If you have already started a daily self practice, I would like to share with you some of the strategies given by Donna Farhi, a renowned yoga teacher (http://www.donnafarhi.co.nz), for keeping your practice fresh & vital.1) General Practice Guidelines
Most of us have time for one practice period a day. That may mean doing a wide variation of poses each day so that no area of your practice is neglected. A good way to divide a practice might be as follows:
- Warm-ups: General body loosening, increasing synovial fluid production in the joints. Increase body heat, stimulate breathing.
- Standing Postures: Including Sun Salutations
- Special Work: Focused and more specific work on areas of stiffness, injury, rehabilitation, re-patterning, strengthening of weak muscles.
- Inversions: Includes headstand, shoulderstand and passive inversions
- Winding down: Cooling postures which release the back such as leg stretches and twists, especially after backbends or extensive forward bending. These poses are generally done on the floor
- Relaxation: Breathing work, sitting meditation and Savasana (corpse pose)
2) Some Rules of Thumb for sequencing
- Graduate from heating to cooling poses: Heating poses are usually done standing, with the arms out to the sides or over the head, or poses that require lifting & supporting your body weighting such as handstand or those where you are working against gravity. Cooling poses tend to be forward bending with the head low to the floor, poses that are practiced sitting or reclining and those that do not require you to work against gravity.
- After extensive back bending or forward bending: Do brief gentle twists to release the back muscles.
- Order of Inversions: If you practice headstand which is considered a “heating” posture, you should follow it with shoulderstand which is considered a ‘cooling” posture. Shoulderstand, however, can be practiced at any time on its own.
- Work with a theme: Working with a theme within a practice is an excellent basis for good sequencing. For instance, if you want to do a practice that centers around back-bending poses, you would choose warm-ups that stretch & open the front of the groins & the shoulders. You would choose standing poses that increase body heat such as Sun Salutations & poses that open the front of the body such as Warrior I, Upward Facing Dog & Warrior III. This would be a good preparation for beginning backbends, which could be followed by gentle twists or leg stretches to release the back. A theme could also center around a principle such as keeping the breath calm & this theme could be practiced throughout the rest of the day.
3) Rules are made to be broken
Once you have an extensive yoga vocabulary, there are almost infinite possibilities for sequencing the asanas (poses). When you find yourself getting bored try one of the following suggestions:
- A challenging asana: Design a practice that involves opening the body for a pose you have been challenged by in the past. Try the pose briefly & notice what areas of your body prevent you from doing it. Do you need to strengthen your arms? Are your hamstrings too tight? Most seemingly difficult poses are simply variations of much simpler postures. Practice poses & stretches that strengthen or open those areas & attempt the new posture again. If you are still unable to dot he posture, is there a creative variation which approximates the classical pose? Perhaps by using a chair, blankets, a belt as an arm extender or the use of a wall you can continue to grow towards the pose.
- Repetition of one pose in between the standing postures: Choose a pose such as Uttanansa (Standing forward bend), Downward Facing Dog etc & do this posture between all the standing poses. By returning to the posture over the course of a practice you may notice how much easier it gets after specific work in other poses. Coming back to the same movement provides a focal point for checking your mind/body state,
- Short timings: This is a good way to practice if you are feeling sluggish or find that you lack concentration. Do lots of different postures with very brief stays in each pose.
- Long timings: This is a good way to focus & deepen your understanding & stamina in certain asanas as well as cultivating a more introspective frame of mind. Choose a few postures & sustain them for as long as you can without strain.
- Music: Pick a piece of music that is uplifting & carries the feeling that you would like to engender in your practice – whether calming or invigorating.
- Vinyasa (continuous flow): Vinya means the wind and it is a practice where one links poses one after the other with smooth transitions between the movements. Be creative and allow sequences to unfold spontaneously or you can begin with a few sequences you have learnt in class & improvise upon these. Move slowly & gracefully from pose to pose making the transitions just as important as the postures. Don’t be afraid to go from poses on the flow to standing to balancing – the only limit to this practice is your imagination!
- A new environment: Sometimes a change of environment can help us see things from a different perspective. Try practicing in a different room or better yet outside in the garden, at the beach or in a secluded park. Public places, however, are not usually great places to practice yoga as people tend to gawk, so be discreet.
The premise of my teaching method is to move my students to become independent of the teacher, to start trusting their self in keeping up with their self practice. My intention is to empower them to start taking responsibility for their own health and ultimately their own spiritual growth.
Now, you have received the guidelines and tips that you need to begin your own home practice. Let your self practice begin here. Namaste. 🙂