I have moved to rural Shropshire.  We are currently renting and I'm not generally offering massage appointments.  Next step: a small retreat centre — more news to follow.  Please do get in touch to say hello or join my newsletter if you would like to receive updates.

Yoga sequences

Our bodies respond to what they do regularly.  A few minutes of Yoga practice each day can be very effective for releasing and strengthening.  The grounding and calming effect on the mind can help us sail through a busy day.  We tend to feel short of time, but I am confident that you will get more of your tasks done by setting aside a few minutes to recharge your well-being.

Many of us react to stress by holding tension in our shoulders.  What's more, our modern lives can involve a lot sitting without much movement.  This short Yoga sequence can help to release shoulder tension and build strength.

You can benefit even more if in addition you take 30-second breaks throughout your day to move your shoulders, breath, and let go of tension.

Mobilising

Sit cross-legged with the unaccustomed leg inside (so you also get to open your hips a little), spine tall and straight.  Repeat each move around 10 times, moving with the breath.  Alternate arms where needed.

  • Shoulder alignment.  Inhale, broaden across the front chest.  Exhale, release shoulders away from ears.
  • "Angel wings".  Inhale, straight arms raise to either side (not forward or back) then towards each other, just as far as you can without losing shoulder alignment.  Exhale, return.
  • Arm across.  On the...

Whilst some people find forward bends easy, for others they are a misery - we can feel blocked, especially from tight hamstrings.  This sequence offers a two-part answer

  • activate the opposing muscles to draw us deeper into the stretch
  • deeply release and let go of the back body.

With forward bending, we are trying to release the whole back body evenly.  See if you can soften the area where you have greatest intensity, and engage more where you feel nothing.  Focus on bending more from the lower back and less with the upper back and neck.

Forward bends tend to calm the mind, so this makes a nice sequence before dinner after a busy day.

Part I

Active, move with breath, 10 breaths for each step, or whatever you have time for.

  1. Lie still and relaxed on back.  Scan body for tension or unevenness.  Inhale, feel belly rise and...

Our core strength protects us in our Yoga practice and our daily life.  It allows our movements to be precise and firm, and helps our posture.  In more traditional Yoga language, our bandhas help our alignment (we'll talk more about that in class, and in a future article).  In everyday language, our core muscles connect the pelvis with the spine and ribs - in particular that means our deep abdomen muscles.

This sequence is great for building core strength and generating heat in the body.  Each movement needs to be done with control and alignment.  Don't attempt a more challenging option until you have the basic version mastered.  It's good to feel a gentle burn in the muscles, but no shaking or wobbling.  With just 10 minutes each day, you will gradually find your strength increasing.

We use our exhalation to engage our pelvic floor and deep abdomen muscles, so...

A series of movements with the breath to open your hips.  Great first thing, or just before dinner to ease out from your day.  5-15 minutes.

General advice

  • Explore your full comfortable range of movement, ending with a gentle stretch, but no straining.
  • Slow down the movement until it takes the whole breath, so you have a smooth continuous flow.
  • Fine to stop before the end, but still do the last one for final relaxation.

Moves

6 breaths for each move, or adjust to suit the time you have available.  Most of the moves work with each leg separately, so do 6 breaths right, then 6 left.

  1. Lie still and relaxed on back.  Scan body for tension or unevenness.  Inhale, feel belly rise and chest expand.  Exhale, release muscles more deeply.
  2. Knee to chest.  Exhale, hug R knee to chest keeping left leg heavy in place.  Inhale...

This practice is all about movement with the breath.  Aim for a full and flowing range of movement rather than forcing an extreme stretch.

There are 8 parts.  For a 5 minute practice, do each for about 10 breaths. Take more or fewer breaths depending on your breathing speed and how much time you have. 

  1. Lie still and relaxed on back.  Scan body for tension or unevenness.  Inhale, feel belly rise and chest expand.  Exhale, release muscles more deeply.
  2. Lying twist. Bend knees, feet together, heels near buttocks. Arms straight out to side.  Exhale drop knees to right, pelvis tipping, spine twisting.  Inhale to centre.  Alternate sides.
  3. Bridge. Take feet hip-width apart, pointing straight forwards, heels near buttocks so you can just reach then with your fingertips. Arms by sides, flatten lower back into the ground.  Inhale, peel up in turn: pelvis; lower back; mid back.  Exhale...

The sun salutation is a strong flowing sequence of movements with the breath.  With just 5 spare minutes in the morning you can really kick-start your day.

Summary

  • Sit cross-legged for 1 minute, close eyes, breath, mind explores body and breath feelings
  • 4 rounds Surya Namaskara A
  • 1 minute relax in corpse pose, close eyes, breath, mind explores body and breath feelings

Background

  • Original name in Sanskrit = Surya Namaskara = greeting to the sun
  • Each move has a corresponding breath: smooth and strong in an out through the nose
  • Each breath is even length, so move faster when you need to
  • It is a flow, vigorous but not forced - adapt any positions
  • There are slight differences in the sequence between types of Yoga.  I like the sequence from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, even though that's not my style of Yoga.  We'll be doing 'A' version, slightly modified.
  • There is...