To practice yoga at home on your own terms does not have to be complicated. You can keep it simple and focused on self-care, practicing just a couple poses at a time. You don’t need to do a whole series on your own, you can break it down and experience a few poses in a more therapeutic way.
A simple practice encourages you to slow down, stay longer and get more acquainted with being quiet, aware of your breath and body feeling. This makes room to explore the edges of tension and resistance in your body and mind within a more personal context.
At night, the body and brain need to wind down into a relaxed state in order to get quality restorative sleep. A 10-15 minute practice of slow poses is really enough to peel away the layers of stress from the day. The benefit of night time yoga is tremendous because it really sets the stage for deep sleep and physical renewal.
Yoga is a very instinctual way of processing stress and pain, practicing on your own at home does not have to be a discipline but can simply be about listening and responding to needs.
One short series I love to do in the evening is supported fish pose (matsyasana) followed by a lazy seated forward bend (paschimottasana) to open the front and back of the chest for deep breathing, let rolled shoulders stretch out and relax emotional tension around the heart and stomach.
To try this pose and counter-pose, have a seat on the floor or mat and position two foam yoga blocks on the floor behind you – one at half height with the long edge to support the upper spine; the other at full height to support the back of the head.
Lie back into the blocks and play with the position until it feels right. Let the arms lay open with the palms facing upwards, so the shoulders hang. Spend 2 to 5 minutes melting open the chest, diaphragm and upper back, enjoying the quiet and the breath. If you have a healthy cervical spine, you can remove the block supporting the head and allow the top of the head to roll back and face down to the floor. If this is ‘doable’ for you, you can also gently turn your chin from side to side, until you feel a nice opening.
To come out of the pose bring your arms close to the sides of the body, lift the head and gently support yourself into your elbows to come away from the blocks. Release the pose with utter slowness to allow the body to adjust. With your two legs stretched forward, come to sitting and very very slowly roll your upper body forward in a lazy, rounded forward bend. Let your spine open in the opposite direction for a couple more minutes.
Do this practice one to two hours before bed. It is a powerful opening and the body needs time to assimilate the deep stretches before being motionless in sleep for hours.
Learning to focus on making a steady, long breath cycle allows the mind to rest and stabilizes the body’s biorhythms -creating a harmonic relationship throughout respiration, heart rate, nerve pulsation and brainwave that is ideal for healing and deep sleep.