Sometimes relying on a solid structure can help bring a little more ease and happiness into our lives. The trick is to use the benefits of structure as a gateway toward feeling safe in the unknown.
As the poet Rumi writes, “This being human is a Guest House, every day a new arrival.” One never knows what emotions may arise—we cannot control the natural fluctuation of our vibrant heart, the ongoing flow of feelings and thoughts. What we can do, however, is work with our mind by accepting its nature, and with our body by strengthening and opening it so that it is both powerful and spacious enough to welcome all sorts of interesting thoughts and sensations. A diligent yoga practice can help cultivate a sense of stability, trust, and ease in dealing with the unexpected.
How does one lay the foundation for a steady practice? A new year is not our only cue: Each new breath is an opportunity for refreshing.
Beginnings can be exciting because they help us find that childlike sense of wonder. Initially one might feel a deep sense of motivation and energy that helps take that first step, but eventually routine might become boring if not properly addressed. Two elements are essential in order to fully achieve your goal: diligence and the energy to stick with it.
With daily practice the physical work will become second nature and the mind will gain the ability to focus, trust, and let go. The repetition of a single routine will also bring changes to the body’s strength and flexibility. The trick is to work with no expectations of what you may achieve, but just with consistency. Humbly acknowledge and invite every emotion in without discrimination—simply observe and accept.
I invite you to practice the sequence below every day for 28 days. Set a start date and write it down, look up an end date, and circle it on your calendar, then every day after practicing, circle the day you are on and notice. Let your fingers touch a pen and paper. Make that little effort to reconnect to the basics. Notice each feeling, the change in your body depending on the circumstances, the day of the week; never judging, just listening. Lastly, try not to talk about it too much. Let this be your personal discovery, a secret you share with you and your body. Let the benefits of it reflect in the way you interact with yourself and others. And then if, and only if, the secret must be shared, you will know and trust who too can benefit.
A Yoga Sequence for Building a Daily Practice
The following sequence will wake up the body and activate essential muscles to infuse your day with stability and openness. Pay special attention to the use of the block and the floor when gliding in and through each pose. How is the block helping you create more length and strength?The block acts like a second pair of eyes. Because there is nobody there to check your alignment you can use the block as a way to realign your posture. Make a mental and physical note of the sensations. If certain feelings arise, just let them in through your inhale, and out through your exhale.
Child’s PoseBring toes to touch, knees mat-width distance, hands reaching forward.
Sit up on a block (or two) with the toes turned in and the knees touching.
Squeeze a block between the thighs. Curl the spine, sucking the belly in. Slide the shoulders back.
Keep the block in between the thighs as you transition to Downward Dog. It will help you activate the thighs.
Downward Dog Bent-Knee Variation
Lift your hips and heels up, slide your ribs toward your thighs and feel your arms lengthening. Use your legs to lengthen your torso.
Keep the block between the thighs, and reach your heels back. Press down into the space of the index finger and thumb and press your shoulders back.
Keep the block between the thighs to help open up the back of the heart. Be comfortable into the discomfort.
Low Lunge Block Variation
Make sure you place the block underneath your quad close to your knee but not under the knee. Tent your fingertips. If possible, push your front knee into the armpit. Point your back toes toward the ceiling.
Make sure you ground in your back heel. Work equally with your back body and front body. Draw the back hip forward as you pull the front foot back. Slide your shoulders down toward your hips and press into the hands.
Bring the block in between the palms and use it to help lengthen the arms. Drop the shoulder blades down toward the hips.
Warrior I with Bent Arms
Bend your elbows. Make sure your biceps are touching your temples. Push your palms into the black. Press into your back foot; it is your anchor.
Mountain Pose with Arms Extended
Reach the arms overhead with the block between the hands. Press down into your feet. Press the big toe mounds out toward the pinky toes.
Mountain Pose with Serratus and Rhomboid ActivationStand up with your elbows bent. Push your hands into the block, and wrap your shoulder blades down toward each other.
Chair Pose Variation
Reach your hips back, breathe into your heels, and reach the arms forward, holding the block between your hands. Create as much opposition between your hands and your hips as possible.
Extended Side Angle
Put the block outside your front foot, step one leg back and press into the back foot. Use the block to slide your bottom shoulder blade back. Push the arm into the knee and extend the crown of the head away from the hips.
Standing Forward Bend with Crossed Ankles
Cross your ankles; try as best you can to push the insides of the feet into the floor and patiently let your body fall into your legs.
Related: A Yoga Sequence to Burn the Ego
Downward Dog to Shoulder Opener Stretch
Now do the sequence without the block and try to bring to mind the sensations that you had when you were using the block. You may notice that what felt like a restriction actually helped you creates spaciousness and strength. Try to be just as mindful in your transitions and holds as you were when holding the block in your hand.
Three-Legged Downward Dog
Pyramid Pose on Tented Fingers
Squatting Chair Pose
Bend the knees a lot so that the chest and thighs stay connected. Look forward and lengthen the back and the side bodies.
Extended Side Angle
Plant the palms underneath the shoulders, and level the hips.
From Warrior III (with or without blocks), bend the standing leg and propel yourself forward toward handstand.
Rest the elbows on blocks, and bring the palms to touch at the back of the neck and breathe.
Photos by Hailey Wist