When I first got into yoga over a decade ago, I could not imagine practicing at home. I loved the community aspect of a practice at a studio, the synchronized flow of breath and movement, and a real live yoga instructor who only got one take for every line. Now, I can’t imagine a yoga practice not complemented by a home one. I use my home practice to work on goal postures in more depth, test drive sequences I put together for my classes, and take care of myself when I don’t have a full hour or more plus travel time to go take a “real” class at one of my favorite studios.
Yesterday, I passed through this surya namaskar b variation as part of my home practice. This was truly a part of my practice yeterday, not something I filmed over & over, as you can tell from the little flaws that make it real – forgetting which side I’m on, getting crunched for space by the fireplace, clunky hop to the top of my mat, etc. I’ve been teaching variations of this particular flow sequence in my classes for the past couple of weeks. I love it because it involves a combination of traditional postures (such as warrior II and half moon) and unique ones that I don’t often get to practice in the classes I typically attend (like horizon lunge and skandasana). It also works deeply into the outer hips, specifically the iliotibial bands and piriformis muscles. In my body, these places get really tight, to the point of chronic pain, when I’m training for a running race or spending a lot of time sitting at a desk. I use the poses to release that tension.
To integrate this flow into a 45-60 minute home practice do the following:
-Spend a couple minutes in a restorative posture, preferably a passive hip-opener such as supta baddha konasana. Settle into the rhythm of your breath, notice how you feel in every sense of the word, and set a focal point to circle back to throughout your practice.
-Warm up the major muscles of your body & your spine by doing 3-5 surya namaskar a’s. During your first one, spend 3-5 breaths in each posture, finding dynamic movement in every pose before settling into stillness, appreciating the complexities of each basic posture.
-Do the surya namaskar b variation I created in the video above two times on each of your sides:
1. From standing, exhale utkatasana/chair pose
2. Inhale eagle on the left
3. Exhale warrior III (option to keep eagle arm variation)
4. Inhale high lunge
5. Exhale low lunge (touch your finger tips down on either side of your foot)
6. Inhale, lengthen the spine
7. Exhale easy open-arm twist toward your right (keep your left hand on the floor)
8. Exhale horizon lunge (from your twist, come onto the outside blades of both your feet, drop your hips toward the earth, and reach your right hand back behind you, thumb toward the sky)
9. Inhale, circle around to face the left
10. Exhale skindasana (squat into your left leg & flex your right toes toward your face)
11. Inhale warrior II (bending into the left knee)
10. Exhale half moon pose (launch into your left leg with control – a block under your left hand is perfect here) with option for chopasana variation (bend your right knee and catch your right foot in your right hand)
11. Exhale land softly in warrior II
12. Inhale reverse triangle (straighten your left knee and reach up and back through your left arm to stretch through your left side while sliding your right hand down the back of your right thigh)
13. Flow through surya namaskar A toward the back of your mat.
Do steps 1-12, holding each pose for 3-5 deep ujjayi breaths (confine your breath to your nose and make each inhale/exhale full and intentional – you can hear me doing this pretty well on the video) to allow your muscles to warm up & soften into the postures. Repeat on the same side (right leg high to low lunge to easy twist) more quickly this time, linking one breath to one movement as noted above and flow to the front of your mat. Repeat the cycle on your other side. After this, you can repeat the flow as much as you want with the help of muscle memory, linking one breath to one movement. I took the video during this phase (one breath to one movement), as I had already held each posture for a few cycles of breath prior to filming the sequence.
-You can follow the flow up with some balancing postures, work on an arm balance/inversion (you’re nicely warmed up for elephant pose or astavrkasana/eight-angle pose), prone or supine hip openers like a pigeon variation as opposed to the standing ones in this sequence, backbends, a spinal twist, and 2-5 minute savasana or legs up the wall (my favorite ending posture lately).
Here’s a 55-minute playlist you can use, that will allow you to begin & end your practice within 2.5-minute long brackets of total peace.
Is there a particular posture you have a question about? Let me know in the comments section. I am always collecting ideas for future posts.