Yoga Body, Yoga Mind, Yoga Practice

This is a sequence I may offer after an initial assessment of students’ interests, capabilities, needs. In it, we strive to find and and maintain peace of mind and develop the habit of mindfulness through the regular practice of yoga in the studio and at home. We focus the mind on the body’s experience of a core set of asana, pranayama, and vinyasa every week; and we explore different supplemental poses, breath work, flows and other techniques each week. The class is meant to help you learn to refresh the body and experience at least a few moments of inner peace every day.

This sequence is the core set used in the class and in the companion home practice. In the sequence we:
Breathe consciously.
Bring the mind into the moment.
Relax the neck and shoulders.
Flex, extend, lengthen, and twist the spine.
Stretch the back of the legs.
Loosen the hips.
Conscious breathing and holds turn the attention inward, opening the mind to the body’s actual experience, activating the entire inner sensorium.
In the studio, it is preparation for the rest of the class, which varies weekly with body scans, breathing exercises, breath initiated movement, and inward focused poses encouraging the gentle observation of a quieter mind. As a home practice, it stimulates body memory, both physical and energy, to relive the experience, again inviting observation of the quieter mind.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Nādi Shodhana Prānāyāma

IMG_0909

Sit comfortably, with legs crossed. If this is not comfortable, kneel or sit in any position and anywhere, including chairs and other furniture, if it helps you remain comfortable and concentrate on your breath. Close your eyes. Deepen and slow your breathing.

  1. Inhale
  2. Close Right Nostril
  3. Exhale Left Nostril
  4. Inhale Left Nostril
  5. Free Right Nostril
  6. Close Left Nostril
  7. Exhale Right Nostril
  8. Inhale Right Nostril
  9. Free Left Nostril

Continue from step 2 for one or two minutes.
Relax, free both nostrils, take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

NOTE – It might be easier to think of it like this: ‘Exhale left, inhale left. Exhale right, inhale right.’ Just use the fingers and thumb to close and free the nostrils as needed.

Gentle Neck Flexion

IMG_0908

Sit comfortably, with legs crossed. If this is not comfortable, kneel or sit in any position and anywhere, including chairs and other furniture, if it helps you remain comfortable and concentrate on your breath. Close your eyes. Deepen and slow your breathing.

  1. Gently tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder, making sure not to lift your shoulder. Relax here for one or two slow breaths. Gently bring your head upright.
  2. Gently tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder, making sure not to lift your shoulder. Relax here for one or two slow breaths. Gently bring your head upright.
  3. Gently tilt your chin toward your chest, making sure not to lift your shoulders. Relax here for one or two slow breaths. Gently bring your head upright.

Take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

Easy Shoulder Rolls

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Sit comfortably with legs crossed. If this is not comfortable, kneel or sit in any position and anywhere, including chairs and other furniture, if it helps you remain comfortable and concentrate on your breath. Close your eyes. Deepen and slow your breathing. Move gently, and smoothly, with your breath; hands comfortably lifted.

  1. Bring both shoulders up, making sure not to squeeze them together toward your ears.
  2. Move them forward, noticing whether or how you feel the simultaneous movement of your shoulder blades.
  3. Bring the shoulders down.
  4. Move them back.

Continue from step 1 for a few breaths, about half a minute.

Pause with your shoulders in their natural position and relax here for one or two slow breaths. Close your eyes. Deepen and slow your breathing. Move gently, and smoothly, with your breath; hands comfortably lifted.

  1. Bring both shoulders down.
  2. Move them forward.
  3. Bring them up, making sure not to squeeze them together toward your ears.
  4. Move them back, noticing whether or how you feel the simultaneous movement of your shoulder blades.

Continue from step 1 for a few breaths, about half a minute.
Pause with your shoulders in their natural position and relax here for one or two slow breaths.
Take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

Ruddy Goose Posture

Cakravākaāsana

Cakravakasana

Come to hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Lower your eyelids, partially closing your eyes, or letting them close completely if this is comfortable. Deepen and slow your breathing. Move gently, and smoothly with your breath.

