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Preparing the Yoga Environment

Enjoy performing the poses, then develop your practice from there.

You can create a personal yoga practice to meet your needs. To help you decide on which poses to perform, you may want to start with poses that you enjoy performing and then develop your practice from there. Make sure the poses you select include forward, backward and twisting movements of the spine, as well as shoulder and hip movements. You should spend an average of 2 minutes on each pose, resting between poses whenever you need to.
When you design your own yoga practice, plan to practice for 60 to 90 minutes. However, if you are short on time, you can create a shorter practice of 15 to 30 minutes. You should also make sure you adjust the intensity of your practice according to how you feel at the time.
If you have health problems, be sure to discuss practicing yoga with your doctor and seek the advice of a qualified yoga teacher before designing your personal yoga practice.
Centering and Breath Awareness
At the beginning of every yoga practice, you should spend 5 to 10 minutes focusing on centering and breath awareness. This time allows you to bring your attention to the present moment and prepares you for your practice. Once you are in a comfortable seated or relaxation pose, perform breathing exercises, such as the exercises shown on pages 36 to 39, and become aware of your breath and body.
Counter Poses
Counter poses are an important part of your yoga practice. A counter pose moves your spine in the opposite direction from the previous pose and allows your spine to return to a neutral position. Forward bends are good counter poses for back bends, twists and side bends. Gentle back bends are good counter poses for forward bends.
Warm Ups
You should perform a warm-up sequence to prepare your entire body for your practice. A warm-up sequence warms up your muscles, increases the flexibility in your joints and improves your circulation. You can choose to perform a seated, reclined or standing warm-up sequence, as shown on pages 252 to 257. You can also create your own warm-up sequence by performing a combination of the warm-up poses shown on pages 48 to 69 and neck, shoulder and arm stretches shown on pages 42 to 47.
The Poses
You can follow these guidelines to help you develop the order of poses in your practice:
Sun Salutation
Before beginning the poses in your practice, you may want to perform Sun Salutation, starting on page 262, to prepare for the poses.
Standing Poses
You should perform standing poses next to improve your posture, as well as energize and strengthen your entire body.
Balancing Poses
Balancing poses should follow standing poses to improve your balance and coordination. Keeping your body balanced in balancing poses also encourages you to focus your mind.
Back Bends
Back bends, which can be intense and challenging, should be performed next. You should always perform forward bends after back bends to return your spine to a neutral position.
Forward Bends
Performing leg stretches may help warm up your legs before you perform forward bends. Forward bends can calm your body and mind.
You should perform inversions near the end of your practice because your body is properly warmed-up and prepared for these poses at this point in your practice. Inversions help increase circulation and improve your overall health.
Perform twists at the end of your practice to further calm and rejuvenate your body and mind. Twists also help prepare your body for relaxation.
Your relaxation period should be between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on the length of your practice. Position yourself in Relaxation Pose, as shown on page 242, and allow your mind and body to relax. Even if your practice is short, you should allow time for relaxation at the end of your practice. You should always end your yoga practice feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
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