With the lockdown due to coronavirus, I have enjoyed getting into a new routine, whereby I get up out of bed and practice some Hatha yoga before starting the rest of my day. Some days I literally do ten minutes, whereas other days I might do 45-minutes. For me, the benefit is practising every day.
I´ve been hearing from previous guests that they´ve found the lockdown challenging and need a boost to get healthy and back into shape. So, this month on the blog I thought I would share my 30-minute home Hatha yoga practice, to support you getting into a healthy habit. I find that even if I start off grumpy or lethargic (it happens to all of us!), by the end of the practice I feel more centred, balanced and energised, ready to start my day.
Why is Hatha yoga a complete practice?
Hatha yoga is a great form of exercise to incorporate into your daily (or weekly) life. Some of the benefits of practising Hatha yoga on a regular basis include:
- Improved muscle tone
- Builds muscle strength
- Increased mobility and flexibility
- Centred mind – become present during practice
- Improved connection with self
- Deep regular breathing, which helps to maintain balance
Hatha classes can vary quite substantially, depending upon the teacher and the focus of their class. However, two elements that you will experience in most Hatha yoga classes is strength and flexibility. These two go hand-in-hand. When I first started learning yoga, I remember not liking some of the asanas. Looking back, this was either because I had limited mobility (flexibility) in that area or limited strength, which meant it felt uncomfortable or hard to do. Over time, my body became used to moving and the asanas became more comfortable. After experiencing shoulder and hip injuries a while back, Hatha yoga has been ideal for re-learning and re-building both strength and flexibility.
As you practise, notice where some areas in your body might feel very tight, for example the hips or the back of the legs (focus on increasing flexibility and mobility). Other areas of the body might be flexible, like your back or hips, but not very strong (e.g. you find cobra with no hands challenging), so you can focus on building strength. One of the benefits of developing a home practice is that you can decide to include specific asanas, to work on these elements. (You can also choose to work with an experienced yoga teacher, who can help you with this).
30-minute home Hatha yoga practice
The following sequence is a good 30-minute home Hatha yoga practice that you can follow. If you have less time, then I recommend the joint and energy release (particularly if you practice first thing in the morning), followed by three sun salutations. This sequence is good for raising energy and strengthening your body, in particular your legs.
1. Warm up (3-5 minutes)
Joint and energy release
After waking up, I like to move all the joints in my body, as energy can get trapped in there overnight and it is a nice gentle way to work into the body. Start by standing up. Working from the feet upwards, squeeze and release each part of the body that can be squeezed and then rotate each joint – first in one direction, then the other way – followed by a gentle shake. Start with your toes, squeeze and release a few times, then give them a wiggle. Move to the ankles and repeat. Move all the way up your body: knees, hips (make circles lifting your knee up and round) then shake out the legs. Make a hula hoop motion of the hips. Swing your arms around, to move the spine
Roll the shoulders up, around and down. Go to your fingers, wrists, elbows and shake out the arms. Gently stretch your neck (drop left ear towards left shoulder, roll down to the bottom, then roll right ear towards right shoulder. Return the other way, repeat twice).
Cat and cow
Helps to release through the spine, whilst also opening the front of the body. Work in time with your breath – breath out as you round the spine upwards towards the ceiling, inhale as you drop the tummy towards the mat, allowing the back to curve the other way. For detailed instructions on how to do this, read Tania´s article: yoga asanas to support a healthy digestive system.
2. Three to five sun salutations (10-15 minutes)
I like to practice the first sun salutation quite slowly, holding each of the elements for 4-8 breaths. I recommend that you stay low for the back bend (cobra) on the first round and move deeper as your body warms.
The second sun salutation I work with a breath of 2, and on the third, each move is timed with my breath, into a lovely flow.
Read more about how to do a sun salutation in our recent article: what is vinyasa flow – boost your energy naturally.
For more detailed instruction on how to get into downward dog, read our article: pose of the month – Downward Dog.
3. Focused stretches (10 minutes)
In this section I add in the stretches or asanas that work the parts of my body that I want to focus on.
Side leg lifts
To build strength in my hip and leg muscles, I like to do some side leg lifts. A simple up and down (without lowering the foot to the mat) is a great place to start. I also like to bring the top foot down towards the mat, alternating to the front and back of the body. Aim for 8 or 10 of each.
Reclining hip opener
This asana works into the hips and the psoas muscles in a similar way that Pigeon does, but without the pressure on knees. Hold for up to one minute. To further work with hip flexibility, have one foot on the floor (knee bent) and bring the foot from the other leg down towards your groin. This position can help to build sufficient flexibility for seated lotus.
One of my favourite asanas to start winding-up with, the reclining twist stretches through the side of the body, the back and spine, as well as opening the front of my shoulders (too much sitting on a computer can bring the shoulders forward – this is a great counter-action). Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Apanasana – Release wind pose
With such a great name comes a lovely stretch for the body, before heading into savasana. Bring the left knee towards the chest. Hold for 20 seconds, then push the knee into the hands for 20 seconds, before releasing and bringing the knee down to the outside of the chest for the last 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
4. Relaxation (2-3 minutes)
Lie in savasana, on your back, with your eyes closed. You can cover your eyes with a mask. If you want to, place your hands on your tummy and connect to the movement of your breath throughout your body.
When you are ready, bring your knees in to your chest, giving the lower back a gentle massage, then roll to one side and come to seated slowly.
How to set up your space
If you can, find a place where you can leave your mat out, that way you can step out from your bed onto your mat.
For more tips on how to set up your home yoga space, read our earlier article: ten-minute home Yin yoga practice.
Online webinar and retreat experiences at home
Bring the retreat experience into your own home, in one of our online classes, workshops, meditations and packages. Read more on our online retreats page here.
More Hatha yoga articles
Over the years we have published many articles about Hatha yoga on our health and wellbeing blog. The following articles are related to this article, so you might be interested in reading them:
- Understand how yoga can benefit the heart. Try Bridge pose, Downward Dog, Legs up the wall and more.
- Find out how yoga can influence our liver and its role in detox, in my earlier article: yoga for detox.
- Learn more about how we practice Mindful Hatha yoga at La Crisalida
La Crisalida yoga retreat, Spain
Experience yoga in Spain, La Crisalida style. We have a lovely outdoor terrace, where we can practise all year round (weather dependent), with views of the mountains and the sea in the distance. Come and enjoy a yoga retreat with us, practice Hatha yoga, Yin, Restorative, Hatha-flow and more.
Yoga is an important part of the La Crisalida holistic programme for health and wellbeing.
I hope you enjoy this practice, do let me know how you get on.