Welcome to 7 Whales Studio Yoga!
Yoga is a big part of our lives and we are happy to share it with you here. I, Lauren, have had my personal home practice for over 17 years, and of those 17 years I have taught for 8 of them. I have both my 200hr ad 500hr RYT and am registered with Yoga Alliance. In my experience, in regards to the Asana practice (what is commonly thought of as yoga) the most important thing is to know how to move through the poses correctly according to your body.
Everyone's body is different, from the bone structure to strength and flexibility. What's more is one's body behaves differently throughout the day, so in doing your asana practice, you first want to listen to your body and then adjust your practice accordingly. For example, early in the morning my body is not ready to do deep stretches, so I start my practice slow by paying attention to my breath and moving gently through asanas (yoga poses) to wake up my muscles and my joints. In contrast, around midday, I chose a practice that is more active, building the asanas in a way to prepare me for my peak asana of the day. This would typically be the most challenging asana for me. Then, in the evening, my body is preparing for sleep, so I would rather do a yin yoga practice where my body would be propped up with bolsters, blocks, and anything other props needed to allow it to relax into various asanas for up to 5 min at a time.
My goal in sharing this information is, hopefully, to dispel any fear that you would have in beginning an asana practice and to help those that wish to build their own home practice. My home practice has allowed me to have more control over the pace of my practice and which asanas I chose for the day. Each asana has its its own benefits but also can alleviate or aggrivate your doshas. This is another reason why it is best to listen to your body before you start your daily asana practice.
This being said, there are several different types of asana practices, and which one is best for you depends, well, on you. It is good to try different types of asana practices to better understand what is best for you. It is also teaches you new ways to move through the asanas, which can reinvigorate your home practice.
Here I will dissect the foundational asanas of the asana practice. Now let's get started.
Gentle Intro to Yoga
The Breath is what the asana practice is built on. You will move through the asanas based on your inhales and exhales. At the beginning of your practice, start in a comfortable seated position place your hands in a chin mudra (this is your index finger and your thumb touching just the skin not the nails) and rest your hands on your knees. Focus on your breath. Feel your ribs expand in your front, sides, and back on your inhale and feel them contract on your exhale. Your exhales are longer than you inhales. Then listen to your body. Notice where you feel tension in your body. Inhale into that tension and as you exhale feel the tension release. You can do that as many times as you would like throughout the practice or even throughout the day. You can stay here as long as you would like, I usually will for about 2-3 minutes. This allows me to settle my thoughts and tune into the type of practice I want to have for that day. Then, when you are ready to continue, on your exhale bring your chin to your chest open your eyes and on your inhale lift your head.
Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) is practiced in an effort to balance your mind and body. The theory is that we have Nadis which I will liken to energy channels that run all through our body. This includes our Chakras. When we breath through our right nostril, it gives us more energy and makes us more awake. When we breath through the left nostril it calms us down and prepares us for rest. Now, you may find that during the day, one nostril feels more open than the other, and this is totally natural. They alternate about every two hours through out the day. In Nadi Shodhana we are intentionally performing alternate nostril breathing, to balance the body and mind.
-Sit in a comfortable seated position and place your left hand in Chin Mudra (thumb and first finger touching) resting on your knee, and you right hand in Vishnu Mudra (first and second finger folded down towards the palm; thumb, third and fourth finger away from the palm).
- Close off your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril
- Then switch nostrils now closing off your left nostril with your right third finger (ring finger). Exhale right nostril. Inhale right nostril.
-Switch and exhale left nostril. You have done one round. Then continue...
Inhale left, switch, Exhale right.
Inhale right, switch, Exhale Left.
I will normally do about 10 rounds in my home practice, however, there are many different theories on how many rounds you should do or how long you should do them for. It is best to listen to your body and mind for what is best for you.
Here, when I say vinyasa, I am referring to the sequences of asana that may be done in between other asanas. It is one of the most foundational sequences as it makes up a part of the Sun Salutations.
- First, come into your High Plank. Try to keep your hips down making a line from the crown of your head to the bottom of your feet.
- Inhale, come up on the tips of your toes.
-Exhale, bend your elbows at a 90˚ angle bringing them to your sides for Chaturanga Dandasana. Make sure your shoulders don't dip past your elbows.
- Inhale, push into hands and straighten your arms arching your back. Keep your gaze forward.
- Exhale, push into the knuckles of your hands and into your heels for downward facing dog.
From here you can repeat the vinyasa or you can continue to your next asana.
I am, gradually, adding more to our 7 Whales Studio Yoga. Please, stay tuned!