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Episode 80: Bonus Episode! How to Craft Your Own Short, Effective Home Yoga Sequences

You’ve probably heard people say that a short yoga practice is better than no yoga practice. Jason and I heartily agree — but it can still be hard to carve out the time. I think the root problem is that it’s hard to step on your mat solo and know what to do. This episode will help you get over the avoidance. We talk strategy and Jason offers three concrete, easy approaches to creating a home practice sequence that suits your mood, your energy level, and your time crunch.


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RECOMMENDED & RELATED LINKS
Sun Salutations Sequence: Surya Namaskar A
Sun Salutations Sequence: Surya Namaskar B
30-Minute Morning Sequence
Evening Wind-Down Sequence
Whole Body Sequence

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Essential Sequence: Winning in Warrior III

WHY THIS SEQUENCE WORKS

I spent my first two years of yoga avoiding Warrior III. Then, I spent another year avoiding it. Finally, after avoiding it for an additional 15 years, I’ve made it a mainstay of my practice. What can I say? I guess it takes me a while to warm up to things that expose my weaknesses, knock me off balance, and frustrate my ego. I have to admit, I actually like it now.

Part of the reason I avoided the pose was that I didn’t feel that I should struggle with it nearly as much as I was. The degree of difficultly that I experienced didn’t seem commensurate with the challenge of the pose. After all, standing postures like Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, arm balances like Eka Pada Galavasana, and balancing in inversions like Forearm Balance and Handstand weren’t very difficult for me. But, three seconds into Warrior III and I would topple over.

Now that I’m no longer avoiding the pose, I’ve figured out a few things that make it much more accessible and effective. Go figure, now that I’m not avoiding something, I’m actually learning about it—shocker. What incredible insights yoga teachers have, right?

Here are the things that I’m focusing on in the pose:

1) Strongly rooting down through the base of the big toe.
2) Strongly adducting both thighs toward each other like I’m squeezing a block.
3) Engaging the spinal muscles and hamstrings (of the top leg) like I’m doing Locust Pose.
4) Firmly pressing my hands together in Anjali Mudra for a few breaths to help me feel the midline of my body before reaching my arms forward.
5) Holding my breath, thinking about the future, judging myself, and assigning blame to others.

Here’s a quick sequence to help you build up to Warrior III. I’ve been enjoying this sequence quite a bit lately.

POSES 1-2

Simple, straightforward reclined Hamstring and Adductor lengthening to prepare for the upcoming demands of Warrior III.

POSES 3-4

Paripurna Navasana and Ardha Navasana pair perfectly to strengthen your core. Bringing your attention to your center early in this sequence will help you keep your attention focused on your midline when you get the wobbles in Warrior III later.

POSES 5-6

These two poses help you transition from the reclined and seated postures to the upcoming standing postures.

POSES 7-9

This is a progression of standing balances with the legs abducted and externally rotated. These postures will get you tuned in to standing balances and they’re typically easier than the upcoming standing balances.

POSES 10-12

These three postures shift the orientation of the legs and hips into the same orientation as the upcoming Warrior III.

POSES 13-15

Parsvottanasana gives you one more opportunity to prepare your hamstrings for Warrior III. Many teachers transition into Warrior III from Warrior I. I prefer transitioning into Warrior III from a high lunge. I think it makes more sense for the hips. Check it out and see what you think.

Want to practice this sequence at home? When you sign up for our newsletter we’ll send you a free printer-friendly PDF of the sequence!

AND, if you want to feel more confident and knowledgeable about your sequencing skills, check out my e-course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing. It’s great for yoga teachers and students who want to better understand how the body works and how to stretch and strengthen effectively.

{illustration by MCKIBILLO}

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10 Creative Ways to Inspire Your Yoga Practice This Summer

When summer rolls around, yoga practice can fall by the wayside — the longer days mean we spend more time outdoors, we travel, those of us who have kids deal with changing schedules. So, to keep you inspired, Jason and I are doing a six-episode summer podcast series!

For episode 1, we offer 10 creative ways to inspire your yoga practice this summer. You can listen to the episode by clicking here. And, we took notes for you, which you can find below.

1. KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET

Most of us are accustomed to a 60-90 minute studio practice, so it’s easy to feel like a 15-30 minute practice isn’t worth it. But Jason makes the point that doing a little bit every day can have a big impact and he uses the slightly gross but still apt metaphor of brushing your teeth. Is it better to brush your teeth for a few minutes each day? Or better to go to a dentist once a week for 90 minutes? Bottom line: Take advantage of and value short practices!

2. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU LOVE

If you have a consistent, longstanding home practice then it makes sense to work on poses that challenge you. But if you’re new to home practice, emphasize poses you love. You want to make doing yoga something you look forward to and something that’s fun, not a chore. Another Jason metaphor: If you’ve never cooked at home, would you teach yourself to cook by starting with your least favorite dishes or your most favorite?

3. BE FLEXIBLE WITH THE TIME OF DAY

There’s a longstanding recommendation to practice yoga in the morning. And for most of us, this makes sense — we start the day off feeling clear and the day doesn’t get away from us. But when your schedule changes, it’s important to be flexible and fit your practice in when you can. Jason almost exclusively practices at night when his schedule is throwing him a curveball. If he’s teaching weekends or trainings, he does light evening practice to stay connected.

4. BE FLEXIBLE WITH INTENSITY

If you typically practice in a studio, you’ll probably normalize a certain degree of physical intensity and a different intensity won’t feel as valuable. But if you want your practice to be “portable” and accessible to you when life throws your curveballs (like when you’re traveling or when you’re sick), then you have to be willing to do a moderate intensity practice from time to time. Remember that a key component that differentiates asana practice from other physical endeavors is that it’s not just about pushing through — it’s about tuning into how you’re feeling and creating an appropriate response.

5. DON’T THINK YOU HAVE TO REPLICATE A STUDIO CLASS IN YOUR HOME PRACTICE

We’ve touched on this in the previous tips, but think of it this way: The difference between going to a yoga studio and practicing yoga at home is like the difference beteween going to a Michelin-star restaurant and eating a home cooked meal. You’re not only going to eat at fancy restaurants and you wouldn’t judge a home-cooked meal on a standards of a well-trained chef.

6. TRY AN ONLINE PROGRAM

YogaGlo has a new series of online programs that are amazing (if we do say so ourselves). You can select a program that you want to do and then schedule the weekly classes into your calendar and it will email you reminders. Jason and several other teachers like Amy Ippoliti, Stephanie Snyder, Claire Missingham, and all have programs on YogaGlo that you can check out.

7. USE YOUR YOGA PRACTICE AS A COMPLEMENT TO YOUR SUMMER ACTIVITIES

Spend more time outside hiking, biking, or swimming in the summer? Then use them as a muse for your practice. Instead of working toward peak poses, do poses that balance out the hunched position of the upper back while you’re on a bike or the tightness in your quads from hiking.

8. PRINT OUT SEQUENCES FROM OUR SITE

Find inspiration around you! Here are sequences from our site that you can download and practice with:

FOUNDATIONAL SEQUENCES

Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A)
Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar B)
30-Minute Whole Body Sequence
30-Minute Morning Sequence
Evening Wind Down
Immune Booster
Two Core Yoga Routines
Ease into Urdhva Dhanurasana
Open into Hanumanasana

SEATED POSES

Quick Hip Openers
Fold into Lotus Pose
16-Pose Sequence to Help You Progress in Compass Pose
Parivrtta Janu Sirasana

INVERSIONS

The Perfect Shoulderstand Prep
Refine Your Headstand
A Shoulder Opening Sequence to Forearm Balance

ARM BALANCES

Twist into Eka Pada Koundinyasana I
Pigeon + Chaturanga = Eka Pada Galavasana
Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose)
Bakasana (Crow Pose)
Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow)
Build Your Vasisthasana (Side Plank)

9. VALUE CONSISTENCY

The most important component of a physical or fitness regime is consistency. You truly don’t need to do big huge intense practices; you just need a consistent ongoing relationship with your body and breath. You need to come back to it time and time again.

10. TRY SOMETHING NEW!

If you’re practice is feeling stale or stuck, try a new class or a new teacher or a new studio! It can really freshen things up and give you a new perspective and rekindle your interest in the practice.

