Heading to a yoga class is about more than just taking an hour for yourself and working through the poses. Your instructor painstakingly plans the poses in perfect succession, moving from one to another in the right sequence. When you don't have the time to head to class, you can sequence your own poses as long as you're aware of the general pattern your practice should follow. Doing so ensures that you get the best yogic experience whether you're at home or in class.
Each class or yoga session should start with centering poses. These are the poses that are simple and heavy on breath work. They help you to begin your practice by allowing you to focus on your breathing, banishing stress and helping your body to stretch and become more limber for the work ahead. Some ideal centering poses include standing with hands to prayer, seated half lotus pose or simply working on your breathing in a comfortable position.
A standing series that includes back stretches and the all-important Downward Dog help ease your body into yogic movement. Sun salutations that move from standing to flat back, then plank and Downward Dog work well for this purpose. You can also try seated or kneeling poses if you plan on working on inversions during your practice to further warm up and stretch your muscles.
Standing stretch poses are a natural progression from your warmup poses and salutations. This is the ideal time to work through Warrior 1, 2 and 3 or testing your flexibility in Triangle pose. Yoga props can come in handy during this section of your yoga workout, since they help extend your reach and improve your posture as you work through more intermediate poses.
Your practice should always peak with one apex pose. That is, a pose that is difficult for you and therefore requires a high degree of focus and practice. A headstand, high bridge or Crane pose would all be ideal examples of an apex pose for your yoga practice. It's OK to try the pose a few different times to see if you can improve during practice.
Finish your practice with a few resting poses to allow your body to regain balance and take some time meditation at the end of your home-grown "class." Happy Baby, fetal and Corpse pose are all prime examples of moves that can help you slow your heart rate and take some time for yourself at the end of the sequence. There's no time limit on how long you can hold a resting pose, so take your time and resume your regular activities when you feel ready.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.