When we design a short yoga practice to manage our energy, breathing needs to be the focus of the practice. Breath is the most direct pathway we have to affect our physiological processes. That is why in the center of any energy-management short yoga practice is a Pranayama technique. However, Pranayama technique cannot pop out of nowhere in the middle of your practice – you need to plan for it ahead of time, and prepare both your breath and your body for the deep work of Pranayama. Here is a simple template for creating a short targeted yoga practice for energy management. Let’s use it to create a practice to build your energy up in the morning if you wake up groggy and unfocused.
Step 1: Decide which Pranayama technique you want to build your practice around. (We will be using Krama Inhale (segmented inhalation) which is very effective for building energy.)
Step 2: Reflect on what kind of body and breath preparation is required for this technique. What is the main feature of this technique? (In our case, Krama Inhale emphasizes inhalation. That is why we will prepare for it by focusing on deepening inhalation throughout the practice and increasing awareness of ribcage expansion on inhale. This will be our breath theme. We will use backbends and/or lateral bends to support the idea of expansion on inhalation and to increase Brhmana (energizing) effect.)
Step 3: Pick two core poses that will support the main feature of your chosen breathing technique. Keep the poses simple. (We will use kneeling Upward facing dog (a backbend) and kneeling Gate (a lateral bend.)
Step 4: Pick two compensation poses for your core poses that can also be used to support the main feature of your breathing technique. (We will use Vajrasana and Balasana to compensate for the core poses and also to expand the sides of the ribcage (Vajrasana) and the upper back (Balasana).
Step 5: Pick a preparation pose to gently warm up the body. (We will use Cat-Cow pose and its lateral adaptation.)
Step 6. Decide on where you would like to start and to end your practice. Generally speaking, for breath-centered practice it is best to start and end in a comfortable sitting position (on the floor, bolster, blanket or chair) to establish connection to your breath at the beginning, and then to observe the effect of the practice at the end. If you choose other starting and /or ending positions, you need to have good reasons for it.
Step 7: Decide where will you add your breathing theme (from Step 2). It usually works best to introduce the theme at the very beginning in a comfortable sitting position, then sprinkle it throughout the practice in different poses, and then revisit it again right before you do your Pranayama. However, try NOT to manipulate your breath in every pose, especially if you are doing something more difficult – your breath will need time to recover. (We will sprinkle our breath theme throughout the practice alternating the deepening of inhalation with awareness of ribcage expansion. Since rib cage expansion is more of an awareness exercise, it will not be taxing for the breath.)
Your short target practice will look like this:
And that’s it! No need to get too intricate – every element you choose needs to support the dominant theme, which is your Pranayama technique. If you are short on time, you can do one core pose and one compensation pose instead of two. Just be sure that breath awareness needs to be present in everything you do. Next week we will feature a 20-minute energizing yoga practice based on this template that you can do whenever you experience a dip in your energy. Tune in!
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