Archives for category: how to practise yoga at home

Now that I have finished documenting all of the positions that I teach to beginners, (yahoo!), it’s time to put it all together. Below you will find sequences of poses that you could follow for a 1 week period. In my experience, themes work best. For example, on day 1 you work on toning the legs; day 2 on the hips;  on day 3 you work on lenghthening the spine;  day 4 on the arms and shoulders; on day 5 you work on balance and coordination; on day 6 you do a relaxing and restorative sequence; and on day 7 you can take a rest! If you manage 6 days in a row of yoga, you’ve definitely earned it.

Always start your yoga session with a breathing exercise. This will help you center and relax yourself and will also help you focus on your yoga practice. While still lying on your mat, do the warm ups for the legs, hips and spine. Then practice Mountain Pose followed by warm ups for the arms, shouders and neck. Next, practice as many positions from the sequence as possible,depending of course on the time available to you and your energy levels on that day. If your energy is low, for example, during menstruation, or if you are recuperating from an illness, practice the relaxation & restoration sequence for a couple of days or until you feel hale and hearty again. Always cool down after the session and finish up with 10 minutes Savasana (Relaxation Pose). ALWAYS, ALWAYS close yourself down at the very end of the practice in the same way you would close down your computer at the end of a day’s work. (See Category on Relaxation – Savasana). (See also category on How to practice yoga at home for more tips).

Day 1 (Stretching & Toning the Legs)

  • Choose one of the Breathing Exercises 1-7 (See Breathing).
  • Warmups for legs,hips and spine (See Warmups).
  • Mountain Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Warmups for Shoulders, arms and neck.  (See Warmups).
  • Supine Big Toe Pose (See Warmups).
  • Serpent Pose (Seated Positions).
  • Tree Pose (Standing Positions).
  • Powerful Pose (Standing Positions).
  • Squatting Pose (Standing Positions)
  • Wide Leg Forward Bend (Standing Positions).
  • Cooling down: Legs up the Wall (See Relaxation).
  • Savasana (See Relaxation)

Day 2 (Opening the Hips)

  • Choose one of the Breathing Exercises 1-7 (See Breathing).
  • Warmups for legs, hips and spine (See Warmups).
  • Mountain Pose (See Standing Poses).
  • Warmups for shoulders, arms and neck (See Warmups)
  • Serpent Pose (See Seated Positions).
  • Squatting Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Triangle Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Butterfly Pose (See Seated Positions).
  • Seated Angle Pose (See Seated Positions).
  • Cooling down: Supine Butterfly Pose against wall. (Relaxation – Legs up the Wall).
  • Savasana (See Relaxation).

Day 3 (Lengthening the Spine)

  • Choose one of the Breathing Exercises 1-7 (See Breathing).
  • Warmups for legs, hips and spine. (See Warmups).
  • Mountain Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Warmups for Shoulders, arms and neck. (See Warmups)
  • Cat Pose (See Warmups).
  • Child Pose going forwards (See Seated Positions).
  • Powerful Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Half-Dog Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Standing Twist (See Standing Positions).
  • Cooling down: Legs up the Wall (See Relaxation).
  • Savasana (See Relaxation).

Day 4 (Opening & Toning Shoulder Area; Toning Arms)

  • Breathing Exercise: Clock along the Floor (See Breathing).
  • Warmups for legs, hips and spine. (See Warmups).
  • Mountain Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Warmups for shoulders, arms and neck (See Warmups).
  • Kneeling Pose + Variations (See Seated Positions).
  • Warrior I (See Standing Positions).
  • Triangle Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Extended Side Angle Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Cooling down: Child Pose
  • Savasana (See Relaxation).

Day 5 (Improving Balance & Coordination)

  • Practice Breathing Exercise (7) – Counting back from 11 (See Breathing).
  • Warmups for legs, hips and spine (See Warmups).
  • Mountain Pose (See Standing Positions.
  • Warmups for shoulders, arms and neck (See Warmups)
  • Serpent Pose (See Seated Positions).
  • Squatting Pose (See Standing Positions)
  • Tree Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Warrior I (See Standing Positions).
  • Extended Side Angle Pose (See Standing Positions).
  • Cooling down: Legs up the Wall (See Relaxation).
  • Savasana (See Relaxation).

