect with a teacher who knows you and to surround yourself with a group of like-minded yogis who support and challenge you. Nevertheless, practicing on your own can be convenient and transforming. Above, is simplified arc of a class; pick one or two poses from each category, listen to your body and you’ve got a basic home practice. Obviously, there’s more to learn about attending to your specific needs and goals in asana, and even more to discover about why we sequence as we do, the benefits of poses, physical alignment and the integration of mind, body and spirit. I hope you all feel that you can contact me to discuss the practices that will keep you feeling healthy and content. (If you’re super curious, consider joining the 6-month Kula Annex intensive training in 2017!) As always, I am honoured to support you on your path.