If you’re going to do yoga at home, it might help to get a feel for a ‘typical’ session, although your sessions should always be tailored specifically for YOU. The following yoga session is based upon the particularly gentle form called Sivananda yoga and is suitable for complete beginners as well as for more experienced yoga practitioners.
Remember to take extra care if you suffer from any injury or lower back pain, consulting a health professional if necessary before you undertake these exercises.
The Cleansing Breath
This exercise is also known as Kapalabhati which means ‘shining skull’ and it is designed to cleanse the respiratory system, feed oxygen to the lungs and drain the sinuses.
It also eliminates excess carbon dioxide from the body, purifying the blood and increasing prana. This, in turn, invigorates the mind, strengthens the abdominal muscles and massages the major organs.
☀ Sit tall and comfortably with your back as straight as possible. Try to relax your abdominal muscles as you breathe freely.
☀ Inhale gently through the nose, allowing your lungs and abdomen to expand. It may help to imagine both of these as balloons filling with air.
☀ Now exhale sharply through your nose, pulling in your abdominal muscles as you do so and pushing the air out of your lungs.
☀ Do this 10 times and then rest.
☀ Practice this morning and evening. Start by exhaling once per second, building up so that you are exhaling twice per second and increasing from 10 breaths to 20 and then 30 and so on until you can perform 120 exhalations in each session. Don’t worry if this takes some practice!
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This exercise strengthens and purifies the lungs while also increasing prana intake.
☀ Sit tall and as straight as possible on the floor and breathe freely. Curl the index and middle finger of your right hand into your palm so that you can use your thumb and fourth finger either side of your nose to close each nostril in turn.
☀ Breathe in through both nostrils.
☀ Using your right hand as described in step one, close your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe out through your left nostril on a count of four.
☀ Now breathe in through your left nostril on a count of four.
☀ Close your left nostril with the fourth finger of your right hand, breathing out through your right nostril to a count of four.
☀ Breathe in through the right nostril to a count of four.
☀ Close the right nostril and breathe out through the left nostril to a count of four.
☀ Breathe in through the left nostril to a count of four.
☀ Release your right nostril and exhale on a long, slow out-breath.
☀ It can take some time to get used to this breathing technique but persevere and try to build up the length and depth of the inhalations and the exhalations.
A Complete Yoga Sequence
This sequence consists of 12 movements which can be practiced by anyone of any age.
Perform them once through at first, building up until you can do them 15 times in five minutes.
☀ Stand tall in the Mountain posture, Tadasana, you learned in the warm-up section, with your feet together. Inhale deeply, exhale and place your hands in prayer position at chest height.
☀ On a long inhalation, stretch your arms up over your head, arching your spine so you are leaning backwards and gazing up.
☀ On your exhalation, fold into a forward bend with your head leading, hands placed either side of your feet.
☀ Inhale and stretch your left foot backwards, placing the left knee on the floor. Look up without straining the neck or chin.
☀ Now bring your right leg back and, holding your breath, extend into a push-up position with both legs straight and in line from shoulders to hips to heels, balancing on your curled-in toes.
☀ Exhale and drop your knees to the floor, lowering your chest to the floor between your hands as you bend your arms. Drop your chin or forehead to the floor, depending on what feels more comfortable for you. Do not strain your neck.
☀ On an inhalation, slide forwards, push up on your hands and arms so that they are nearly straight and arch your spine into Cobra posture, looking up. Your legs and feet remain stretched out on the floor, toes pointed.
☀ On an exhalation, push your hips up and back so that you form the downward facing triangular shape known as downward dog. Your legs should be as straight as possible and you should be gazing at the floor.
Try to stretch your heels down so that your feet are flat on the floor although you may find this difficult at first. Do not force this stretch.
☀ Inhale and slide your right foot forwards, bending it at the knee and placing it between your hands. Drop your left knee to the floor with the left leg still stretching back. Look up without straining chin or neck.
☀ Exhale and move the left foot forward to join the right foot. Fold yourself over your bent knees and straighten into a standing forward bend, head to knees.
☀ Inhale and stretch your arms, swinging them so you come back to standing with arms stretched backwards, back arched and gaze upwards as you did in step two.
☀ Exhale and let your arms fall gently to your sides. Relax.
This sequence tones and strengthens your entire system. By synchronizing your breath with your movements, you exercise all your muscles while improving blood flow and gently increasing heart rate.
Practice the Corpse pose as you were taught in the warm-up sequence. This eases out body and mind as you assimilate the benefits of your asana practice. You may like to add a mantra while relaxing and can choose from one of the suggestions given earlier in this book.