Day 6 (Relaxation & Restoration)

  • Choose one of the Breathing Exercises 1-7 (See Breathing Exercises).
  • Warmups for legs, hips and spine (See Warmups).
  • Clock along the floor (See Breathing Exercises).
  • ‘Ha Cleansing Breath’ (   ”        ”                     ”                ).
  • Mountain Pose (See Standing Poses).
  • Warmups for shoulders, arms and neck. (See Warmups).
  • Seated Twist (See Seated Positions – Easy Pose).
  • Lion Pose (See Seated Positions )
  • Releasing the Neck in Rabbit Pose (See Seated Positions).
  • Cooling down: Legs up the Wall (See Relaxation).
  • Savasana (See Relaxation)

Day 7

Take a day off or practice 10 minutes of Savasana.

Advertisements

“Reading a book by someone you respect allows some of their brilliance to rub off on you.”

-Robin Sharma

A yogi is anyone who follows the yogic path. This path is the process of waking up the inner self so that it remembers who it really is: a drop of the divine. It is a long and arduous path but we are given a lot of help along the way. Much of this guidance comes in the form of inspiring books written by people who are further along the path than we are. These books give us the benefit of these people’s experience and also inspire us to continue on the path when the going gets tough.  It’s a bit like tuning a guitar.When a guitar is out of tune, it sounds awful. In order to get it back in tune, you need to find a “reference pitch” from another source like a piano, another guitar or a tuning fork. We are the same. When we get bogged down by the demands of daily life, we need another source that is in harmony with itself to help get us back in tune with our inner selves.

Below is a list of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I read from one of these books every day. This is called Satsang in Sanskrit or spending time in the company of uplifting people. Of course it would be better to meet these people in person. But reading their books is the next best thing and hopefully allows some of their brilliance to rub off on me. The titles highlighted in bold are the ones I read the most often and are the ones I would grab first if my house went on fire!

ZERO LIMITS -The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace & More by Joe Vitale and Ihaleakala Hew Len

A LITTLE LIGHT ON THE SPIRITUAL LAWS by Diana Cooper

ANGEL ANSWERS by Diana Cooper

ORIGINAL WISDOM -Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing by Robert Wolff

ANSWERS by Mother Meera

THE SEER by Lars Muhl

THE CELESTINE PROPHECY by James Redfield

SURFING THE HIMALAYAS -Conversations and Travels with Master Fwap by Rama-Dr Frederich Lang

CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, Book 3 by Neale Donald Walsch

THE SEAT OF THE SOUL by Gary Zukav

WALKING ON WATER by Anthony de Mello

ONE MINUTE WISDOM by Anthony de Mello

AWARENESS by Anthony de Mello

SIVANANDA’S GOSPEL OF DIVINE LIFE by Swami Sivananda

BLISS DIVINE by Swami Sivananda

THE BHAGAVAD GITA

IMMORTAL LIGHT – Mata Amritanandamayi Devi

AWAKENING THE SPINE by Vanda Scaravelli

THE SPIRIT OF YOGA by Cat de Rham & Michele Gill

SPIRITUAL GROWTH – Being Your Higher Self by Sanaya Roman

MANUAL OF THE WARRIOR OF LIGHT by Paulo Coelho

THE EIGHT HUMAN TALENTS by GURMUKH

A NEW EARTH by Eckhart Tolle

STILLNESS SPEAKS by Eckhart Tolle

THE EASIEST WAY by Mabel Katz

THE MONK WHO SOLD HIS FERRARI by Robin Sharma

DISCOVER YOUR DESTINY WITH THE MONK WHO SOLD HIS FERRARI by Robin Sharma

PEACE IS EVERY STEP by Thich Nhat Hanh

SACRED SPACE by Denise Linn

THE EYE OF THE PROPHET by Kahlil Gibran

BRING OUT THE MAGIC IN YOUR MIND by Al Koran

“It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” [Abraham Lincoln]

For me one of yoga’s greatest gifts is the way it adds life to your years. None of us knows how long we will be here on this planet. but if we do yoga, one thing we do know is that we will grow into the best version of ourselves. One of the other marvelous things about yoga is that the better you feel about yourself the better you look after yourself. In my 14 years studying yoga I have picked up a lot of advice regarding healthy living, suggestions for adding life to your years, if not years to your life. I call them my bag of tricks –  little things that help make the journey easier and more enjoyable.  They are as follows:

