Fitness Magazine

My Evolving Home Practice

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by BaxterMy Evolving Home Practice
Because my life, my circumstances, and my health are always changing, I adapt my personal yoga practices to the changes I’m currently going through. In 2017, my focus was on consistent use of yoga’s stress management tools with regular use of restorative poses (see Featured Sequence: Mini Restorative Practiceand quieting pranayama techniques (see Calming Breathing Practices We Recommend). I found that the two most effective restorative poses for me were (and still are) Reclined Cobblers pose and Legs Up the Wall pose.
Through practicing this way and because I also created more space last year in my work schedule by letting go of one class and reducing my overall office hours, my perceived stress has diminished.My overall energy has improved and I have introduced one more regular form of exercise into my weekly regimen, tennis. I played tennis very casually as a kid and on rare occasions over the years, but it was not until late last spring when my sweetie and I were brainstorming of activities we might do together that we realized we both had tennis racquets in the garage and one day gave it a go. Well, we had so much fun and were so well matched in our skill level that we decided to try to play once a week. And after a few months of enjoying the challenges to balance, agility, strength and flexibility that the game requires, and seeing some fellow players at the local courts taking lessons, we were ready to improve our game and enlisted the help of a coach. So, since last October, an almost a weekly basis, I have been also taking a one-hour tennis lesson.

Even as I have been really enjoying the many facets of tennis—some shared with the yoga practice (it also, for instance, requires moment-by-moment focus and concentration)—I began to notice the physical effects of the game on my body. Since I am right handed, I end up using my right arm a lot more than my left, and have noticed the imbalance in strength and tightness that have resulted. And since my feet are in almost constant motion, with side-to-side, forward-and-back, and diagonal quick running bursts, I have noticed both increased strength in my legs and hips, but along with it, increased tightness and stiffness. So in the past few months, in my personal yoga practice I have increased my focus on poses and mini vinyasa that help release this new tension, such as Reclined Leg Stretch pose, Downward Facing Dog pose, Dropped-Knee Lunge, my Dynamic Reclined Hip Stretch Sequence (for video see here), and Side-to-Side Spider Slides (for video, see here), to name a few of my present favorites. For my upper body flexibility, I have been doing more Arms Overhead pose, Eagle Pose arms, Cow-Face Pose arms, and when doing Reclined Twist to the left, I will reach my right arm up and to the right to stretch my arm and front chest muscles.

Although I still tend to do calming pranayama on a regular basis, I also am adding in more balancing pranayama (see Breath Practices for Balance). And my go-to breath practice for this is Alternate Nostril Breath, either with using the fingers to open and close the nostrils or imagining their use( what I refer to as “Mental Nadi Shodhana.”)
I am also continuing my regular meditation practice, which is now more consistently 15 minute-long sessions in the morning. For over two years now, I have been exploring the book Mudra, by Joseph and Lillian LePage, and each week I work with a new mudra in my meditation practice. Over the last four weeks, the mudras have been gestures that are said to help deepen the meditation practice. This past week’s mudra, called Bhairava mudra, is quite easy to do, but it’s potential effects are quite impressive: supporting sustainable freedom from our conditioning (moksha) while also revealing our interconnectedness of all things (ongoing unity). And although I have a long way to go on both those fronts, I still find that the hand gestures provide a good focus for the mind during meditation. If you would like to try this mudra, follow the instructions below.
To do Bhairava mudra:
  1. Take a comfortable sitting position.
  2. Turn the palms of both hands up to the sky, with fingers close together.
  3. Place the back of your right hand into the palm of your left hand, fingers overlapped.
  4. With your thumbs alongside your index finger side of hand, allow the tips of your thumbs to touch lightly.
  5. Rest your hands in your lap while maintaining a good sitting posture.
  6. When your meditation is complete, gently move your fingers around to release any tension.

That’s my practice update for now. I recommend that you, too, allow your practices to evolve to suit your current circumstances and needs. I’ll check back in with you again next year to share how things are evolving in my practice.

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Follow Baxter Bell, MD on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. For upcoming workshops and retreats see Baxter's Workshops and for info on Baxter see baxterbell.com.  

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