The morning class has a different focus each week. It could be standing poses, forward bends, back-bends or relaxation. The focus this week was relaxation.
In the evening class the focus is on developing a sequence of poses. We are currently working on the basics of Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) and some of the basic standing poses which we’ll eventually incorporate into the Sun Salutation. You can read more information about both classes below.
I also watched a really interesting video about how to practice (anything) effectively. The video also explains why practicing something, anything, is really, really good for keeping your brain and body healthy. There’s a link to the video at the bottom of the page.
The morning classes this week were slightly different. In Shire we practiced a couple of standing poses and used visualisation to practice as well. In Sea Mills we didn’t practice any standing poses, at all!
We started, as usual, sitting cross-legged on a block. This is when we ground ourselves and bring our attention to practicing yoga. Establish a good posture, keep an even pressure on both sitting bones. Make the spine erect, lift the chest, keep the shoulders down away from the ears. Bring your hands together in front of your chest. Breathe.
Working with the breath was a feature throughout the lesson. A good rhythm to establish is inhale for a count of 5, pause, exhale for a count of 5, pause, inhale for a count of 5…
Next we mobilised the hips and spine. Staying in the seated position fold at the hips and put the hands on the floor in front of the shins. Introduce a gentle stretch, then walk the hands round to the right, using the stomach muscles to take your belly button over your right thigh. Keep an even pressure on both sitting bones, don’t allow one to lift off the floor. Walk your hands round to the left. Change the cross of your legs and repeat.
Next we limbered up using Setu Bhanda, or Bridge pose. Inhale (for a count of 5) to left the spine off the mat. Start with the lower back and gradually lift each vertebrae off the mat. You may feel a stretch in the thigh. Pause. Exhale (for a count of 5) slowly lower back down. Repeat a few times.
After this we did an abdominal twist. Lie on your back with the knees bent, soles of the feet on the floor, arms out in a t-shape a shoulder height with the palms on the floor. Inhale, then exhale and let the knees fall to the right. Inhale to come back to centre, then exhale and let the knees fall to the left. Inhale to come back to centre and repeat. You can also turn the head the opposite way to the knees to mobilise along the entire length of the spine.
In Shire the next pose was a combination of cat pose and cow pose. Use the breathing rhythm again. Inhale for 5, pause, exhale for 5, pause, inhale for 5…Keep going for a few breaths, at least 6. More if comfortable. In Sea Mills we sat in Baddha Konasana, and then spent a few minutes in Supta Baddha Konasana (lying flat on the back).
At the Cotswold Centre (in Shire) we practiced a couple of standing poses:
Vrksasana (Tree) – to help improve our ability to focus and balance. We then practiced visualising the pose before repeating the physical pose again.
Trikonasana – to open the chest and stretch the hamstrings.
Then we stretched out with Adho Mukha Svanasana. This inverted pose helps to calm the body and gives a good stretch as well! From kneeling, bum on heels, fold at the hips and bring the forehead to the mat. Stretch your hands away from you. Inhale to come to all fours, tuck the toes under, then push with the hands and feet to lift the hips as high as possible. Keep the legs straight. On each exhalation relax the heels down towards the floor. After 4-5 breaths come back down to kneeling with your head on the mat and rest for a few breaths. We repeated this 3 times.
At the community centre in Sea Mills we avoided standing poses and continued with seated asana. First of all Eka Pada Rajakapotanasana (pigeon pose) to stretch the hips, front of the thigh and lower back. Then some flexibility work – Janu Sirsasana. Classically you would do this on the floor, but it can be modified by using two chairs. Place the chairs facing each other. Sit on the front edge of one chair and raise one heel onto the facing chair. Establish a good posture in the spine, then bend forward to stretch the hamstrings.
We also practiced a supported version of Savasana, using blocks for support under the spine and shoulders. Use 4 blocks to create a T shape, two blocks touching on the short end to create the bottom of the T, and two blocks across the top, which is where the shoulders go. Lie down on the blocks, your tailbone at the bottom of the T and your shoulders at the top of the T. Then move back slightly until the tops of your shoulders touch the floor and your chest is nice and open. Relax the spine onto the blocks. Breathe.
Then it was into Virasana, for two reasons. One, it’s a good pose for calming the body and encourages good posture. And two, I’d been practising it in the week and had noticed I had a tendency to lift my right sitting bone off the block. It’s important to keep and equal pressure on both sitting bones in Virasana. So we practiced that while doing some shoulder stretches.
And then, finally, Savasana. Doesn’t it always feel good when it finally gets to Savasana…
In the evening class at Sea Mills we started the class in the same way as the morning class – sitting cross-legged on a block and mobilising the hips. Then we did cat pose and cow pose to mobilise the spine.
After that we moved onto the standing sequence. What we are working towards is Sun Salutation, so we broke it down into two halves. The first half included the forward fold and the lunge position. The second half of the sequence involved moving from Adho Mukha Svanasana, to all fours, back into Adho Mukha Virasana, up into all fours and up again to Adho Mukha Svanasana.
Then we put the whole sequence Sun Salutation together.
Finally we practiced some standing poses:
We put the three standing poses together in a sequence. Starting in Trikonasana with a nice wide stance, hold for a couple of breaths then tilt the body back to upright as you bend in the leg that is turned out and come to Virabhadrasana 2. Stay here for a couple of breaths then fold at the hips, take the front hand down to the floor on the outside edge of the front foot. You make things a bit easier by just taking the elbow to the knee. Then come back to upright and repeat on the other side.
Then it was into Virasana, we sat in the pose for a few minutes to calm the body and mind and to do some shoulder stretches. And finally Savasana.
At the top of the page I mentioned a video, here’s a link – why practice is important and how to practice effectively.