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Yoga asanas -- Starting a home practice -- a step along your Yoga Sadhana (yoga path)

Adho-Mukha-Svanasana

By Frank Jesse

Over 1700 years ago, the ancient Indian sage, Patanjali, listed the obstacles or impediments to developing a regular yoga practice in the yoga sutras, sutra 1.28: "disease, inertia, doubt, heedlessness, laziness, indiscipline of the senses, erroneous views, lack of perseverance and backsliding."

Not much has changed. For a beginner student, and even some more experienced students, starting a home practice can be a challenge -- not knowing where or how to begin.

Having a special room or even a dedicated space where you will not be disturbed by the phone or other people will reduce distractions. A set yoga asanas sequence keeps it simpler especially for a beginner, and I have provided one as an example at the end of this post. Once you are familiar with your sequence you can start to cycle through a set of yoga asanas on a weekly basis for a more balanced and varied approach.

Start your practice with a comfortable yoga pose. By this, I don't mean perfectly comfortable, physically. The first yoga pose of your practice best be one that you are familiar with, that you know how to get into and is not too much of a struggle to maintain. There are several reasons for this.

Your regular starting pose becomes a reference point for your practice. You will start to notice small differences in the pose each time you start your practice.

We all bring different states of mind to our practice because of the many and varied demands in our lives.

In your practice, you may observe that you are more tired, restless or stiffer than you were yesterday. You may notice your mind is easily distracted or lethargic, or on another day you may experience a greater sense of calm and focus. You can work with these observations in the practice you do that day. For example, you may need to use more support, such as a wall or chair or may even choose to do a quieter practice on days you have less energy.

You should also end your practice with Savasana (corpse pose) or another restorative pose, such as Viparita Karani (see photo 13 below) where you can relax totally and fully absorb the benefits of your practice.

When first starting a practice, start simply with not too many yoga asanas. Be realistic in setting a starting time and duration. Get up a little earlier if you have a busy life. By initially limiting your practice to half an hour a day, you can become accustomed to that earlier starting time and appreciate the benefits of a regular practice. As your experience and yoga knowledge increases, you can extend the duration of your practice to an hour or more.

In fact, a daily practice of between half an hour and a full hour, together with a regular weekly yoga class with a qualified and dedicated teacher, can be enormously beneficial to your health and wellbeing and progress on your Yoga Sadhana (yoga path).

Here's an example of a half-hour yoga sequence that you can do at home:

1) Supta Baddha Konasana (supine bound angle pose) 5 minutes

2) Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero pose) 2 minutes

3) Tadasana (mountain pose) 1 minute

4) Utthitta Trikonasana (extended triangle pose) x 2 30 seconds each side

5) Repeat Tadasana (mountain pose) between standing asanas 30 seconds

6) Virabhadrasana 11 (warrior 2 pose) x 2 30 seconds each side

7) Tadasana (mountain pose) 30 seconds

8) Utthitta Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose) x 2 30 seconds each side

9) Tadasana (mountain pose) 30 seconds

10) Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch pose) x 2 30 seconds each side

11) Prasarita Parsvottanasana (intense leg stretch) concave back 1 minute

12) Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog stretch) 1 minute

13) Viparita Karani (inverted lake pose) 5 minute. Avoid this pose during menstruation

14) Savasana (corpse pose) 5 minute


Please note: This sequence is for students already practicing yoga and of normal health. During menstruation extra support should be taken under hand in standing pose and back foot should be pressed against wall. Do not practice if pregnant without consulting your teacher, as some pose may need to be modified or eliminated from the sequence during the course of your pregnancy.

Further reading on the yoga asanas and sequences:

Yoga: The Iyengar Way. Silva Mehta, Mira Mehta, Shyam Mehta

Yoga, The Path to Holistic Health. B K S Iyengar

Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood. Geeta S Iyengar, Rita Keller, Kerstin Khattab

How to use Yoga. Mira Mehta

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