Get Flowing with This Simple At-Home Yoga Sequence
In modern culture, yoga is often associated with its physical postures or poses, known as asana. If we are looking to truly define the word “yoga,” however, it originates from a Sanskrit word translating to yoke or union, and encompasses body, mind and spirit.
As a multifaceted practice, it makes sense that benefits extend beyond physical fitness. A growing body of research indicates therapeutic potential of yoga for respiratory and cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation and chronic pain, as well as improving sleep, and helping alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. A new study showed that yoga and meditation may even have a positive effect on the central nervous and immune systems, while improving overall sense of well-being.
Meditation is an inextricable component of yoga that is shown to support mental health, behavioral self-regulation, and integrative medical care. Dive deeper into the many meditation benefits for your mind. Bring your practice full circle by nourishing your at-home yoga flow with meditation for the mind and wholesome foods for the body. Find inspiration with this simple guide to healthy meal planning.
With the community aspect of a yoga studio being limited for now, it is a perfect time to create your own space for practice as an act of self-care during these high-stress times of COVID-19.
This post will offer helpful tips on equipment and props, creation of your space, simple breathing techniques and an approachable sequence to get started.
This content includes suggestions for yoga and nutrition and are not a substitute for medical or mental health advice. Always check with your doctor before implementing a new exercise or diet plan.
Create a Nurturing Space for Your At-Home Yoga Flow
A personalized space can foster motivation to practice. Consider what makes a yoga studio pleasant. Perhaps it’s clean and uncluttered, bright or otherwise aesthetic. Do your best to create elements of this at-home. Most importantly, dedicate an area separate from work, chores or unnecessary distractions to enhance mindfulness and enjoyment of your at-home yoga flow.
Make the space your own, and remember that it can always be adjusted and refreshed. The following sections offer suggestions for selecting a room, setting it up, choosing props, mats, music and other components to support your yoga flow at-home.
Choose Your Mat
Consider these factors when selecting the right mat for your at-home yoga flow:
- Thickness: A standard yoga mat is 1/8 inch thick, typically a good balance of groundedness and padding. If you travel often and require portability, there are lightweight 1/16-inch-thick travel mats. These are convenient but provide less padding. For those with the storage space and require cushion to protect knee, spine or other injuries, opt for a 1/4-inch-thick mat. These are comfortable, but may make balancing postures more difficult.
- Material: Most mats are made of PVC or vinyl, which is least expensive. Newer, eco-friendly options made of recycled rubber, jute or cotton are available for a higher price point.
- Texture: When it comes to stickiness, PVC ensures grip even once sweaty, but if you want to opt more eco-friendly, rubber, jute or cotton mats are available in tactile patterns for grip. For a non-PVC mat with a smooth texture, opt for a non-slip moisture-wicking technology, keeping in mind these will be more expensive.
Props to Support Your Flow
Props can enhance your at-home yoga flow by making poses accessible, allowing you to deepen into them or simply making them more comfortable in the body.
- Blocks: Blocks are versatile props that can be placed under the hand or foot to “bring the floor closer” and avoid strain, offer support beneath the back and/or head, or add challenge and encourage proper alignment.
- Strap: A strap is another simple prop that can be used in many ways, often to deepen into a stretch and reduce strain.
- Blankets and bolsters: Blankets and bolsters add comfort and support in restorative postures held for longer periods of time. Thicker, wool blankets and dense bolsters offer the most robust support. If you don’t have a bolster, you can use a firm pillow or rolled up, thick towel or blanket.
Setup Your Space
Create a space that allows you to focus time and energy on your yoga flow at home. This will depend on preference and availability, but here are a few suggestions:
- Hard wood floor is best for stability and subtle give. Any hard surface is preferable to soft.
- Keep it clean, clear of unnecessary clutter and absent of sensory stimuli like TVs, pets or others that may detract from your ability to be fully present.
- Some people like mirrors to check alignment, but they may be distracting, especially large mirrors that capture other items.
- Music can help tune out noise and maintain a focused headspace. If using a phone, silence texts, calls and alarms while practicing.
- Candles or incense may add a visual and aromatic component.
- Keep it minimal, but a plant, painting or other decorative touch can make the space unique and one where you look forward to practicing.
Personalize Your Practice
There are many different styles of yoga, each with its own origin, technique and focus. The beauty of an at-home yoga flow is that you can tailor it to your preference, physical ability, practice level, goals and even your energy level each day. Mindfully tune into your physical and mental state before practicing, and determine what suits you in the moment. Begin with this introduction to simple breathing techniques, followed by an easy at-home yoga flow suitable for most levels.
Breath regulation, or pranayama is vital to both the physical and meditative aspects of yoga and has been associated with neurocognitive, psychophysiological, respiratory, biochemical and metabolic beneficial effects. There are numerous techniques ranging from simple deep breathing to complex patterns and can be used simultaneously with movement or on its own. Here are some of the basic techniques to supplement your at-home yoga flow:
- Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious or Ocean Breath): Perhaps the most well-known pranayama practice, the ujjayi breath helps anchor breath to movement and can promote relaxation. The vibrations in the throat may actually stimulate sensory receptors that induce a calming effect. Breathe deeply through the nose, gently constricting the back of the throat to create an ocean-sounding breath.
- Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate-Nostril Breath): This breath is intended to move and balance energy throughout the body, often at the end of the practice to prepare the mind for meditation. Make a fist with your right hand in front of your nose, and extend your thumb and ring finger. Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Open your right nostril and exhale slowly. Then, inhale through the right nostril and close it. Open your left nostril and exhale slowly. This is one cycle. Repeat 3–5 cycles.
- Sitali/Sitkari Pranayama (Cooling Breath): This breath draws air across the tongue and into the mouth for a cooling and calming effect. Curl the sides of your tongue into a straw (stiali) or press the tongue to the back of the teeth (sitkari). Slightly tilt the chin down, inhale gently through the tongue or teeth while slowly lifing the chin up. At the end of the inhalation, with your chin raised, relax the tongue and close the mouth. Exhale slowly through the nostrils while gently lowering the chin back to neutral. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.
Simple At-Home Yoga Flow
Try this accessible yoga sequence to start your morning, settle down before bed, or as a midday mindful reset to refresh the body and the brain.
Align the wrists under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Inhale and arch the back, stick out the tailbone and lift the heart, slightly tipping the head upward. Exhale and press through the hands to dome the upper back, tuck the tailbone and drop the head. Repeat, linking breath to movement.
2. Down Dog
Tuck the toes, lift the hips and press back into down dog. Lift the tailbone and sink the heels. There can be a slight bend to the knees. Avoid dumping into the ribs by pressing firmly through the palms, wrapping the triceps back and shoulders away from the ears.
3. Forward Fold
Walk the feet up to the hands to a forward fold. Evenly distribute weight through the feet, allowing the head to drop and the weight of the torso to deepen the stretch. Allow a slight bend in the knees if muscles are tight.
4. Mountain Pose
Stand up, circling the arms out and overhead, before resting them in prayer at your heart or down by the sides. Press evenly through both feet, contain the ribs and drop the shoulders down the back. Slightly tuck the chin and pull the crown of the head to the ceiling.
Repeat steps 2 - 4 to complete a simple sun salutation. End your sun salutation in down dog pose to transition into the next part of your at-home yoga sequence.
5. High Lunge
From down dog, step one leg forward between the palms, and lift up into a high lunge with arms and gaze overhead. Keep the knee tracking over the ankle, bending toward 90 degrees. Soften the back leg to lengthen the tailbone down, then press through the back toes.
6. Warrior II
Spin the back foot flat, aligning the front heel with the arch of the back foot. Press evenly through the front foot and outer edge of the back foot. Align the torso vertically, reach the arms apart at shoulder level. Set the gaze over the front palm
7. Triangle Pose
Straighten gently through the front leg. Lengthen through the torso first by pulling the front hip back. Then, maintaining length, reach the front hand toward the floor or a block on the outer edge of the front foot and back arm vertically overhead. If comfortable, gaze toward the top arm.
8. Down Dog
Frame the front foot with the hands, pivot onto the back toes, step the front foot back to a high plank position with feet hip-width, then press through the palms back to down dog.
9. Tree Pose
From down dog pose, walk your hands towards your feet, then slowly stand up by rolling your spine. Once you're upright, move into mountain pose and then put weight onto one foot and guide the opposite knee out to open the hip. Balance on the grounded foot, and bring the sole of the other foot to the standing ankle, calf or upper inner thigh of the grounded leg. Press the foot to the leg and vice versa for balance.
Slowly fold back forward until your hands are on the ground. Walk them out until you're in down dog position. From there, engage the core and shift the weight forward to find plank. Align the shoulders directly over the wrists and the body should form a straight line, avoiding dumping in the low back. If needed, take plank from the knees, still maintaining the straight line through the torso.
Untuck the toes so the tops of the feet rest on the mat. Inhale fully, and press through the tops of the fee and the palms to lift the chest. Pull the shoulders down the back and crown of the head up to the ceiling.
12. Child’s Pose
Drop the knees at a comfortable width, sink the hips back and allow the torso to drape over the thighs and forehead to rest on the mat. The arms can extend forward or drop down by the sides. Breathe deeply and relax into this pose.
13. Knees to Chest
From lying on your back, bend the knees and grab behind the thighs. Pull the forehead up toward the knees, curling into a tight ball to release the lower back.
14. Supine Twist (each side)
Keeping the hips centered, pull one knee across the body, resting it toward the ground. Open the arms into a T- or cactus-shape to broaden the chest. Tuck the bottom hip slightly under the body and if comfortable, gaze toward the hand opposite the bent knee.
15. Corpse Pose
Lie flat on the back, letting the legs and feet fall open, resting the arms slightly away from the sides of the body, and centering the head on the mat. Close the eyes, and relax every muscle in the body as much as possible. Allow breathing to be natural.
When external factors like the current COVID-19 pandemic feel out of control, even the simplest actions can be more powerful than we realize. Creating an at-home yoga practice is a small step toward lifelong health benefits.
A vital part of caring for the body and mind is through nutrition. Cooking can also be a practice of mindfulness. The process of preparing and enjoying meals offers a deeper connection to food as nourishment to energize for your at home yoga flow and replenish thereafter. Both physical and mental health measures are needed during high stress times. Just as you tailor your yoga space, the PlateJoy app can curate delicious clean eating meal plans for your specific needs and preferences and supporting your journey toward overall wellbeing.