Whether you're new to yoga, returning after some time off or just want to fine tune basic poses, the following sequences will provide a thorough and balanced practice to add to your day.
Morning Wake Up
This short routine is a version of a Sun Salutation, surya namaskar. It can be repeated.
- Start in Mountain Pose, close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply. Repeat this long, steady and full breath 10 times.
- Open your eyes.
- On an inhale, circle your arms overhead, bringing your palms together at the top of the circle. With the exhale, lower the palms to your heart center. Repeat these circles 10 times, linking your breath with each movement.
- With the hands at heart center, bend the knees, taking your hips back into chair pose. Pause in chair, and continue the deep breathing for three full breaths.
- Hinge forward at your hip joint and place your hands on the ground, coming into a forward fold. Bring your ribs as close to the thighs as you can, bending in the knees if necessary to keep your hands anchored to the ground.
- Inhale and flatten your back, walking your hands up your legs and pressing your chest forward.
- Exhale and step the left leg back into a low lunge. Drop the left knee, and walk your hands up to your right knee.
- Inhale and sweep your arms overhead. Hold for three to five breaths.
- Exhale and return your hands back to the ground, framing your right foot. Bring your right foot back to meet your left foot, lift your hips, coming into downward facing dog.
- Drop to the knees and bring your shoulders over your hands into a kneeling plank pose. As you exhale, slowly lower your body to the ground, keeping the elbows pointing straight back and the hands under the shoulders.
- Inhale and peel the head, neck, shoulders and chest up coming into a low cobra pose.
- Exhale, returning to downward dog.
- Inhale and step the left foot between the hands. Drop the right knee and walk your hands up to your left knee. Repeat the kneeling lunge on this side and hold for three to five breaths.
- On the next inhale, step the right foot up to meet your left foot, returning to forward fold.
- Inhale and lift halfway, flatting your back.
- Exhale back to forward fold.
- Inhale and circle the arms up to standing.
- Exhale into chair pose.
- Inhale to mountain pose.
- Repeat this sequence three to five times.
Evening Wind Down
This is a simple routine to ease out of your busy day.
- Starting in an easy seated position, bring one hand to your belly and the other hand to your heart.
- Close your eyes and begin to connect with your breath.
- Taking an inhale, feel the belly rise, then the ribs expand and the chest lift.
- Exhaling, reverse the awareness from the chest, to the ribs and to the belly.
- Repeat this breath, noticing all three parts of each inhale and each exhale, for 10 repetitions.
- Open your eyes.
- On the next inhale, reach the left arm to the sky, the palm facing in, and root down through both hips.
- Feel length in the left side.
- Hold for three full breaths.
- Switch sides.
Cat and Cow
- Coming on to hands and knees, placing the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees directly under the hips, find a flat back.
- Inhale and reach your chest forward, gazing slightly upward into cow pose.
- Exhale and take the gaze down as you bring your tailbone closer to your navel, rounding in the lower back into cat pose.
- Repeat, moving through each pose with one breath, for five repetitions.
- Return to a flat back, neutral spine.
Kneeling Side Plank
- Kickstand the left foot out to the side edge of your mat, keeping the left knee in place.
- Extend your right leg so the foot is in line with your left knee and the foot is fully on the ground.
- Place your left hand directly under your left shoulder and reach your right arm up toward the sky, coming into a kneeling side plank pose.
- Inhale and reach through the fingertips toward the sky, lifting the hips and strengthening the right leg.
- Hold for three to five breaths and return to all fours.
- Switch sides and repeat.
- Returning to all fours, reach the hips back toward the heels and stretch the arms forward, resting your forehead on the ground or on a block for child's pose.
- Rest here for five to ten breaths.
Seated Spinal Twist
The seated spinal twist should be done on both sides, holding for thirty seconds on each side.
- Coming down onto your back and bringing the knees into the chest, take an upside down pigeon pose to stretch the outer hips.
- First, place both feet on the ground, knees still bent.
- Bring the left ankle to the right thigh so the left foot comes beyond the thigh.
- If this feels good, stay here. If you need more for a good stretch, left the right leg and reach behind the thigh with both hands, pulling the leg in toward the chest.