  1. Begin to inhale then raise your head slightly to bring your gaze to the floor about four feet in front of you. At the same time, let the top of your pelvis gently tilt down, slightly raising your sit-bones, at the bottom of the pelvis.
  2. Complete the inhalation and pause for a moment.
  3. Begin to exhale then lift your belly button toward your spine. At the same time, slightly lower your head and your sit-bones as you flex the knees and hips to begin shifting back and down toward sitting on your heels.
  4. Continue exhaling, moving back and down, as you gently lower your head, tuck your tailbone slightly, and flex the shoulders and elbows to bring your forearms to the floor.
  5. Settle down as you finish exhaling and pause for just a moment.
  6. Begin to inhale, then, gently pushing your sternum forward as your chest expands with the breath, move forward and up toward your starting point on hands and knees.
  7. Continue inhaling, slightly raising the head and tilting the pelvis as you again move shoulders into place above the hands and hips into place above the knees.

Continue from step 2 for several breaths, about one and a half minutes.
Pause on hands and knees and relax here for one or two slow breaths.
Take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

Ruddy Goose with Downward Facing Dog

Cakravākaāsana with Adho Mukha Svānāsana

CakraSvan

Come to hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Lower your eyelids, partially closing your eyes, or letting then close completely if this is comfortable. Deepen and slow your breathing. Move gently and smoothly, with your breath.

  1. Begin to inhale then raise your head slightly to bring your gaze to the floor about four feet in front of you. At the same time, let the top of your pelvis gently tilt down, slightly raising your sit-bones, at the bottom of the pelvis.
  2. Complete the inhalation, pause for a moment, and curl your toes under, bringing balls of the feet to the mat.
  3. Begin to exhale then pull your belly button toward your spine, lower your head and press your hips upward, pushing with your feet and hands to bring your biceps alongside your ears or jaw. Push down with your hands, straighten your back, and lengthen your side-body. Keep your knees bent to help you tilt your sit-bones up and back.
  4. Take one slow deep breath. Inhale once more, then begin to exhale.
  5. Continue exhaling, moving back and down, as you gently lower your head, tuck your tailbone slightly, and flex the shoulders and elbows to bring your forearms to the floor.
  6. Settle down as you finish exhaling and pause for just a moment.
  7. Begin to inhale, then, gently pushing your sternum forward as your chest expands with the breath move forward and up.
  8. Continue inhaling, slightly raising the head and tilting the pelvis as you again move shoulders into place above the hands and hips into place above the knees.

Continue slowly from step 2, for several breaths, about one and a half minutes.
Pause on hands and knees and relax here for one or two slow breaths.
Relax, take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

 Warrior 1 with Side-Chest Stretch

Virābhādrāsana I with Parsvottanāsana

VirabPars

Alignment of the feet and legs is very important to prevent injuring the knees in these postures. If you feel any pain or discomfort, or you are struggling to stay balanced in these postures, or in any posture or movement, STOP what you are doing and take a moment to turn or move the feet as necessary to eliminate the pain and stay securely balanced.

  1. Set up for the poses.
    1. Stand comfortably facing the wide edge of your mat, with your toes about one inch from the edge.
    2. Step your right foot about three feet to the right. Look down at your feet and legs and step right or left until the distance between your feet is about the same as the length of a leg. Your legs and the distance between your feet should form an equilateral triangle.
    3. Now step your right foot about eight inches to the left. Then step your left foot about eight inches backward, toward the other wide edge of your mat.
    4. Pivot on your left heel to point your foot straight toward the left end of your mat.
    5. Pivot on the pad of your right big toe to point your foot away from the right end of your mat at an angle of about 45 degrees.
    6. Now turn your face, shoulders and hips toward the left end of the mat.
    7. Pause to notice any twinges or pain and to check your balance. Adjust your stance as necessary to eliminate the pain and stay securely balanced.
    8. Looking down at your left leg and foot, imagine a line running straight down your leg, from the top of the thigh through the middle of the knee to a point in the middle of your ankle, between the ankle bones. Then imagine the line extends to a point between your second and third toes. Pivot on your heel as necessary to make sure the whole line, from thigh top, through knee to ankle, and ankle to toes, is a straight line. Turning the foot far enough to the left requires a bit more effort than most people expect.
    9. Pause to notice any twinges or loss of balance and adjust as needed.
  2. Exhale to prepare. Begin to inhale then swing your arms up above your head as you continue to inhale and bend your left knee to bring it above the left ankle, but no further.
  3. Complete the inhalation as you pause to notice any twinges or loss of balance and adjust as needed.
  4. Breathe normally as you check to make sure you can see the big toe of your left foot just beyond the inner edge of your left knee. Swing the leg in or out as needed. Pause to check for pain and balance; adjust as needed.
  5. Begin to inhale, then bring a bit of an arch into your upper back, just below the shoulder blades, and lift your sternum to open the heart.
  6. Completing the inhalation, press down firmly with all four corners of both feet and engage your legs as if you are trying to pull your feet together. Maintain a level gaze as you pause briefly.
  7. Begin to exhale, then lower your arms as you straighten your left leg, bend at the hip and reach both hands toward your left foot.
  8. Complete the exhalation as you relax your neck and back, bringing the chest toward the left leg. Pause briefly.
  9. Begin to inhale, then straighten your back as you hinge at the hips to come upright while swinging your arms overhead as you continue to inhale and bend your left knee to bring it above the left ankle, but no further.
  10. Complete the inhalation as you open your heart, press down with your feet and engage the legs. Maintain a level gaze as you pause briefly.

