There is definitely a specific pleasure in taking a public yoga class: listening to the wisdom of the teacher, exploring new postures, and simply being in the studio space with the instant community created. You just can’t replace that experience.
However, there are times in life when you need yoga and a drop-in class is not a possibility—situations where just a little bit of movement can make a really big difference, and you may not even have a yoga mat at your disposal. Perhaps you crave a break during a long-distance cycling trip, or need to get out of your head and step away from your desk on a busy workday, or maybe you were too busy to get to class and want to stretch out and calm down before you go to bed.
All it takes is a few postures to release muscle tension, lower blood pressure, reset the mind, and help with digestion and immune function. (Additional yogi secret: it can help with hangovers, too!)
Modified from the beautiful Moon Salutation, or Chandra Namaskar, the sequence is a calming alternative to the energizing Sun Salutation, and it traces a large circle with the body, indicating the shape of a ripe full moon. It is recommended as an aid to sleep, but I use it whenever I can’t make it to my mat. A bonus for this modification is that it is easy on the knees and the wrists, and is accessible to many levels of ability; plus, it’s lovely if you are pregnant or menstruating. As always, check with your doctor if you have any specific health concerns.
- Half Moon Pose: From a standing position, feet parallel and hip-distance apart, inhale your arms up and interlace your fingers, keeping your indexfingers reaching up. As you exhale, lean over to the right for a side bend. Inhale back up to standing and exhale to the left. Inhale back up through center and release your hands.
- Goddess Pose: Exhale to step your right leg out to the right about three feet, and turn both of your toes out at a 45-degree angle. Inhale your arms up then exhale to bend your knees and elbows into Goddess Pose or High Malasana.
- Triangle Pose: Inhale your legs to straight, and turn your right foot out and your left foot in a little bit, so that your right heel is in line with your left inner arch. As you exhale, lean your body to the right for Triangle Pose, so your right arm reaches down toward your toes and the left arm goes straight up toward the ceiling.
- Pyramid Pose: Inhale in Triangle pose, then exhale and bow over your straight front leg, which is called Pyramid Pose. Now both hands are pointing towards the floor: they may touch down, but you can also hold your hands on your hips.
- Low Lunge: Exhale to step your back foot a little farther behind you, optionally lowering your knee down to the floor. Stay on fingertips on either side of your front foot, keeping your shin directly over the ankle. Inhale and stretch your hips and chest forward.
- Wide-legged Forward Fold: As you exhale, walk your hands to the inside of your front leg and toward the midpoint between your legs. As you do, carefully parallel your feet and straighten your legs so you are in a Wide-legged Forward Fold. Hands can touch down or dangle, or you can hold opposite elbows. I like to hold this inversion for a few breaths.
- Low Lunge: Take a halfway lift as you inhale, and turn towards your left foot, turning it out to the left as you come onto the ball of your right foot so you are in a low lunge on the other side. Inhale to stretch your chest and hips forward.
- Pyramid Pose: As you exhale, step your back foot in about a foot closer and place the heel down as you straighten both legs for Pyramid Pose on the left side.
- Triangle Pose: On an inhale, reach your right arm straight up for Triangle Pose, turning your torso toward the side wall.
10. Goddess Pose: Inhale both arms up and turn both feet out to 45-degree angles. As you exhale, bend your knees and elbows into the cactus shape for Goddess Pose.
- Half Moon Pose: Inhale the arms up and the legs to straight, and step your left foot in to meet your right one so you return to standing at the opposite end of your mat from where you started. Exhale to side bend to the left, inhale back to center, and then exhale to side bend to the right. Now step the left foot out to the left and repeat the sequence in the opposite direction.
Having moved through the revolutions of this sequence, you’ve stretched out your quadriceps, hamstrings, and back, including a gentle inversion that releases strain in the neck and helps to calm the body. The physical experience of moving through a cycle has a deep sense of completion to it, and you may find your mind is much calmer and more collected. Now you’ve got some yoga in your pocket, and you can take it anywhere you need to go.
Watch my instructional video on the sequence here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgFmdW0qjBo