Developing a Home Practice: How to Sequence a Practice

Restorative Poses

These balancing and settling poses can be thrown into a practice pretty much anywhere: at the beginning as a nice transition into a contemplative frame of mind after a hectic day or a night’s sleep; in the middle as a transition from one set of poses to another, at the end as a period of integration after the work you’ve done. You don’t even have to get involved in a full practice to enjoy these poses. I will often set myself up in a simple restorative pose between classes to center myself and gather myself up for the rest of my day.

It is extremely important not to neglect the restorative poses, as they give the both the physical body and the subtle body a chance to recover. Women in particular need to avoid practicing inversions and focus on restorative poses during their menstrual period. And, even though men do not have the monthly physiological changes of the female menstrual cycle, they also ought to allow themselves regular periods of an exclusively restorative practice that does include inversions to help regulate their hormonal balance.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

This is, unquestionably, the one pose that does make a yoga practice. (See the article "Shavasana: Corpse Pose" from April 2006.) It is in Shavasana that the gross and the subtle have a chance to merge. The shifts and changes you have put your body through have a chance to integrate in this pose, both on the gross and the subtle level. The release of body, mind and breath in the pose is the first step towards practice of pranayama (breath control), and dhyana (meditation), the more subtle and internal practices of Patañjali’s eight-limbed path.

The Flow of a Practice

Think of this as an extremely general guide that should be altered according to your mood and energy:

    1) CENTER your mind and body with a few moments in a seated pose.
    2) ACTIVATE the body gently or BALANCE/SETTLE the body if anxious, stressed or over-worked with simple poses.
    3) ACTIVATE the body further with standing poses and/or backward extensions.
    4) SETTLE the body and mind with seated poses, inversions or twists.
    5) BALANCE the body with forward extensions, twists or restorative poses.
    6) SETTLE the body and mind further with deep relaxation.

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