Home practice is hard. It’s only human to go through phases where you get distracted by the shiny, next, new challenge pose in your practice—or on the opposite end of the spectrum simply get stuck on your favorite feel-good sequence. And while you definitely don’t want to lose sight of goals or the sweet sensations that keep you coming back to your mat, it’s a good idea to take a critical eye to your practice now and then and look for the areas where you could strive for greater balance.
That’s what yoga is all about after all, and practitioners of every level can benefit from going back to basics regularly to reexamine the actions and alignment of foundational standing poses, backbends, forward bends, and inversions.
1. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)
There are several variations to this sequence of postures known as salute to the sun. They’re traditionally practiced as the sun is rising, and whichever version of Surya Namaskar you practice, they’re a great way to warm up and start to sync movement of the body with the flow of the breath.
As they work all of the 7 major chakras, they’ll help you light up energetically and the rhythmic movement can help create a sense of inner calm.
2. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
It’s most commonly called Chair Pose, which kinda suggests something comfortable and relaxing. Personally, I think it’s more appropriate to use one Utkatasana’s other translations, Thunderbolt, Fierce Pose or Awkward Pose.
Call it what you will, Utkatasana is an amazing way to generate heat in the body and quickly build energy. It activates the core and the legs and challenges your mind to stay present and positive, all great benefits for a morning practice.
3. Parivrtta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair Pose)
I mean, if you’re going to go to all the trouble of sitting down in your not-so-comfy Chair, you might as well get the twisting benefits of the revolved variation right?! Twisting poses have a squeeze and release effect on your digestive system and internal organs so they help promote detoxification. And on that note, I’d hold off on breakfast until after your practice if you plan on getting twisty…
4. Downward Dog
Stretch the entire backside of your body: your back, hamstrings, calves and Achilles.
A) Begin in a kneeling position on your mat with hands directly under shoulders, fingers spread wide.
B) Tuck your toes under and engage your abdominals as you push your body up off the mat so only your hands and feet are on the mat.
C) Press through your hands, moving your chest gently toward your thighs and your heels gently toward the floor.
5. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
I’ve got a problematic psoas muscle that likes to grip and shorten any chance it can get, so Anjaneyasana is like a bubble bath for my hip flexors. You get that lovely open stretchy feeling through the hips, arms and torso, and it also builds strength in the legs.
A really nice morning variation is to interlace the fingers behind the lower back and gently drawing the hands away to open the chest and heart space.
6. Extended Triangle Pose
7. Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Fold)
I prefer this wide-legged forward fold to Uttanasana in the morning because it seems to feel better in my body, but of course both are great options. You’ve got glorious lengthening in the spine,a stretch through the hamstrings, and the effects of the inversion help you face the day with calmness and clarity. There are 3 variations of Prasarita Padottanasana, you could do all, or pick one that works best for your body.