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Essential Sequence: Pigeon + Chaturanga = Eka Pada Galavasana

flying-pigeon_crop

WHY THIS SEQUENCE WORKS

Eka Pada Galavasana is not an easy posture, but it’s a simple posture. If you take a step back and look at the pose, you’ll see it’s a combination of Pigeon Pose and Chaturanga Dandasana. Even more precisely, it’s Pigeon Pose on top of Chaturanga. This means that there’s no mystery when it comes to sequencing for Eka Pada Galavasana: Your job is to prepare yourself (or your students) for a solid, skillful Chaturanga and a spacious, supple Pigeon Pose. The sequence above does this by focusing on core strength, upper body strength, and outer hip flexibility. Here’s a detailed look at the method behind the sequence:

POSES 1 & 2

If you’ve practiced with me live, on yogaglo, or with these sequencing illustrations, you’ve probably figured out that I start a ton of sequences on my back. This is a reflection of my personal practice which almost invariably commences with me laying on the floor—especially if I know that I’m going to work hard later in the sequence. It’s an incredibly effective, low energy way to create mobility in the hips, hamstrings, and spine. The first two postures provide good bang for your buck. They require very little effort and they produce a fair amount of leverage to start chipping away at hip tension.

POSES 3 – 5

Not everything you practice on your back is effortless. This combination of reclined arm balances will wake up your core, get your blood moving, and heat your body in very little time.

POSES 6 & 7

Now that your body is a little warmer after your reclined arm balances, it’s time to dig into your hips a little deeper. Postures 6 and 7 will help warm up your body for the even deeper outer hip openers that directly precede Eka Pada Galavasana.

POSTURES 8 & 9

I wrote earlier that Eka Pada Galavasana was a combination of Pigeon and Chaturanga. I’m sticking with this assessment, but there’s an important nuance that postures 8 & 9 address. Neither Pigeon nor Chaturanga require significant engagement of your hamstrings or spinal muscles, but, Eka Pada Galavasana does. Your hamstrings and spinal muscles help elevate your back leg in Eka Pada Galavasana–this isn’t required in Pigeon or Chaturanga. Postures 8 & 9 help integrate these muscles into your overall body awareness so that you’re ready to use them in the upcoming arm balance.

POSTURES 10 – 13

This is a straightforward progression of deeper and deeper outer hip openers that culminates in Eka Pada Galavasana. If you struggle to get your shin on top of your elbows and place your hands on the floor, your hips may be too tight for the pose. If this is the case, practice the hip openers in this sequence more consistently. If you can get the position above, but struggle to lift your bottom foot and straighten your bottom leg toward the back of the mat, you may need to work on core, upper-body, and spinal strength. Good luck!

Want to practice this sequence at home? If you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you free printer-friendly PDF of the sequence above!

AND, if you want to feel more confident and knowledgeable about your sequencing skills, check out my e-course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing. It’s great for yoga teachers and students who want to better understand how the body works and how to stretch and strengthen effectively.

{illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

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16-Pose Sequence to Help You Progress in Compass Pose

16 Poses to Help You Progress in Compass Pose

I hear more sweet sighs of relief when I teach sequences that focus on side-bends than any other posture category. Side-bending in poses like Compass releases tension in the lats, obliques, and QLs, leaving students in a momentary state of suspension where everything feels better than it did a moment ago.

Compass Pose is a deep side bend that differs from its close relatives, Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana and Parivrtta Upavistha Konasana (poses 14 & 15): The upright, regal nature of the pose requires you to engage your core and spinal muscles. Instead of using gravity and laying your torso down into the pose, you have to work a little harder to lift up and lengthen your spine.

To meet these increased demands, this 16-pose sequence will:
1) Open your hamstrings and adductors.
2) Bring your awareness to your core and spinal muscles.
3) Stretch your side-body, including your lats, obliques, and quadratus lumborum muscles.

Here’s a closer look at the logic of my Compass Pose sequence.

>> Shameless plug time: To learn more and refine your sequencing, anatomy, and pose know-how, I’d love to work with you next year in San Francisco where I’m teaching an advanced 500-hour teacher training. <<

Poses 1-3

: These three versions of Down Dog will help you settle into your practice and begin opening your body for Compass pose. The one-legged variation of Down Dog will accentuate the stretch in your bottom leg, while the one-legged variation with the twist will provide your first side-bend of the sequence. Feel free to lean back—almost like you’re going to “flip your dog”—and indulge the stretch in your side-body. Stay for as many breaths in these 3 poses as you like.

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