  • No matter what’s going on in your life, always take care of the basics every single day (unless you are ill, or course): (1) get up as early as possible; (2) eat 3 square meals and do not eat in between meals except for a little fruit; (3) exercise outside; (4) go to bed as early as possible.
  • Clean your tongue before you eat breakfast. When you wake up in the morning, there is a coating on the tongue which is full of toxins. You can scrape them off with a special tongue scraper or just the back of a spoon. Scrape from the back of the tongue towards the front until all the coating has disappeared.
  • Before your shower, brush your skin with a skin brush. Skin brushing is excellent for detoxifying your system. The action of the brushing sloughs off millions of dead skin cells allowing the pores of the skin to open and breathe. Because it is an eliminative organ, the skin can then dispose of toxins through the pores. Starting with the soles of the feet, brush up the legs and then up the arms in long, sweeping movements always brushing in the direction of the heart. Use circular movements across the abdomen brushing in a clockwise direction. Avoid the face, neck and any unbroken or irritated skin or varicose veins.
  • Once a week, rub sea salt all over your body. It is wonderfully exfoliating and will cleanse your aura of negativity.
  • Use body products that are free from as many chemicals as possible.
  • Try to do some breathing exercises first thing in the morning if you have time. If you have been taught Pranayama, do a few rounds. Otherwise, sit in your chosen position and spend a few minutes doing So/Ham breathing. Make the sound So as you breathe in and Ham as you breathe out.
  • Spend a few minutes each day doing Japa (repetition of a mantra). This will calm the mind and help clear your subconscious of latent impressions which interfere with your development. If your teacher has given you a mantra, use that. Otherwise, repeat a sacred name from a religious tradition like Jesus or Buddha. I use  a mantra from the Hawaiian tradition Ho’oponopono. (No, I’m not making it up). You just simply say, “Thank you, I love you” over and over again. Check out http://www.self-i-dentity-through-hooponopono.com for more information.
  • Drink water regularly throughout the day. I found this really difficult to do until I started to drink hot water flavoured with a few drops of lemon juice. Way more palatable. You only need sips here and there, not glassfuls of the stuff. Definitely drink hot water as the first drink of the day to flush out the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Eat fresh fruit every day, preferably with a handful of berries (fresh or frozen), and preferably on an empty stomach. Otherwise, it ferments in the stomach.
  • Eat a handful of salad greens every day. They are full of prana or life force from the sun. Green is also a healing colour.
  • Drink tea and coffee in the morning only and switch to herbal brews or uncaffeinated chais for the rest of the day. Otherwise, your sleep could be disturbed by the caffeine.
  • Try to have your main meal in the middle of the day as your digestive power is strongest between 12 noon and 2 p.m.
  • Eat fresh, simple food. Keep a food diary and note down what you eat for each meal and how you feel afterwards. You will soon discover what your body doesn’t like.
  • Never fill the stomach completely. Always leave the table a little hungry.
  • Skip 1 main meal a week and replace it with some fruit or just fast. This will give your digestive organs a rest and allow your body to detoxify and repair itself.
  • Take some food with probiotics every day to help keep the healthy flora in the stomach balanced. You could drink Kombucha tea or take some natural probiotic yoghurt sweetened with honey.
  • Wear bright colours as often as possible. The colours will uplift you and everyone you come into contact with.
  • Spend some time outside every day. As I said earlier, green is a healing colour and nature absorbs our negative thoughts and transmutes them. Fresh air is full of prana and we also need Vitamin D. Ignore the weather. Living in Ireland, I walk in the rain more often than in the sun.
  • Do a few yoga positions every day, even if you just do a few warm-ups and Savasana.(Relaxation)
  • Digestion of food, sexual activity and talking all deplete your vital energy. You don’t need to become a monk but conserve your vital energy as much as possible.
  • Read something uplifting every day. Unless you hang out with saints and sages, it is very difficult to prise yourself away from the competitive world of ego. Spiritual books will help keep you on your path. (I will post a list of books that have helped me in the coming weeks.)
  • Cherish everything you own and give away anything you either don’t use or love. This will help the energy in your life circulate more freely.
  • Try to avoid abusive language and words like ‘hate’, ‘terrible’, ‘disaster’ etc. Usage of this language lowers your energy.
  • Be friendly to everyone. It will bring you great peace.
  • Spend time with uplifting people.
  • Become an uplifting person, if you are not one already!
  • Reduce your wants. If you have food in your stomach, clean clothes on your back and a roof over your head, you are wealthier than most other people on the planet.

