Does yoga ever feel complicated? Do you find yourself wondering what poses to do at home? Are you ever confused about how to start and how to end?
If you answered yes to any of the above then feel comforted that you are not alone.
Before I became a yoga teacher I was always wondering how to do yoga at home. Sure I could throw youtube on or watch a DVD, but then I spent the whole time watching the instructor, pausing to try the pose and then rewinding to do it as a flow. It was annoying. What I wanted was to be able to do a simple practice without an instructor. Something that I didn't have to think about but I could still reap benefits from.
As a teacher I have kept this in mind and have made it a point to always teach with the emphasis on doing the practice at home. One way I do this is by pointing out specific poses that can be done throughout the day at a desk or while standing. And the other I build their home practice is through the use of the sun salutations, specifically Sun A. The simplicity of the poses in Sun A as well as the limited number of them make this an ideal sequence to memorize and do on your own. In a Sun salutation you are able to practice all the aspects of any yoga sequence in a shortened flow that can be repeated as many times as a person desires.
Lets break it down:
You start in Mountain pose with your hands on each side of your body, facing forward at the front of your mat. On an inhale you will raise your hands up to the sky bringing them together in namaste and turning your gaze to rest on the two thumbs.
Then you will exhale and bending at your hips you will move into a forward fold.
It is ok if your legs are not completely strait or if your belly doesn't touch your thighs. In fact often times this won't happen for many years because of tightness in the back and in the hamstrings. It's important not to force yourself into this pose. Bend your knees if you find yourself barely able to fold forward.
On an inhale you will straiten your back, lift your head and turn your gaze forward. In this position you may need to slide your hands up your legs so that you can rest in a comfortable strait back. For some people they will be able to come into strait back while leaving their hands on the ground or coming to their fingertips.
After strait back you will exhale and place your hands on the ground and walk your feet back so that you come into a high plank.
Once you are in high plank you will want to ready yourself for chaturanga. Chaturanga is best described as a push up with your elbow hugged into your side. It is ok to come to your knees and then lower down or to lower your belly all the way down. For some people they will stop with their head about 2 inches from the floor in chaturanga. If you have a sore back it is ok to raise the bum a bit as you lower down. This is a good pose to build upper body strength and is difficult to do without variations.
After chaturanga you will inhale and push your head up and chest out into upward dog. It is helpful to have a slight bend in the elbows for this pose although many times we want to straiten them. It is also helpful to roll the shoulders back if possible instead of pushing them forward. Rest the top of your feet on the ground in this pose and either hold your body slightly off the ground or start your back bend at the waist and allow the entire leg to be touching the mat.
Next you will exhale and tuck your toes under pushing your hips back and coming into the most well known yoga pose, downward dog. Here you will hold for 5 even breaths. This is technically an inversion and inversion poses are very important for health. However, they should be done with caution for individuals with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular or vertigo issues.
To come out of down dog you will glance up at your hands and either walk your feet forward or walk your hands back to meet your feet. As you do this inhale and raise your head up and come into a nice strait back again.
Then exhale and forward fold
Inhale and raise your hands up...
And then exhale your hands down to your side.
As you can see this makes one full circle. You end as you began. This is a sun A.
Now go practice!