How to Create Your Own Yoga Sequence
By SOPHIE JAFFE
If you've ever practiced yoga, you've probably heard that it's all about doing what works best for you. And if there's a cardinal rule to yoga, this is probably it. Yoga is moving with your breath, strengthening your body and invigorating your spirit.
If you're just beginning your practice or are still building a foundation, I recommend doing these essential yoga poses, learning how your body can benefit from each of them and then integrating the ones that will work best for you based on how you're currently feeling.
On days when I feel ambitious and ready to take on the world, I'll challenge myself during my practice and focus on strengthening my body. During days when I'm stressed and have a lot on my mind, I'll use yoga to release tension and any negative emotions that I've been carrying.
To help you customize yoga to your needs, here are six essential asanas for yogis and yoginis at any stage of practice, as well as two routines to help balance and strengthen or de-stress and detoxify.
1. Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Jaṭhara Parivartānāsana)
While lying on your back, bring your left knee into your chest and gently lower it over the right side of your body. Draw your left arm (and your gaze) out to your left side and place your right hand on your left knee. Hold for five to 10 breaths and then repeat on the opposite side.
- Stretches the back muscles, spine and glutes
- Releases stress
2. Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
From a plank position, shift your body by stacking your left foot on top of the right and aligning your body so that you form one long diagonal line. With your body supported by your core and your right arm (making sure your right hand is positioned slightly in front of the shoulder), extend your left arm to the sky and gaze up toward your lifted hand. Hold for five to 10 breaths and then repeat on the opposite side.
- Stretches the arms, abdomen and legs
- Stretches and strengthens the wrists
- Tones the core
- Increases balance
3. Revolved Chair (Parivrtta Utkatasana)
From chair pose, lower your arms and bring your hands into prayer in front of your chest. Exhale and twist to the left, bringing your right elbow to the outside of your thigh. Square your hips, keep your knees aligned and draw your left shoulder blade in to open your chest to the left. Breathe for five to 10 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
- Strengthens the hip flexors and hip muscles, thighs and calves
- Opens the back, chest and shoulders
4. Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
While seated with your knees bent in front of you, bring your hands behind you for support. Lean back onto your fingertips and lift your legs until your shins are parallel with the earth. Extend your arms in front of you so that they're parallel as well. Then straighten your legs so that your body forms a V shape, lifting your chest. Breathe and hold for five to 10 seconds.
- Strengthens the abdomen, hips and spine
- Helps relieve stress
5. Pigeon Pose (Kapotanasana)
From a low lunge with the right leg forward, extend the left leg back (allowing all of your toenails to touch the floor) and then bend the right leg and lay it on the earth, squaring off your hips. Lengthen the spine and exhale, folding forward over the front of the leg with your arms, chest and head. Breathe for 10 breaths or up to a few minutes, then repeat on the other side.
- Opens the hips
- Relieves stress
- Stretches the back, thighs, groin and psoas
6. Bound Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
From lying on your back, bend your knees and bring your feet close to your bottom so that you can touch your ankles with your fingertips. Lift your hips off the earth, keeping your lower back long. Tuck your shoulders underneath your chest and lace your fingers. Expand your chest and float your pelvis, holding for five to 10 breaths.
- Stretches the spine, chest and neck
- Relieves stress
Here are two sample routines that incorporate these poses:
Balance and Strengthen Sequence
When you want to push yourself and further develop your practice, incorporate these three poses to increase your sense of balance and strengthen your wrists, spine, abdomen, hips and legs:
De-stress and Detoxify Sequence
If you need to release any anxiety and give your body some TLC, hold these three poses to relieve stress, open your hips and stretch your neck, chest, spine, back, glutes, groin, psoas and thighs.
Supine Spinal Twist
Readers -- What are your favorite yoga poses? Do you have a sequence of poses that you perform for a specific goal? How does yoga help you meet your health and fitness goals? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Sophie Jaffe is a certified raw-food nutritionist and raw-food chef. She's a member of the Yoga Alliance as an advanced teacher and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer. After managing a raw-foods store in Los Angeles that specialized in group cleanses, she became dissatisfied with the one-size-fits-all model of detox regimens and created her own company, Philosophie.
Since then, she has found great success and amazing results in providing personalized detox cleanses to a wide variety of clients, including George Clooney, Stacy Keibler, Gerard Butler and Billy Corgan. She has created several superfood products for use in supercharging every meal and two convenient, effective quick cleanses that can be delivered anywhere and utilized easily.