Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward-facing Dog, by Karen Long

Fitting your yoga practice into a busy schedule can be challenging.I have been practising yoga for most of my adult life and it is very much a part of who I am. Sometimes though, I find that the rhythm of my practice gets disturbed. My life ratchets up a few notches and I find that I am leaving the house early, coming home late and that I have forgotten to get on my mat!

When I first started doing yoga in my early twenties I felt much more pushed and pulled by life, I was working freelance and seemed to either be rushing to meet a deadline or wondering when I was going to get my next job. In some aspects my life hasn’t changed so much...

This last month or so has been hectic. I’ve been teaching most of my regular classes but also working on another project. It has been very exciting to have some new challenges and I have loved it, but it has also made me think about how to manage time when there are so many pulls on it.

Stress is a constant factor for many of us and it probably won’t go away – well not completely anyway! In her book ‘How to stay sane’ Philippa Perry talks about how moderate levels of stress keep our minds in condition, and help to promote the neural growth hormones that support learning. “Good stress can be experienced as pleasurable, it can motivate us or make us curious” she says. “The richer and more stimulating our environment, the more encouraged we feel to learn new skills and expand our knowledge. Such learning seems to have the side effect of boosting our immune system” I can believe that.

However there is a tipping point when we can become overwhelmed by our stress, and it is at times like these when yoga is most beneficial. But of course it is also at times like these that our practice begins to slip. So what if we absolutely cannot make it to class but need to stretch? This is when developing a home practice is so valuable...

You don’t have to do the hour and a half that you might do at Yogahome. Even one simple asana can have a positive effect. Start with something you know well from class.

Most people who have been to a yoga class will be familiar with Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog. This pose provides a great stretch and requires no special equipment – although a sticky mat is useful I have done this pose without one.

Start from Tadasana (Mountain Pose), bend at the waist and place the palms of the hands beside each foot (bending the knees if you are newer to yoga or stiff). Bend the knees and step back about 1.2m (4ft) one leg at a time the feet should be about the same distance apart as the hands, right leg in line with right arm left leg in line with left arm. Stretch your fingers and toes. Let the heels lift and and tighten the muscles on the top of the thighs and pull the kneecaps in. Then stretch the arches of the feet and bring the heels toward the mat. Don’t let the arms drop, keep drawing the inner arms up from the elbows to the shoulders. Move the torso toward the legs. Feel the stretch from the palms to the heels. Arms straight, legs straight.

Mr Iyengar says that this simple pose calms the brain and gently stimulates the nerves. It slows the heartbeat. It reduces stiffness in the shoulder blades and arthritis in the shoulder joints. It strengthens the ankles and tones the legs. It checks heavy menstrual flow and helps to prevent hot flushes during the menopause.

Sounds good to me.

Next time I will talk more about building your personal practice, until then...