Principles for a Balanced Yoga Practice

woman doing yoga

Yoga Home Practice Tips

A well-rounded hatha yoga practice at home should stretch the major muscle groups of the body, open the chest, create movement in the joints and spine, and engage the body’s senses of grounding, balance, and core strength. There are a variety of asanas and yoga styles that will accomplish these movements. What you choose to do, what style of yoga you practice, or how challenging the asanas are are less important factors than covering these areas in a daily practice.

The benefits of a well-rounded practice include better breathing, a cleaner internal system, a clearer head, and a happier day!

Stretching the Large Muscles

woman doing yoga

Deep stretch should be mostly passive and approached intuitively. You know where you feel sore, tight, or blocked. Beginning your practice in savasana or a seated meditation position allows you to scan the body and find these areas. Of course, we often discover issues in the body through asana. Find basic asanas to stretch the backs of the legs, hips, sides of the torso, and upper back and stay for one to three minutes in positions where you feel the most intensity. Deepen the breath and allow it to cleanse the body.

Opening the Chest

There are many chest opening asanas that range from simple to challenging. Whether your energetic level puts you in the mood to do a modified Camel Pose or a full Wheel Pose is not important. Any asana that stretches the muscles of the rib cage and expands the area around the heart will have the same benefits. Chest openers ward off depression, strengthen the immune system, and keep the breath strong and vital.

Working the Joints

The synovial fluid of the joints does not get rejuvenated unless we physically move our joints. Simple wrist, ankle, and knee circles are as effective as doing Eagle Pose or Hero’s Pose.

Joint health is one of the many reasons vinyasa-style yoga is important to include in a balanced yoga practice; almost every major joint in the body is engaged in a slow and simple Sun Salutation.

Moving the Spine

Spinal flexibility is one of the most important aspects of the body to maintain as one ages. Better posture, more energy, resistance to injury, and lower stress are all benefits of maintaining a healthy spine. Simple lying twists, basic tiger movements, and easy seated twists should be incorporated into your practice.

Advanced twists, bound postures, deep back bends, and forward folds with a rounded spine are equally effective as long as the breath is not compromised.

Grounding the Body

Connect with the earth in your hatha practice. Body awareness and a greater sense of one’s place in the world are among the central purposes of the physical practice of asanas. Whether you are standing in Tadasana or engaged in a warrior pose or Downward-Facing Dog Pose, take the time to be aware of your connection to the earth through your foundation.

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Finding Balance and Core Strength

Any balancing pose should engage the core muscles to some degree. Inverted balancing poses are among the asanas most vital to overall health; not only do they engage the core muscles and require balance, but they tone the internal organs and strengthen the circulatory system. Use a wall for headstand or handstand, or come to a variation of shoulder stand on your mat.

If inversions are intimidating at first, simply spend a few breaths in a standing balancing pose like Tree Pose or Dancer Pose or do a forearm balance such as Crow Pose or Crane Pose.

Crane Pose

How much you wish to challenge yourself on any given day depends on your mood and personal goals. The health benefits of an easy pose are essentially the same as an advanced pose. Good yoga is not hard yoga or yoga that demands advanced physical abilities of strength and flexibility.

As your health improves through a balanced yoga practice, you should feel inspired to deepen your practice and challenge your body and mind.