by SMY Teacher Emily Isovitsch
A home practice can often be the thing that takes our yoga practice to the next level, on and off the mats. It allows us the ability to take what we learn in class and spend more time absorbing and moving around with that knowledge. We can feel and listen to our bodies, spending unlimited time in poses and move around in ways that are new.
There’s often a misguided thought that our home practice (any practice for that matter) has to be vigorous. In reality our practice (regardless of where it happens) is about giving our bodies what we need at that given time. Yes, it can be sweat inducing and filled with inversions OR it could be as much as a few simple twists, and being in savasana for 15 minutes before bed. Dedicating your time to a home practice can help reverse the effects of daily sitting habits and keep us mobile and mindful in between our studio classes.
In our home, practice generally consists of a few juicy hamstring stretches and rolling around on our tennis balls while we catch up on “Game of Thrones.” While you won’t find that on Light on Yoga, it’s what our bodies need at the time – giving us space and lightless before we truly settle in for the evening.
The following is a gentle home practice for you to do at anytime of the day. You can do this alone or as a beginning or end to a more vigorous practice. Try one or all of the following exercises at home at anytime. Only have five minutes? Pick one or two of your favorites. Hold and do each one for as long as you need.
Let us know how it goes!
Cat/Cow: This classic opening series flexes and extends our spine in all directions and is always a great general warm-up and relaxation for the spine. Classically we inhale during cow when the chest is expanded and exhale during cat when we’re in more of a compressed position. Try it the opposite way and see how it goes. Press the hands down to keep from sinking into the shoulders.
Supta Padangusthasana: (Use a strap, belt or bathrobe belt) Supta Padangusthasana is great for stretching and relaxing the backs of the legs. Place your belt of choice around the ball of your foot and extend up towards the ceiling through the heel letting the legs be at 90 degrees or less. If it’s available straighten the bottom leg and keep it heavy on the floor. Don’t have a strap or a belt? Try a bath towel rolled up.
Side Stretches in Child’s Pose: If we sit all day, over time we develop the tendency to collapse all sides of our torso. This is great for lengthening and stretching the entire back body. Extend your arms all the way forward and reach your hips way back towards your heels. Walk your fingers to one side of the mat and move your hips to the opposite back corner of the mat. Switch sides.
Supported Matsyasana (Fish Pose): Fish Pose is a great one to open the chest and relax the upper back Let one block or book support your upper back where the shoulder blades are. Let the second block of book support your head. Change the height of the blocks to accommodate how open your chest is at the time. Have pain in your lower back when practicing this pose? Bend your knees, place your feet on the floor. Lift and length your buttock flesh towards your heels and re-lower the hips. Keep the knees bent.
Half or Full Happy Baby: Happy Baby opens and relaxes the hips. Draw one knee in towards the chest and grab a hold of the calf, ankle or outside of the foot. Rock side to side a few times. Feel tightness when grabbing both feet? (I sure do!) Do half Happy Baby by grabbing one foot (breath and rock) and then switch sides.
Easy Twists: Extend your arms out to a T. Draw the knees into the chest. Twist the knees up and over to one elbow. Release the knees down towards the floor. Hold and then switch sides. Practicing with a loved one at home? Have them put one hand on your shoulder and one on the top hip. They can apply some gentle pressure and lengthen the shoulder and hip in opposite directions. Do you have space in between your legs when you twist? Put a blanket or two in between the upper inner thighs to help relax the groin muscles.
Vipariti Karani (Legs up the Wall): Medieval texts claimed that extended practice of this pose will cease gray hair and surely cure death! While we can take that with a grain of salt, more modern thoughts on this pose state that it helps with anxiety, insomnia, digestive problems, headaches, arthritis and many more.
To practice – put your legs up the wall! If your hamstrings are tight, move your hips away from the wall and let the legs be at more of an angle. See below.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, shoot us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy practicing!
Emily Isovitsch, 200 RYT, is a certified yoga teacher in the YogaWorks method, and an avid baker. She completed her 200 teacher training in NYC under Julie Melk and Healther Seagraves. She is currently working to complete her 300 hour training through YogaWorks.
Emily teaches a fun, alignment based class built off of compassion and patience for the body and how it moves. She loves working with beginners and giving them a safe space to develop a practice off and on the mat. She believes in patience for the body and mind, and taking her yoga practice off the mat by eating cake and making pasta from scratch. Simply put – Sutra 1.2 says Yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah – Yoga is the calming of the mind. And nothing calms her more than making red velvet cake.
Find out more about Emily at her website, http://www.emilysyoga.com, or check out her “Bedhead” class–Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:00 am, or catch her Basic level class on Tuesdays at 10:45.