How to Practice Yoga Every Day: A Weeklong Guide
In the book Yoga 365, Susanna Harwood Rubin presents a year’s worth of daily readings that invite yoga lovers of every skill level to bring the inspiration they experience on their mats into their everyday lives. Each entry explores a mind-body theme such as balance, strength, and resilience in a short, illuminating paragraph that can be enjoyed in the morning or at bedtime, incorporated into a yoga session, or read on the go. Here, she explains how to incorporate yoga into your life every day for a week.
When people outside of my yoga community find out that I am a yoga teacher or that I write about yoga, they often say one of three things.
I want to practice yoga but I don’t know how to start.
I want to practice yoga but I can’t even touch my toes.
I want to practice yoga but I don’t have the time.
Yoga has become so popular over the past ten to fifteen years that its thriving culture in the west is filled with everything from gravity-defying handstands posted on social media to wildly popular meditation apps. We have celebrities declaring how their yoga teachers and their meditation practices have changed their lives. We are offered all sorts of strategies for how to be a yogi. While all of this is interesting and can be fun, it can also feel daunting. Where do you begin?
Creating a personal yoga practice can actually be quite straight-forward and accessible.
To begin, let’s define the word yoga.
Yoga means to connect or unite. Derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means to yoke, connect, or unify, yoga is the process of creating connection. Yoga has the capacity to create connection within the body, connection between mind and body, and connection between you and others, between you and the world. One thing that may be surprising to people beginning a yoga practice is that yoga does not have to be about physical exercise. Yoga asana, or yoga poses, are just one aspect of yoga. Yoga includes any number of practices such as meditation, mantra chanting, the study of philosophical yoga texts, breathing practices, and more.
Any of these practices can be an entry into the greater world of yoga. There is no one way to begin. And depending on your sensibility, your body, and your habits, you will prefer some practices over others. So here is a very simple way to begin—a week of basic and accessible practices for you to experiment with for 5-10 minutes a day.
Choose between two possible approaches: either do the one listed practice each day, or keep adding the new practices so by the end of the week, you will have a lengthier cumulative practice. Don’t worry about how flexible you are or how easily distracted you are. Let it be fun, playful, and exploratory. Ready? Here we go.
Monday: Asana Practice
Take a wide and powerful stance, turning your back heel down with the foot angled forward. Face out resolutely over your bent front leg, extending your arms toward the sky on either side of your head. This pose is called Virabhadrasana I, or Warrior I. The Sanskrit word vira means hero or warrior, or to be fully and wholeheartedly engaged with life. Virabhadrasana I is a powerful and affirming way to begin your practice.
Tuesday: Mantra Practice
The sound Om or Aum is considered to be the vibrational sound of everything that exists—the great hum of all of nature. It is the mantra containing all sound and meaning. Try chanting the sound of Om three times when you wake up and three times before bed. If you want a lengthier, more meditative experience, try holding a mala, a string of prayer beads, and chant om for every bead.
Wednesday: Meditation Practice
Take a comfortable seat and choose a single point of focus, such as the tip of a candle flame, a small object, or a knot in a wood floor. Soften your eyes so that everything around your focal point fades away and feel the rise and fall of your breath. When your thoughts wander, gently invite them back to your point of focus. You may find that after just a few minutes, your mind and body become calm.
Thursday: Breathing Practice
Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Slowly inhale for four counts, retain the breath for four counts, exhale the breath for four counts, then retain the exhale for four counts. Prana is a Sanskrit word meaning breath or life force. Pranayama means breathing practices. After a couple of rounds of this pranayama practice, you will find that you may be able to slow your counting, as your body relaxes.
Friday: Asana Practice
Lie on your back and bend your knees to your chest. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, twist from the waist to release your knees to one side, opening up the top side of your body from the armpit to the outer pelvis. This pose, called Jathara Parivartanasana, or Reclining Abdominal Twist, is a gentle but powerful opening, moving and stretching our torsos in ways we normally don’t in our daily lives.
Saturday: Mudra Practice
Touch your index fingers to your thumbs to create Cin (chin) Mudra, a hand gesture that signifies connection. Cin refers to consciousness, and in Cin Mudra, your thumbs represent universal consciousness while your index fingers represent individual consciousness. When you form Cin Mudra, your hands are symbolizing your connection to the universe. You may wish to form Cin Mudra while meditating or practicing Pranayama.
Sunday: Asana Practice
Savasana (shavasana) is the Sanskrit name for Corpse Pose, and it is the pose that finishes a yoga practice session. Savasana is a way of acknowledging the cycle of life, of time, and of nature. To take Savasana, lie down on your back with your palms facing up. Allow yourself to release and relax. When we take this final resting pose, we connect to the rise and fall of everything that exists, including our yoga practice.
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Explore more daily wisdom in Susanna Harwood Rubin’s Yoga 365.
How to Practice Yoga Every Day: A Weeklong GuideOctober 18th, 2016
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