Continue from step seven for several breaths, about one and a half minutes. Then pause briefly, switch legs and start again from step two, this time bending and straightening the right knee. After several breaths, pause and relax for one or two slow breaths. Then take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

Standing Forward Bend

Uttānāsana

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  1. Stand comfortably facing the front of your mat.
  2. Exhale to prepare. As you begin to inhale, slowly sweep your arms out and up. As your palms come together overhead, complete the inhalation, maintain a level gaze, and let your upper back arch gently.
  3. As you begin to exhale, hinge at the hips, and sweep your arms out and down in a swan dive. As you complete the exhalation, bend your knees enough to bring your abdomen to rest atop your thighs, let your back and neck relax as your head and arms dangle toward the mat. You may want to let each hand gently hold the opposite elbow.
  4. Take three to six slow and deliberate breaths, noting the sensations throughout your body as your torso rises and falls with the inhalations and exhalations.
  5. On an inhale, bring your hands to your hips, flatten your back, slowly hinge at the hips and sweep your arms up and out as you come upright in a reverse swan dive. As you complete the inhalation and return to standing upright, bring your hands together in prayer position above your heart. Pause here for several slow, comfortable breaths.

NOTE: If you feel at all lightheaded or dizzy or on returning to standing, hinge at the hips, bend at the knees, rest elbows on knees, let your head and neck relax, and breath normally until the lightheadedness has passed.

Extended Triangle

Utthita Trikonāsana

ArdhaTrikon

As in Warrior 1 with Side-Chest Stretch, alignment of the feet and legs is very important to prevent injuring the knees in these postures. If you feel any pain or discomfort, or you are struggling to stay balanced in these postures, or in any posture or movement, STOP what you are doing and take a moment to turn or move the feet as necessary to eliminate the pain and stay securely balanced.

UtthitaTrikon

  1. Set up for the poses.
    1. Stand comfortably facing the wide edge of your mat, with your toes a few inches from the edge.
    2. Step your right foot about three feet to the right. Look down at your feet and legs and step right or left until the distance between your feet is about the same as the length of a leg. Your legs and the distance between your feet should form an equilateral triangle.
    3. Now step your right foot about eight inches backward, toward the left.
    4. Pivot on your left heel to point your foot straight toward the left end of your mat.
    5. Pivot on the pad of your right big toe to point your foot away from the right end of your mat at an angle of about 45 degrees.
    6. Make sure your head, shoulders and hips still face the wide edge of the mat.
    7. Pause to notice any twinges or pain and to check your balance. Adjust your stance as necessary to eliminate the pain and stay securely balanced.
    8. Looking down at your left leg and foot, imagine a line running straight down your leg, from the top of the thigh through the middle of the knee to a point in the middle of your ankle, between the ankle bones. Then imagine the line extends to a point between your second and third toes. Pivot on your heel as necessary to make sure the whole line, from thigh top, through knee to ankle, and ankle to toes, is a straight line. Turning the foot far enough to the left requires a bit more effort than most people expect.
    9. Pause to notice any twinges or loss of balance and adjust as needed.
  2. Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you swing your arms up to shoulder level, bringing your hands above your feet.
  3. Inhale again, then begin to exhale as you push your right hip to the right and swing your left hip down. Your torso, head and shoulders will tend to tilt to the left, but keep your head and shoulders level as you continue exhaling, pushing your right hip to the right and swinging your left hip down. This brings your spine into a gentle lateral flexion. Pause as you complete the exhalation.
  4. Begin to inhale as you sway your hips to the left, bringing them to level below your shoulders.
  5. Repeat twice from step three.
  6. Inhale again, then begin to exhale as you push your right hip to the right and swing your left hip down. Keep your spine straight and let your torso, head and shoulders tilt to the left Continue exhaling, pushing your right hip to the right and swinging your left hip down. Pause as you complete the exhalation. Let your spine flex a bit to bring your shoulders and arms perpendicular to the mat as you bring your left hand to rest on your shin. Hold this position and breath normally for three or four breaths.
  7. Exhale to prepare, then begin to inhale as you sway your hips to the left, straighten your spine and bring your shoulders above your hips.

