A yoga practice that changes with you

Whilst we were chatting before one of my evening yoga classes, someone asked me what sort of yoga I did at home.

My answer was: it varies.

I think it’s important not to get fixed to a routine that doesn’t take into account how your body or mind are on that particular day, or what end results / outcomes you want. I think this is particularly important for women who menstruate, are premenopausal or post menopause. Our cyclical hormones, combined with moon phases, can have significant impacts for some people, and we can tune into these energies to make the most of our yoga practice.

So, during phases of higher energy I might have a longer practice with lots of standing postures, inversions and balances, taking inspiration from, but not limited to, Ashtanga, Jivamukti and vinyasa flow style asana-based practices.

If I’m feeling low on energy but still want to move, I might do more of a seated asana focused session, perhaps with slightly longer holds for some postures, but also some rhythmical micro-movements like rocking.

If I’ve got a niggle somewhere like over-tense shoulders or lower back discomfort, I would spend time on those areas to ease and release. I’d also prioritise de-stressing techniques because higher stress levels can lead to higher levels of pain experienced.

If I’m totally wiped out or it’s during the first few days of my period, I would take more restorative postures and movements, perhaps using a bolster or pillow in places for support and rest. It would mainly be seated and lying down, with soothing breathing techniques.

I also have a short daily routine which doesn’t take me long to do, but which covers all types of body movement (forward folds, back bends, balances, inversions, twists and side bends), just to keep everything ticking over.

Me in extended side crow, also called dwi pada koundinyasana

What yoga can you do to suit how you feel?

If you have managed to set aside some time for yourself and your yoga, congratulations! Now, what should you do? I recommend choosing something that either matches how you’re feeling, or helps you shift into a different frame of mind / energy level, if that’s what’s needed. Some ideas are below.

  • Very low on energy and just want to move a bit: Focus on seated, kneeling and lying simple moves and postures, starting and finishing the session with soothing breathing like the golden breath or belly breathing. Use pillows/cushions to support limbs so you can rest longer in positions as appropriate.
  • Low on energy but want to be energised, need motivation: Start off slow and gentle e.g. sitting or supine, and gradually build up to kneeling movements, followed by downward facing dog, and up to standing. There are also energising breath and movement practices like the breath of joy.
  • Average energy: anything you like, combining some sitting, standing and balance postures and maybe some inversions if you like them.
  • High energy: introduce things you find challenging, e.g. bird of paradise or arm balances, or make a longer flow of standing postures – you can link many postures together to make a sequence.
  • Stressed, anxious, wound up, angry etc: prioritise soothing breathing techniques like belly breathing and the golden breath, particularly ones which lengthen the exhale which will activate your relaxation response and dial down the stress response. Also doing some movement may be helpful – it releases tension and the chemicals produced from the stress response cycle. The breath of joy may be helpful as the arms are moved about and there’s a good vigorous exhale.
  • Fluctuating emotions – breathing practices like equal (sama vrtti) or ratio breathing (visama vrtti) may help to ground you, and also seated postures, or standing postures where you feel connected to the ground.
  • Seasonal yoga: when it’s warm and sunny you may feel more flexible in the body and keen to move more and go a bit deeper in some postures – or, it may be so hot you feel wiped out after 5 mins and want to do something slower and less energetic. If it’s cold, again there may be different approaches – you might want to move more and generate some internal body heat with standing postures and sequences, or you might feel more like hibernating, keeping it slow and steady perhaps with a joint mobility focus.
Picture of person lying in flapping fish pose

Flapping fish pose

You can use yoga videos (or old school DVDs!) that match what you need, or if you know a few things yourself, write a little list but don’t feel obliged to stick to it, as things might come to you as you go through your session.

Also choose a length of time that feels right – if you’re really struggling to get motivated, then set the timer for 10 minutes, and you will feel good for achieving that, and can do more if you feel up to it.

In the photo I’m in ‘flapping fish’ pose – strange name but many people find this a calming and relaxing posture to be in.

Meditation and pranayama are yoga too

Don’t forget that mindfulness, meditation and pranayama (breathing practices) are yoga too. So your session may be purely breathing and mindfulness, or you might begin and end with these.

Ideas and inspiration

If you wanting a guide to prompt you, here are some of my free resources:

And finally, don’t forgot that yoga practices also change with age – but that’s a whole other blog post!

[Dandelion image from Pexels by Monsterkoi]

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