My students often ask me how often I practice yoga. When I say I aim for 5-6 days a week I often see a look of fear on their faces. Do you really need to dedicate time each day to see the benefits of a yoga practice? To answer that questions depends on how you define yoga. Do I do an energetic 90 minute vinyasa flow practice every day? Definitely not. Do I make the time to practice some form of mindful movement every day? Yes, and when I don't I can feel the difference- in my health, in my mood, and in my productivity. But sometimes it's the restorative poses, rather than the more challenging yoga poses that can bring the most benefit. If you live with chronic illness, you've probably been forced to learn this already. Everyone else can take a lesson from us in learning how to slow it down sometimes :). So now I present to you my five favourite yoga poses. Give these a try and see if you can create a satisfying home practice!
1) Childs Pose
There are two ways to try childs pose. The more traditional way to do the pose is as pictured above. Keeping your knees and feet together, lean forward so that your forehead is resting on the ground. Then place your hands alongside the body, palms facing up. A different way to do the pose, is to open the knees up as wide as the mat while keeping the feet together. Walk the hands forward until the forehead is resting on the mat and keep your arms stretched in front of you, palms resting on the floor. I love starting my practice with this pose as it loosens up the hips and thights, relaxes the back and shoulders, and helps shut out the world, getting the mind ready for meditation. Try holding this pose for 3-5 minutes and notice how you feel afterwards!
2) Coblers Pose
Also referred to as 'butterfly pose' from my childhood days. Bringing the soles of the feet together, let your knees fall out to the side. To try a more relaxing version of the yoga pose, move the feet a few inches away from the body and release over the legs. Let the spine round and the head drop. Maybe bringing a block or pillow to rest your head on. Again try holding this pose for about 3 minutes. If your hips start to feel sore beyond the normal stretching, it's time to come out of the pose.
3) Forward Fold
This is where you get to be creative! Any forward fold is great for stimulating the rest and digest nervous system in the body. You can simply cross your legs and find a place to rest your head, or stretch your legs out in front of you (bending as much as needed) to combine this with a hamstring stretch.
Can't do a headstand? Neither can I! But resting your legs on the wall as pictured above has all of the same benefits! Keeping your legs higher than your heart is what really counts in any inversion. So no, you don't need to get fancy here! Sometimes resting your hips on a cushion against the wall can give this pose a nice twist. Experiment to find out what works best for you! This is a very important pose in Ashtanga yoga, so try to stay in this position for 5 minutes.
My favourite pose in any class! Savasana, or, corpse pose. Yes, it really is just lying down. You can also do it sitting if you prefer to do a seated meditation. I love a long Savasana (in fact, if anyone wants to get me a gift an "I'm just here for the savasana" shirt would be idea; ;p). In my classes I try to make sure we get in 10 minutes, but in my home practice I can sometimes go for 15 or 20. If you are feeling to tired to do any of the other poses mentioned above, you really can just lay in bed and get the benefits. It's all about the state of mind. Try switching on a guided meditation if your mind starts to wander, and enjoy!