Pause for a few breaths, switch legs, and start again from step 2, this time pushing the left hip to the left and tilting the right hip down.
After completing the second triangle, pause and relax for one or two slow breaths. Then take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

Fire Log Pose

Agnistambhāsana

IMG_0896

Sit comfortably, with lower legs stacked on one another, like fire logs. If this is not comfortable, kneel or sit in any position and anywhere, including chairs and other furniture, if it helps you remain comfortable and concentrate on your breath. Deepen and slow your breathing. Move gently, and smoothly, with your breath.

  1. Sit upright, stretching your spine and tilting your pelvis to lift your crown toward the sky and plant your sit-bones in the ground, or mat.
  2. Inhale to prepare, then as you exhale, begin bending forward from the hips, keeping the spine and neck straight as you continue exhaling and tilting.
  3. When you can’t tilt any further with a straight spine, complete the exhalation and then inhale.
  4. As you begin to exhale, gently let your spine and neck relax and curl downward.
  5. Completing the exhalation, bring your forearms or elbows to rest on your legs or the mat.
  6. Breathe normally for three to six breaths.
  7. On an inhale, push with hands and arms as you straighten your spine and bend backward at the hips to come upright.
  8. Pause for a few breaths, switch legs, and start again from step 1.
    After completing coming upright the second time, pause and relax for one or two slow breaths. Then take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

Reclining Abdominal Twist

Jathara Parivrtti

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Lie comfortably on your back, with arms out at 45-degrees, knees up, and feet on the mat. Breathe normally for a few breaths, then breath slowly and deeply for a few breaths.

  1. On an exhale, let your knees slowly tilt to the left, toward the floor, keeping you shoulders on the mat.
  2. On an inhale, bring you knees up to center.
  3. As you exhale, let your knees slowly tilt to the right, toward the floor, keeping you shoulders on the mat.
  4. On an inhale, bring you knees up to center.
  5. Continue steps 1 through 4 for three or four breaths.
  6. On an exhale, let your knees slowly tilt to the left, toward the floor, keeping your shoulders on the mat. If your knees don’t come to rest on the floor, put pillows or books under them so you can relax in position.
  7. Breath normally for several breaths.
  8. On an inhale, bring your knees up to center.

Repeat steps 5 through 7, tilting the knees to the right this time.
After bringing your knees upright the second time, pause and relax for one or two slow breaths. Then take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

Child’s Pose

Bālāsana

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Come to hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Lower your eyelids, partially closing your eyes, or letting them close completely if this is comfortable. Deepen and slow your breathing. Move gently, and smoothly with your breath.

  1. Inhale to prepare, then begin to exhale, slightly lower your head and your sit-bones as you flex the knees and hips to begin shifting back and down toward sitting on your heels.
  2. Continue exhaling, moving back and down, as you gently lower your head, tuck your tailbone slightly, and flex the shoulders and elbows to bring your forearms to the floor.
  3. Settle down and begin sinking into deep relaxation as you finish exhaling.
  4. Hold and relax here for several breaths, about one and a half minutes.
  5. On an inhale move forward and up toward your starting point on hands and knees.
  6. Take a really deep breath, exhale comfortably, and resume normal breathing.

Relaxation pose (or Corpse Pose)

Savāsana

Asana - Stick Figures

  • Lie comfortably on your back, palms down, arms and legs open as necessary to help you cool.
  • If possible, place a rolled towel or blanket, a yoga bolster, a pillow or something similar under your knees to raise them a few inches and help your back relax.
  • Lift your head off the mat, tuck your chin in toward your chest and let your neck gently relax to bring the back of your head to rest on the mat.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe normally for a few breaths.
  • Deepen and slow your breathing.
  • Keep your mind focused on your breath, your body, your moment.
  • Notice how the breath feels, entering and exiting the nostrils.
  • Notice whether your belly rises and falls with the breath.
  • Notice which muscles move the breath in and out.
  • Notice and release any tension or stiffness you may be holding anywhere in your body.
  • Notice when your mind wanders away and gently bring it back to the breath. Be gentle and patient. Keep bringing it back. Mind to breath.
  • Continue for about two minutes.

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