- Keep the spine long and the gaze at the knees.
- Hold for five to 10 breaths.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
- With both knees bent, take them off to the left side coming into a reclining twist.
- Both shoulders should remain on the ground.
- For additional support, place a block or a bolster under the left knee.
- Hold for five to 10 breaths.
- Return the knees to the center and repeat on the right side.
Reclined Bound Angle With Three-Part Breath
- Bring the soles of the feet together and let the knees fall open to the side so the legs resemble a diamond shape for reclined bound angle pose.
- Place one hand on the heart and the other hand on the belly.
- Return to the deep, three-part breath you began with, trying to see how long and complete each breath can be.
- Take 10 rounds of this deep breath, closing the eyes.
Legs Up the Wall
- Find a wall that is free and clear of furniture or low-hanging pictures.
- Sitting parallel to the wall, bring your hips as close to the wall as possible.
- Lying on the ground, swing your legs so they are against the wall, feet at the ceiling. You might want to elevate the hips by using a bolster or a block underneath the sacrum.
- Let your arms rest, palms facing up, alongside the body.
- Close the eyes and rest here for up to 10 minutes.
Hips, Hamstrings, Back
Hips, hamstrings and backs seem to be problem areas for many people. A dedicated yoga practice will help relieve symptoms of weakness or unbalance in these areas. The following sequence targets hips, hamstrings and back.
- Begin lying on your back in savasana, corpse pose.
- On an inhale, draw the left knee in to your chest, grabbing from behind the knee to protect the knee joint. Strengthen and elongate your right leg, pressing both hips evenly into the ground.
- As you exhale, release your left leg to the ground and stretch both arms overhead.
- On the inhale, bring the right leg into the chest. Exhale and release, arms coming overhead.
- Continue this movement, linking with the breath, for several rounds.
- Bring both knees to your chest and gently rock side to side, giving your back a gentle massage.
- Separate your knees toward your shoulders, and then begin to move them separately in a figure eight motion. This might feel awkward, as one knee comes forward and around and the other moves in the opposite direction, back and around. Continue to move slowly in as wide of circles as you can.
- Pause and bring both feet to the floor, keeping your knees bent.
- Bring your arms alongside your body, palms face down. Turn your gaze to your thighs.
- On an inhale, press your feet into the ground and begin to roll up from the lower back all the way through the middle back, pressing your shoulders into the ground and making your way into bridge pose.
- On the exhale, gently lower to the ground. Inhale and lift again. Exhale and lower. Repeat for five more rounds.
- Roll onto your belly and bring your arms alongside your body, palms facing up. With your forehead to the ground, take an inhale and begin to lift your head, neck, shoulders and chest into locust pose. Arms lift, then legs lift. If there is any lower back pain here, keep the legs lowered and the tops of the feet glued to the ground. Hold for three to five breaths. Rest, then repeat for three to five breaths.
- Bring your hands under your shoulders and press up and back into child's pose. Rest here for up to one minute, concentrating on bringing the tailbone toward your heels.
- Stretch your arms forward and lift your elbows, tuck your toes under and lift your hips moving into downward facing dog.
- Bring your left foot between your hands and drop your back knee to the ground. Heel-toe your left foot to the edge of your yoga mat and bring your left hand on the inside of the foot, coming into lizard pose. Your left knee can come out to the side, putting weight toward the outer edge of your foot. Stay here for five to 10 long breaths.
- Walk the left foot back in line with the hip, then move the hips back so the left leg can extend into half splits. Pull the foot back, bringing the toes toward the face, and the chest toward the toes. If you have blocks, rest each hand on a block positioned on either side of the thighs. Stay here for five to 10 breaths.
- Rock forward onto the full left foot and return to downward dog.
- Step the right foot between the hands and repeat lizard pose and half splits on the other side.
- Return to downward dog, then finish in child's pose.
Ease Into It
It can be a challenge to get your body into some of these positions, even the ones that look easy. Remember that your body changes from day to day and to let go of any expectations you may have about yourself, your practice or where you "should" be. Honor the place where you are when you step on your mat and know that getting there is an accomplishment in itself.