There no right way, but this is an introduction about what works for me.
Take a moment to check in, this can be standing, sitting or lying, or you can do a full shavasana*. Notice your thoughts, notice your breath, notice if you feel restricted in any areas of your body.
The beauty of home practice is that you can spend more time where you need it, for example if you have been doing lots of sitting you may decide to spend more time on backbends (such as sphinx, cobra, bridge, fish or even the shoulder clock*)
So use those first few moments to note any areas that could do with some attention. Continue to notice throughout your practice, and remember to spend a little more time where you feel resistance.
How long should my practice take?
You might just have 15 minutes or you might have a delicious 2 hours, or somewhere in between. Make sure you allow for some quiet time to finish.
What poses to do?
Depending on what your body needs, you most probably want to warm up your joints, taking them through circular movements like we do in class, and then warm up the body. This warm up might include cat pose before moving into Salutes to the Sun.
A balanced practice would include forward bending, back bending, twisting and some form of inversion (upside down pose). Then as time permits, drawing on what your body seems to want, perhaps adding balancing, side stretching, poses for hips (such as pigeon) and shoulders (such as cow face pose), poses for abdominals and so on.
For me, I like to feel like I’m getting a good strong physical practice so I usually like to include some salutes and then add in various standing poses once I feel sufficiently warmed up and eased out. These could be a selection of warrior 1, 2 and 3, triangle pose and variations, half moon pose, and so on. Then take it to the floor and explore sitting and lying poses.
As you will have noticed in class, if we do a strong movement in one direction, we bring the body back to a more neutral state afterwards by including counter poses, that is, by doing a more gentle movement in the opposite direction.
You may like to add an inversion or two. If you have done a standing forward bend you have already inverted at least partially, and lying with the legs up the wall might feel right here.
I like to close with sitting meditation, but lying is also fine. It is important to have a few minutes of quiet for your body and mind to absorb and assimilate the benefits of the practice. And this is the perfect time to develop a longer meditation practice, drop back from thinking and feel into your natural quiet inner state.
What about the time of day?
I would decrease the salutes at night as I find these too invigorating just before bed. A more relaxing practice with the emphasis on sitting and lying poses is better then.
See what works for you. See how you feel afterwards. Have a play. It is your personal practice. What is good for me is different to my husband who is a golfer and wants to stretch and balance tight back muscles. So it will be different for you too. Experiment. See what feels good. I would LOVE to see your feedback in the comments section below. Enjoy!
This is for those of you who come to class, or who know how to do the poses and are willing to respond to your body’s needs. Remember pain is an indication that something is wrong, so ease back from pain. Stretching, on the other hand, has a sweetness to it.
* Shavasana CD: http://www.waverleyyoga.com.au/relaxation_cd.html
* Video of the Shoulder clock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJvZZX87HPE