3 Questions to Guide Your Home Practice
Once you’ve established a regular time and place for your daily home practice, you can start to vary it to fit your mood, energy level, and physical needs. Whether you prefer practicing in the morning or at night, asking the following three questions daily will guide you in choosing the best practices for you.
Question #1: How Am I Today?
Start by checking in with yourself. What is your energy level? How does your body feel? What is your state of mind? Knowing how you are feeling and what you need from your practice will guide you in choosing the most appropriate poses and breath practices.
For example, if you wake up tired because your back was aching all night, then you might choose to lay on the floor and do poses that bring some mobility to your spine. Similarly, if you find yourself depleted after work, lying down with your legs propped up in Legs Up the Wall (Vipariti Karani) can help you find that second wind to get through your evening.
*See this video for three (3) different versions of Legs Up the Wall.
Question #2: Where and When Am I?
Once you’ve tuned into yourself, next tune into the world around you, in particular the seasons and the weather. To counteract the chill of cold winter days, choose invigorating poses, such as Warrior I (Virabhdrasana I) or Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana). Or do 5-8 rounds of Kapalabhati breathing (Skull-shining breath) to generate more body heat and warm you up. On the other hand, when the dog-days of summer arrive, practices that cool the body, such as Standing Wide Leg Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana) or Cooling Breath (Sitali pranayama) can bring much needed relief.
Time of day plays an important role as well. Early mornings before sunrise lend themselves to a quiet, introspective practice. Starting slowly, by focusing on joint rotations, wakes up your body and mind. Once warmed up, you can engage larger muscles. One way to do this is to do two or three seated poses, followed by one or two kneeling poses and gradually move towards active standing poses, such as Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar).
*Try this energizing 15-minute seated core strengthening practice.
Question #3: What Needs Balancing?
The answer to the first question, “How am I today?” provides insight into this third one. The purpose of yoga is to bring peace and harmony to our bodies and minds. Noticing what is out of balance, whether there is too much or too little of quality present, is an important guiding question.
For instance, if you feel heavy and tired, you might favor poses that bring more lightness into body. Reaching your arms and gaze up in Mountain pose (Tadasana) can lift your spirits to provide a greater sense of equilibrium. Conversely, if your mind is distracted or racing, grounding your awareness through seated or reclining poses, such as Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana) or Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), can bring stability to both body and mind.
*Watch this video to learn a calming, balancing breath technique.
The question of what to do once you are on your mat can be tricky. Using these three questions to guide your choices will assist you in tailoring your daily practice to bring harmony to body, mind and spirit. You won’t necessarily get it right every time, but with repetition you’ll become more skilled at selecting the best practices for you. Happy practicing!