(This is part 3 of a 5-week series. Here are Part 1 and Part 2.)
This week was a little more difficult for me, I skipped a couple of days. I find the second or third week of a new thing the most difficult, because the excitement of starting something new starts to wear off, but the habit is not yet formed. This is a critical week for keeping your practice going, and it’s easy to give up here. If you make it through 5 weeks and then stop, your body will expect you to practice. If your body expects it and you don’t do it, you’ll miss it, and you’ll at least want to continue, but if you give up in week 2 or 3 you won’t miss it and the new habit won’t stick.
For week 3, you should be building on your sun salutations. If you just did sun salutations during week 2, then use the flows from last week to increase your practice. If you’ve been doing more, that’s great! Keep going! Even if you’re only doing 15 or 20 minutes, try to build a flow that arcs through warm up, standing poses, stretches and floor poses.
For the next 2 weeks, we’ll focus on building sequences. You can use the mini-flows from last week as a framework if you need to. If you find yourself standing awkwardly on your mat in the middle of a practice, unsure where to go next, that’s normal. I still do that sometimes. The trick is to keep breathing and not start wandering around or give up. Stand in mountain pose, do a long downward dog, or rest in child’s pose and focus on your breath. The next pose will come to you, or not, but don’t let the flow just trail off into nothing, at least keep breathing.
If you feel like you always end up getting stuck in the middle, write down your sequence in advance. I’m not going to give you specific sequences this week because I think it’s important for your practice to come from you (that’s why it’s a home practice and not an online class), but I’ll give you a few building blocks to use.
For the warm up, I usually just do sun salutations and maybe a few cat-cows. Some people like to start with a gentler warm up, which could include arm/shoulder/neck rotations, cat-cows, forward folds, and seated spine flexion and extension, and then build up to sun salutations.
The standing poses are the heart of a flow, and this is probably where you should concentrate if you’re writing your flow in advance. Try to group them in a logical way, for example if your feet are hip-width apart (as in warrior one, high lunge / crescent pose, pyramid pose), flow into another pose that has similar alignment. Going from warrior 1 to triangle is awkward because the alignment is different so the transition is not easily linked to the breath. If you get stuck, use the breath as a guide. You should always move with your breath, and you should get from one pose to the next in one breath cycle. If you’re going from warrior 1 to triangle, use a transition pose like downward dog or mountain to “reset” your alignment.
Here are some good groupings:
..Warrior 1, warrior 3, standing split, crescent lunge, pyramid, reverse triangle
..Warrior 2, side angle, reverse warrior, triangle, half moon, wide-leg forward fold, humble warrior
..Standing forward fold, chair, warrior 3, squat, toe balance, standing split
..Mountain, tree, dancer, big toe hold, squat, crow, warrior 1, high or low lunge, pyramid
..Downward dog, warrior 1, high or low lunge, pigeon, scorpion dog, wild thing, child’s pose
You may notice in the mini-flows from last week that I wasn’t very creative with my transition from standing to seated. I pretty much always do a long squat as a transition because it’s so good for opening the hips, but there are many other transitions you can use. Downward dog into child’s pose, plank into lying prone (to prepare for locust, for example), downward dog into hands and knees, pigeon into cow-face pose... lots of options.
I find the transition between standing poses more important than the transition between standing and floor stretching, because that’s where slow, steady breathing is the most difficult to maintain.
So, homework for this week: focus on standing flows, move with your breath, and don’t give up!
Email me or comment if you have questions.