It can be a challenge to find an at-home Yoga practice that works for you. Poses that feel wonderful when your instructor is right there to support you may be too much to do on your own. In our Introduction to Ayurveda classes here at Smile, we teach a simple routine of five poses that has been the basis of my at-home practice for close to a decade.
In both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (among others), there are Five Elements that need to be brought into balance for optimum health and well-being. Different traditions may define those elements slightly differently, but in essence they are the same. In addition to a healthy diet and herbal regimen these five poses, each one relating to one of the five elements, can support a harmonious lifestyle.
Siddhasana: Perfect Sitting Pose
The element of Air gives us inspiration and movement. To balance the Air element, practice Perfect Sitting Pose with a straight, relaxed spine. This is a perfect pose to begin and end your routine, and to practice breathing and Mindfulness.
Paschimottanasana: Full Forward Bend
Stretch out your legs and flow into Full Forward Bend. The Water element brings nourishment and flexibility, allowing us to rest and renew. Take a slow deep breath, exhaling into the stretch, and allow your spine to lengthen as you reach for your toes.
Tadasana: Mountain Pose
Continuing to breathe slowly and quietly, rise to your feet, keep your hips open and your shoulders back, and relax into Mountain Pose. The Wood element gives us structure and order, the rising energy of growth in Spring, and the strength to speak our Truth. As you stand in this pose, feel your energy moving up from the soles of your feet, along your spine, and flowing from the top of your head.
Virabhadrasana: Warrior Pose with Extension
From your balanced center, reach out into Warrior Pose and the element of Fire. Fire circulates and transforms, taking the Truth found in Wood and carrying it out into the world as Action. Stretch your legs into this pose, pushing your boundaries without losing your stability. Allow your raised arms to declare your intentions to make the world a better place.
Uttanasana: Intense Downward Extension Pose
Leaning forward, allow your head and shoulders to roll toward the ground. Slowly bend from the hips, keeping the pelvis open and relaxed. Let gravity pull you down into this Earth balancing pose. The Earth element allows us to let go of negativity and judgement, to practice compassion, and to live our lives with quiet grace. With your spine long and relaxed, breathe slowly down into the humble earth and release what is holding you back.
At this point, you may want to return to Perfect Sitting Pose to end your routine, and spend a few minutes observing your breath. You may also continue on to more poses for a longer or more challenging routine. The possibilities are endless.
With practice and mindfulness, these 5 simple poses can support a centered experience of the 5 elements in your daily life.
In good health!