Sometimes when establishing a personal practice, simple sequences to follow can help to get you started. Do not in any way feel locked into a sequence you are following. This is your practice. Use the sequence to get you going but linger or deviate as the call comes. If you do not have the props called for in a sequence, improvise. And remember, your personal practise doesn't replace your in person class with a live teacher. This is when you practise what you have learnt, remembering particularly how your teacher has taught you to modify and keep yourself safe.
Yield is a beautiful idea to explore. We move fluidly and with grace only when we can harness the idea of yielding and then pushing off, utilizing that equal and opposite reaction.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. (Newton's third law).
It is precisely this relationship between forces that gives us yield. If we wish to jump, we cannot go straight up, we have to go down to go up. No matter what movement we are making, we can tune into the yielding action and harness the reaction to assist our movement.
In this sequence, tune into how you already do this, where you miss that opportunity and explore how you can enhance it.
Start your practice in "Supta salamba baddha koṇāsana" - place a bolster length ways on your mat. with the buttocks on the floor, lay the body along the bolster. You may find that you need a small cushion under your head to keep the back of the neck long. Bring the soles of the feet together. You might use supports under the knees so they do not drag down. Spend 5 minutes mindfully attending to the breath and the sense of support from the supports beneath you.
Come up into a comfortable sitting position with sufficient height under buttocks that you can sit on the sit bones, knees level with, or ideally lower than the hips. feel into the sitting bones and the sense of the floor supporting your body.
You might take a minute or so to practice a mantra that you are working on, like the Gāyatrī Mantra.
Slowly walk the hands forward, breath a while there.
Walk hands around to either side of right leg. pause.
Take right hand on floor out from the right hip and bring the left arm up and over into a side bend. Pause awhile.
Fold back down over the right knee, pause.
Walk hands back to centre, pause.
Walk hands to either side of left knee and pause.
Take left hand to floor out from left hip and bring right hand up and over into the side bend. Pause.
Fold back down over the left knee and pause.
Walk hands back to centre and pause.
Return to sitting.
Find your way into standing. observe the nature of the breath in habitual standing.
Collapse as if you had no bones to support you (without falling over of course) . How does the breath feel.
Push up from floor, tightening the legs, the body, lift the chest and spine against gravity. Notice quality of the breathing and mind state.
Find a yielding place between collapse and prop. What does this feel like in body and mind?
let the feeling of yield carry you down into the deep forward fold and the feeling of pushing off the floor through the feet propel you up a few times before staying a breath or two in the deep forward fold.
Notice how you connect to the floor, yield and push off to take one foot back. Lower the knee to the floor.
With the inhale raise the torso to vertical and hands above the head . With the exhale lower hands down to the mat.
Raise the knee, find the yield and push to step forwards into deep forward bend. Pause awhile and then step the other foot back and repeat.
Step back into Downward Facing Dog and lower the knees to the floor.
Arrange wrists under the shoulders and knees under the hips to make a box shape. Find the yield beneath the hands, beneath the points of contact on the floor.
Make several rounds of upward and downward facing cat (cat/cow). On the inhale, let the tail rise and allow this to flow through the spine until you are looking forwards. On the exhale let the tail come down and let this flow through the spine until you are looking down or back towards the knees. Let the breath lead. Can you play with the yield and push as you move?
Come back into a neutral spine.
As you inhale, lift one arm out and up.
As you exhale bring it down and thread it under the other one bringing the shoulder to the floor.
Inhale and draw the arm back and up. Repeat three times and then do the other side.
Discover how you give weight to the floor and push up into Downward facing dog.
Be high on your toes with bent knees, tail high. exhale long and slow and bring the right heel towards the floor, inhale heel back up knee bending. Next long slow exhale, other heel, and so on. Repeat several times.
Take one leg high in the air and bring the knee to the same side hand and the foot to the opposite side of the mat into pigeon pose lowering the opposite knee to the floor. Stretch the left leg back as far as you can. Come up on the finger tips and lengthen the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head. Find the yielding quality here, the flow of breath.
Now come forward over the front knee, coming onto elbows, hold there for a few breaths. Come further forward if it is OK for your body
Rise on the impulse of the inhale, adjust the back leg, turn toes under and step front leg back to downward dog
Repeat on other side
Step through to Uttanāsana, Tāḍāsana
Make a few rounds of sun salutes, whatever version you like. Feel the flow of breath and let it initiate every movement.
Practice any standing poses you like, particularly noticing how you can use the yield through the floor to give buoyancy and lightness.
Come into a seated position with the legs forward taking as much height under the buttocks as you need. Put a strap around the feet.
As you inhale let the spine grow long, as you exhale start to lean forward keeping the spine long, walking the hands down the strap. Pause for the inhale and come further forward if you can on the exhale breath. When you reach your limit, pause and breathe.
Come to lie down on your back with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Bring the right leg to vertical with leg straight and a strap around the ball of the foot.
Holding each end of the strap in each hand and keeping the shoulders relaxed, let the weight of the arms give traction to the leg. Stretch the heel towards the sky and draw the leg back towards the body. Count 5 long breaths.
Switch the strap to be over the heel and take both ends in your right hand. Turn the toes of the right foot outward and pick up the left knee and hold it with the left hand. As you open the right leg outwards and in the direction of the toes, open the left knee at the same angle, keeping the pelvis evenly weighted on the floor. Count 5 long breaths.
Bring the legs back to the centre and the left foot back down to the floor with the knee bent, but taking the foot a little further away from the buttock might be helpful. Change the strap into the left hand and turn the toes to point across the midline. Take the straight right leg across the midline and simultaneously move the left knee inward so that the legs are crossing and the pelvis remains evenly weighted on the floor. Count 5 long breaths.
Release the strap and stretch out flat along the floor and sense the body (it might feel odd).
Repeat on the other side.
Bend the knees and bring both feet onto the floor. Let them be a little close in towards the buttocks. arrange the arms so that they are palms down along side the body. Breath long and slow throughout.
Inhale and let the lower back arch away from the floor. Exhale and release the back towards the floor. Do this several times.
Then on an exhale, push the feet into the floor and peel the pelvis off the floor and then each vertebrae one at a time.
Resting on the shoulders pause for the inhale breath. Then roll one vertebrae at a time down as you exhale. At the bottom, as you inhale roll the pelvis towards the feet to bring an arch into the lower back. At the beginning of the exhale first release the lower back down and then continuing your exhale peel the pelvis and spine off the floor.
Repeat about 5 times, observing the interplay of the floor, breath and body to create the movement and lift.
You may like to stay up in Bridge pose for a few breaths before lowering down the final time.
To counterpose you might bring your knees to the chest and make some circles.
Spread the arms out at shoulder height along the floor. Bring the feet to the floor and press down to lift the pelvis slightly and shift it just a little to the left, then lower it down again. draw the knees up towards chest and lower them over to the right.
If your knees dangle off the floor and/or the left shoulder lifts away from the floor, use blankets of cushions to support the knees.
If it is OK for your neck you can turn the head to look to the left hand.
Rest here counting 5 long breaths.
To shift to the other side lift the top leg and let it tug the other back to centre. Lower the feet, push and edge the pelvis to the right. knees up and roll them to the left. use cushioning as needed.
Rest here 5 long breaths.
Return to centre.
Lay yourself out for śavāsana, either flat in the traditional way or if you prefer, with supports. Do not miss this pose, miss something else earlier in the sequence instead.
If the mind is busy, repeat this mantra in your head: Just this. Here now.
Stay 2 to 10 minutes.
(Author, Tina Shettigara)