December schedule disruptions, from the end of a semester to holiday travel, can make it tough for you to maintain a regular schedule of attending studio classes. What better time to start (or ramp up) a home practice? Even 5 or 10 minutes of yoga can have an appreciable difference on your attitude, breath, and body.
It can be daunting to know where to start when practicing at home, however. Here is a rubric I use in training teachers to sequence yoga classes—and it works very well for home practice, too. Think 6-4-2. Six moves of the spine, four lines of the hips, and two core modes.
1. Take your spine in all six directions. Include poses that move your spine forward and back (this can be as simple as Cat and Cow or as complex as a series of forward folds and backbends); add a side bend to either side; and twist your spine in both directions. This covers the six moves of the spine and wakes up your back, ribs, chest, and shoulders.
2. Address the four lines of your hips. Include a pose or poses that address the front of the thighs (quads and hip flexors) and the backs of the legs and hips (hamstrings and glutes), such as Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge Pose) or Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I). Then add poses that involve the inner thighs (adductors) and outer hips (abductors and rotators), such as Virabhadrasana (Warrior II) and Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). That is, spend some time oriented toward the short front end of your mat and some time oriented toward the long wide side of your mat. When you do, you’ll hit the four lines of your hips: front, back, inside, and outside.
3. Challenge your core in two ways. To target the big supportive muscles of your core (including the deepest abdominal muscles), include a few poses that require core stabilization, such as Plank Pose, Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III), and Navasana (Boat Pose). To work the smaller muscles that support the spine and the more superficial core muscles, include core articulation poses, like rolling up to Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), or slow tilts of the legs to either side in Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose).
When you have a few spare minutes for practice, remember this 6-4-2 rubric, and you’ll have the key to a home practice that leaves your spine and hips feeling balanced. In combination with mindful breathing and a minute or two of Savasana (Corpse Pose) and silent meditation, you’ll stay centered throughout the holidays.