Developing a Personalized Yoga Practice

For those who have been practicing yoga for a long time— and know primary series and second series, its time to learn how to apply the intelligence of the system to balance your daily life. You don’t need someone telling you how to do this or that … or pushing you to do more than you feel. Its time to use what you have learned and make it your own!

After all the entire Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus is a 10 year course. After 10 years you know how to use your asana and how to adjust your practice to your day. They have have a series in ashtanga for this, it’s called the reishi series. Reishi means one who knows—you know what you need. 

You now have a nice sized selection of yoga poses in your tool box, and while the full series can be very beneficial there are many other times in your life when you will need to do a shorter or therapeutic practice. Here is a basic outline teaching you the building blocks from the framework of ashtanga yoga to create you own mini practices.

I am going to start with a general outline of a therapeutic yoga practice for Calming the Nervous System. From here I can help guide you how to further adjust it to what you need.

Outline for personalizing a therapeutic yoga practice for Calming the Nervous system

This can be anywhere from 20 – 45 minutes.  You can do this type of practice in any of our Mysore classes (other studios might not have that same opinion!)

The most important element for you to remember as you guide yourself through practice is to pay attention to your breath. Move your body in rhythm with your breath and don’t push in any asana to “get it”. RELAX and breathe your audible yoga breath throughout your entire practice.

  1. 3-5 minutes – sit and breathe, meditation time. Connect to your breath!
  2. Warm-up = Therapeutic Sun Salute — this is just a suggestion, feel free to play around with any sun salute you like, including Surya Namaskar A and/or B or other variations of sun salutes.
    • Rest in Childs pose for 3 breaths.
    • Come up to knee standing, inhale arms overhead
    • Exhale extended childs pose

      Repeat 2-3x then do:
    • Inhale slink forward to plank pose, Exhale to pose of 8 points
    • Inhale to shalabasana (locust) or cobra pose or upward dog
    • Exhale childs pose 3-5 breaths
      Repeat 2-3x and combine:
    • Knee standing – inhale arms overhead
    • Exhale childs pose
    • Inhale slink forward to plank pose, Exhale to pose of 8 points or chaturanga
    • Inhale to shalabasana (locust) or cobra pose or upward dog
    • Exhale childs pose
      repeat 3-5x
  3. Standing poses – optional in a therapeutic yoga practice, but still beneficial if you want to do them. Useful to remove tension and tightness around hips, low back, and hamstrings. Standing forward bends are also mini inversions.
    • Choose a handful of standing poses — they can be any from your ashtanga practice or other poses that are not even in ashtanga! If you choose some of the ashtanga standing poses—play with some variations, for example:
    • cross your arms and let them hang overhead in padanghustasana
    • In prasarita padatonnasana A with your hands on the floor add a little lunge side to side with your breath—exhale lunge right, inhale center, exhale lunge left, etc. then choose your favorite prasarita padatonnasana, etc.
    • I do like to include a balance pose if it is appropriate for your day. 
  4. Seated poses = yoga therapy. 
    1. Choose 1- 3 forward bends from primary series that feel therapeutic for you:
      1. For example, digestion off? Do ardha baddha padma paschimattanasana, shoulders tight? Try marichyasana series, hamstrings tight? Do janu sirsasana series.
    2. Hip stretches, for example from primary series; baddha konasana or upavishta konasana. Pigeon pose is also lovely here and one we don’t get in an ashtanga practice.
    3. Spinal Twisting – choose a couple spinal twists from any series — or any other twisting postures you enjoy. I like to combine the hip stretches with the spinal twists into a little sequence, here is the sequence we did in the workshop:
      1. Baddha konasana sitting straight 5-10 breaths, bending forward 5 breaths
      2. Pigeon pose – 10 -25 breaths R leg only
      3. Ankle knee pose – 5-10 breaths L leg on top only
      4. Ardha Matsyendrasana – 5 breaths L — spin around break dancing style or doggie do-do as we used to call it!
      5. Ardha Matsenedrasana – 5 breaths R leg
      6. ankle knee pose – 5-10 breahts R leg on top
      7. Pigeon pose – 10-25 breaths L leg
      8. Baddha Konasana – seated upright, scapula relaxed down and slightly back – 10 breaths
      9. Supta Baddha Konasana – 10 -25 breaths – when exiting relax knees inward first (using hands to put legs there)
      10. Upavishta konasana — gentle wide leg forward bend
    4. Gentle Back Bends — choose 1-3 from second series — best options for a more therapeutic practice are the poses done on your abdomen, bridge pose, or ustrasana.
  5. Closing
    Inversions are optional in a therapeutic practice — and can also be done therapeutically. In a therapeutic practice to relax your nervous system a gentle shoulder stand would look like placing a little pad under your shoulders and/or doing a half bend in your shoulder stand with your hips resting on your hands. If you choose to do any type of shoulder stand follow it with the counter balance of matsyasana or fish posture, again this can be done softer by extending the legs on the floor instead of putting them in lotus.

    1. A nice option to inversions in your closing is to end with a moving and breathing supine spinal twist:
      Lying supine hug your knees to your chest, place your arms out shoulder width, palms on the floor. Exhale bring your knees up toward your left elbows, inhale back to center, exhale toward the right elbow; repeat that 3-5x then hold the spinal twist on each side for a nice relaxing 5-10 breaths
    2. End with closing lotus flowers of some type and REST.
      Padmasana (can be done crossed legs, lotus, half lotus, etc.) is always in closing for me, and I recommend that for everyone.
      I also like to add some variations such as “mountain pose” (like Manju Jois does) or a side stretch, spinal twist, or mini backbend with your hands behind you on the floor.

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