There may be something idyllic about a home practice that exists during dedicated time on the mat and follows the arc of a perfectly sequenced class. But why let conventional thinking cloud our understanding of what a home practice should look like. In the first post of this two-part series, I discussed five tips for building an intrinsically motivated home practice. In this post, I will explore what it means to break free from conventional thinking while cultivating your home practice. Specifically, we will see how practice need not exist within the confines of dedicated time on the mat. Of course, this is not to say that your entire home practice can exist outside of allotted mat-time — many exercises and poses require a proper warm-up. That being said, so much movement can be incorporated into daily life. Given our unprecedented sedenterism, we could all benefit from a home practice that moves with us through our day.
Squatting — and no I don’t mean unlawfully occupying an abandoned property — is a natural and functional movement that most Westerners have completely forgotten. Katy Bowman writes extensively about the importance of squatting for pelvic health, hip/knee/ankle mobility, and even as a preventative measure for various health conditions1. If you are unable to perform a full deep squat with proper form, I will direct you to Katy’s blog post here where she guides you through.
Begin to squat everywhere! I squat to pet my animals, to clean the floor, to pick up dog poop — basically whenever you have to “get down”, do it malasana style! Feeling strong? — add a balasana (crow pose) before you get up!
Did you know that yoga is severely lacking in pulling movements? Pulling and pushing are complementary functional movements in that they train opposite (i.e., antagonistic) muscle groups. While pulling primarily recruits the biceps, back muscles, and posterior deltoids, pushing primarily recruits the triceps, chest muscles, and middle deltoids. Overtraining one muscle group while undertraining another leads to muscle imbalances. Why do we care? — muscle imbalances predispose us to injury 2–4.
So if you are a yogi and predominantly pushing with your enumerable chatarungas, planks, and arm balances, then start hanging! Hanging is a wonderful movement that can be done throughout the day. My pull-up bar is installed in the doorway of my bedroom. I make a habit of hanging (almost) every time I go in and out of my bedroom….and then some!
Don’t just rely on your body to find movement — interact with your environment to prop your practice. We don’t all have fancy blocks and bolsters at home, but the following movement ideas use props we all have access to.
Linger on the stairs — Stretch your calves
Our love affair with heels has sacrificed our range of dorsiflexion (i.e., toes coming closer to shins). I’m not even talking about high heels — unless you are wearing flip flops or intentionally sporting minimalist/barefoot shoes, there is a good chance your shoes have a positive heel. Any degree of heel on your shoes is limiting your ability to dorsiflex and possibly contributing to other health issues5. It is beyond the scope of this blog post to delve into the science of minimalist versus positive heeled shoes. But don’t let your tight calves limit the mobility in your ankles — stretch them out!
Hang over your bed — Open your chest & shoulders
As an alternative to lying over blocks in a supported fish pose, you can find traction through your spine by draping your body over your bed or a couch. Our spine endures the compressive force of gravity all day long — be it during sitting, walking, standing or many other body positions. Rarely do we vary the gravitational force or give the postural muscles supporting our spines a break. And this movement feels sooo good — particularly at the end of the day.
Find a surface — explore your down dog
This is a great exercise for your mid-day movement break — particularly if you spend a lot of time in spinal flexion (i.e., a rounded back) and with internally rotated shoulders (i.e., rounded shoulders). Try this exercise on your desk, counter, window sill, or any surface within arms reach! Externally rotate your arm bone by rolling your pinkies in and your thumbs up and out. Squeeze your arms towards centre but allow the rest of your body to stay passive.
Grab a belt — Open your shoulders
If you are anything like me and have tight shoulders and neck pain, this is a wonderful exercise for exploring the full range of motion of your shoulders. Start with a wide grip on the belt and narrow your grip as your shoulders open. Reach forward and up then back and down — this movement will naturally elevate your shoulders on the way up and draw your shoulder blades towards one another on the way down. Keep your core engaged to prevent your rib cage from flaring.
In this post we have seen some ideas for how to find more movement throughout the day. Whether you are brushing your teeth, cleaning the floor, waiting for the kettle to boil, or picking up dog poop, there are so many opportunities to move your practice!
A special thanks to Stef Winters for contributing her delicious movements to this post!
This is how I wait for soup to heat-up #cooklikeayogi
- Bowman K, Lewis J. Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement. Propriometrics Press; 2014. https://books.google.ca/books?id=ZG5nngEACAAJ.
- Knapik JJ, Bauman CL, Jones BH, Harris JM, Vaughan L. Preseason strength and flexibility imbalances associated with athletic injuries in female collegiate athletes. Am J Sports Med. 1991;19(1):76-81. doi:10.1177/036354659101900113.
- Wang HK, Cochrane T. Mobility impairment, muscle imbalance, muscle weakness, scapular asymmetry and shoulder injury in elite volleyball athletes. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2001;41(3):403-410. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11533574. Accessed January 27, 2018.
- Hadzic V, Sattler T, Veselko M, Markovic G, Dervisevic E. Strength Asymmetry of the Shoulders in Elite Volleyball Players. J Athl Train. 2014;49(3):338-344. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.05.
- Bowman K. Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear. Propriometrics Press; 2015.