The best way to start a regular yoga practice is to simply unroll your yoga mat and get on it. Now you’ve gone to the trouble of unrolling the thing, you might as well do something on it! Maybe you’ll just stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and do some stretches; sit in Easy Pose (Sukhasana) and do some So/Ham breathing or play dead in Corpse Pose (Savasana) and relax. It’s all yoga and you are guaranteed to feel better, brighter and clearer afterwards. However, to get the full benefit out of the system of Hatha Yoga and to give the body the complete workout it needs, a systematic practice is required. Also the whole aim of Hatha Yoga is to develop discipline which can eventually be chanelled into the higher practices of yoga. So developing a regular systemised yoga practice is the No.1 priority of yoga students.  The following schedule is the one I have been using myself for donkeys years, simply because it works. It is loosely adapted from Dona Holleman’s Yoga Syllabus for teacher and student. It is suitable for all of you who have been practicing yoga regularly for over 1 year.

Try, try try to practice some yoga every day even though it is so difficult to get time 7 days a week. If you can’t do something everyday, don’t skip a day of the program. Just do the poses today that you missed the day before. This is really important because this program is a balanced process i.e every day you do the opposite to what you did the day before. In this way your yoga practice will become wholistic, and you in turn will train yourself to be a wholistic being. You gotta do it reguarly though….! You don’t have to do all the positions. Just do as many as you the time and energy for. Practice each pose that you choose x2 or x3 times and hold for 6 breaths. The program works like this:

Monday: Stand

Tuesday: Sit

Wednesday: Bend Forward

Thursday: Bend Back

Friday: Balance on the Hands

Saturday: Balance on the Head and Shoulders

Sunday: R ‘n R Day!

Monday (Stand) ~ Start with Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and do some breathing followed by warm ups. Then choose from a selection of the following: Tree Pose; Eagle Pose; Horseman’s Pose; Squatting Pose; Triangle Pose; Warrior Poses I and II; Parsvakonasana; Ardha Chandrasana (against wall); Half-Dog Pose; Parsvottanasana; Prasarita Padottansana; Standing Spinal Twist; Padangusthasana. N.B. Rest in Hangover Pose after each position for at least 30 seconds. Finish with Legs up the Wall and Relaxation (Savasana) for 10 minutes.

Tuesday (Sit) ~Start with Supta Padangusthasana  followed by warm ups. Then choose from a selection of the following: Easy Pose; Sage Pose; Butterfly Pose; Upavishta Konasana; Head of a Cow Pose; Child Pose; Kneeling Pose; Arm Stretches in Kneeling Pose; Half-Lotus Pose. Finish with Child Pose and Relaxation (Savasana) for 10 minutes.

Wednesday (Bend Forward) ~Start with some breathing in semi-supine position followed by warm ups. Then choose from a selection of the following: Boat Poses; Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana); Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana); Upavishta Konasasna holding the toes. Follow with a Twist like Twisting in Easy Pose or Marichyasana I. Rest in Child Pose and finish in Relaxation Pose (Savasana) for 10 minutes.

Thursday (Bend Back) ~ Start with some breathing in Fish Pose followed by warm ups. Then choose from a selection of the following: Bridge Pose; Locust Pose; Cobra Pose; Bow Pose; Camel Pose. Afterwards go forwards and practice a few Dog Poses (Upward & Downward). Rest in Child Pose and then Legs up the Wall. Finish in Relaxation Pose (Savasana)for 10 minutes.

Friday (Balance on the Hands) ~ Start with some breathing (e.g. Clock along the Floor) followed by warm ups and Anantasana.Practice Dog Pose Sequence x12; If you have time and you are able for them, also practice Vasisthasana I and Handstand (against wall). Rest in Legs up the Wall Pose and finish in Relaxation Pose (Savasana)for 10 minutes.

Saturday (Balance on the Head and Shoulders) ~ Start with some breathing in semi-supine position followed by warm ups. Next, practice Rabbit Pose to release the neck. Follow with Headstand, Plough Pose and Shoulderstand. Start off with very short timings of 30 seconds for each pose building up to 5 minutes after a few weeks. Rest with legs up the wall and finish in Relaxation Pose (Savasana) for 10 minutes.

Sunday~ Relax in Relaxation Pose (Savasana) for 10 minutes.

CAUTION: DO NOT practice inverted positions during menstruation or if you suffer from High Blood Pressure, heart problems, eye problems like glaucoma or detached retina or if you have neck problems. DO NOT practice inversions if you are pregnant unless you had been doing them regularly before the pregnancy.

