20 March 2012

At-home Yoga 101

Yoga can be confusing to start.  There are many forms of yoga, over 100 yoga poses and even different names for the same posture.  Years ago, I ventured into yoga with “the hundred”, “v-sit” and “scissor kicks” from a Windsor Pilates video.  My practice deepened in recent years with an instructor-lead, vinyasa class at our Community Rec Center.   A video or instructor is the best way to start and learn proper technique, but after a while videos can get stale.  So for those who want creative freedom or to supplement a class and practice at home, I share some basic rules I've observed.

Find a quiet space with room to lunge and move.  I thought I could run through a series of poses even if the kids might run through the room.  It doesn’t work.  Once they saw me on the floor, class was over.  Did my four and five-year old want to join me?  Yes, if that meant playing airplane (which actually is a pose called Falcon in partner yoga) or climbing on my back during plank. Take the time to focus on your movements.  One of the benefits of yoga is relaxation and stress relief.

Build a sequence of asanas that can easily lead into one another, and incorporate counter poses to work the other side.  Yoga Journal’s web site has a tool for building your own sequence (unfortunately missing reverse warrior and a few others).  These card decks received good ratings on Amazon: The Yoga Deck for Kindle and Yoga: the Poetry of the Body by Rodney Lee .

A popular asana for arms and abs is SunSalutation.  Clickhere for a few more combinations including the warrior sequence.  I thought this sequence from class had a nice flow: warrior II - right angle pose - warrior II - reverse warrior - warrior II - triangle. 

Don't overextend, listen to your body.  There are modified positions you can always use to adapt a pose if you have a limitation.  For example, drop a knee down for side plank, reach for your ankle if you can't touch the floor, etc.  A weekend of pulling weeds or painting changes what your body may be capable of and you should listen to your body.
5 breaths.  That’s about how long you should hold each pose.  Connecting your moves with breathing is an important element of yoga; inhale to open and start a new pose, exhale to exit a posture, fold, twist or relax.  Breathing not only counts how long to stay in posture, but it also opens energy throughout the body and enhances a mindful practice.

Pace your routine.  As for any exercise, warm-up and cool down are important to prevent injury and help you reach peak performance.   Start with gentle stretching, moving between poses to warm up your muscles.  Deepen stretches with each repeat.  If a pose seems simple, deepen it – stretch a little farther, sink a little lower, hold a little longer. 

After your asanas, cool down with forward bends and twists which help relieve tension in the back/chest /shoulders, and improve posture, flexibility, mobility and digestion.  Some restorative poses I like to end a session with are Child’s pose , Supine spinal twist, and Corpse pose.

1 comment:

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