~ Proceed slowly and carefully when practicing all the poses. Work with the breath always. Listen to the body. Remember the traffic lights rule; If you get a green light, keep going; if you get an orange light, proceed with caution; if you get a red light, STOP! 

~If you have any problems, doubts, questions about any of the above, ask your yoga teacher. That’s what we’re there for!

~ Check my earlier post Tips on practicing Yoga at home for more information.

When it comes to practicing yoga at home, the best advice I can give you is something Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” One of my students once did her yoga at 4 a.m. on the deck of a cruise ship somewhere off the coast off California. All you really need is some time to yourself and a space to practice which allows you to stretch out in all directions without banging yourself off a wall or piece of furniture. Everything else is a bonus.

That said, students constantly tell me that the most difficult thing about yoga is establishing a regular practice session at home. Finding the time is the biggest obstacle. When I started doing yoga at home over 13 years ago, I had the same problem.  Out at work all day, the only thing I was fit for in the evening was slouching on the couch. Then one night, I was watching the popular soap Eastenders on telly. As usual, people were at each others throats, snarling, sniping and bitching at each other. Suddenly, a thought struck me. “What if I chucked in this show, and did yoga instead?” So every evening between 7.30 and 8.30 I  started doing a bit of yoga and was amazed to find that the energy to practice came from somewhere. In fact, I became completely revitalized and began to look forward to what became my daily dose of yoga. (Although, not quite. I took the weekends off).   I’ve never looked back. As for the soaps, I was in a doctor’s surgery, recently, and Eastenders was playing on the telly there. It hadn’t changed a bit. The characters were still snarling, sniping and bitching at each other. Even some of the actors were still the same. All I could say was “thank God, I gave it up.” In its place, I have become stronger, more flexible, more toned and most importantly, calmer.”

So if you are like most people, you will probably have to give up something in order to practice yoga regularly. A good idea is to keep a time diary for a week jotting down what you do in your free time and how long you devote to it. You will probably discover that you spend literally hours doing things like texting, twittering, watching telly and drifting through Facebook. The average person spends about 9 years watching television, alone. Some T.V. programs are wonderful but this little box doesn’t deserve 9 years of your precious life energy. The same goes for the other social media.

Once you have found a time slot for your yoga session, the next thing is to find a place where you can practice undisturbed for a little while. It doesn’t need to be a special room. I use a corner of my bedroom. It does, however, need to be quiet, warm, but not too warm, clean and roomy enough for you to stretch out in all directions without bumping against things. A little bit of wall space is essential for positions which require support. That’s it! All you need is the time and the space. However, below I have listed a few more pointers that can make your yoga practice more enjoyable and more effective.

  • Always allow at least 2 hours between eating a meal and doing yoga.
  • Tell everyone in the house that you are off-duty until they see you again. If they can’t cope with that, then the next step is an all-out strike! It’s not the ideal, but if you have no one to look after small children, get them to do the yoga with you. They will be delighted to discover that there is something they can do better than you can.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes.
  • Practice barefoot on a non-slip mat.
  • Traditionally, yoga is practiced in India at dawn when the air is cooler and the earth’s vibration is high. But it doesn’t work as well in cold, damp Ireland in January. Also people tend to be quite stiff in the morning. The main thing is to find a time that suits you and to try and do yoga at the same time and in the same place. It is more likely that you will keep up the practice if you enshrine it into your routine. By doing yoga in the same place, you will build up a lovely, peaceful vibration there which in turn will enhance your practice.
  •  To make your yoga time and space a special part of your day, you could light incense, a candle or some essential oils in a burner.
  • Have to hand any equipment that you might need: a blanket (or two) for support and also for covering yourself during relaxation; a yoga belt or a long scarf or man’s tie for accessing hard-to-reach places; a yoga block for supporting your hand in poses where you are unable to reach the floor. I used to use a plastic Lego box. But you could use a low stool, a bucket, anything that is steady and strong enough to withhold your weight.
  • Aim to practice about 3 times a week in the beginning e.g. every second day. Little and often is the key and is far more effective than one mammoth session once a week. Start with 10 minutes and build the time up slowly.
  • Always start your yoga session with some breathing to help centre and calm yourself and to mark a separation between your practice and what you were doing beforehand. Follow with Mountain Pose, warm-ups and then do a few positions. ( I will be posting various sequences in the next while). Finish by cooling down in Child Pose or Legs Up The Wall Pose (coming next week) and then spend a few minutes in Savasana.
  • Drink some water after doing yoga to help flush out toxins.