Yoga Journal LIVE presenter Jason Crandell struggles to make time for his home practice just like the rest of us. Here, the poses he deems essential to feel balanced when he’s looking for shortcuts. For more of his tricks, join him at YJ LIVE New York April 21–24. Get tickets now.
A solid home practice is the hallmark of a dedicated yogi, right? But even with the best intentions, it can often be a challenge to maintain. Yoga Journal LIVE presenter Jason Crandell offers few ways you can set up yourself up for success.
First of all, try to get on your mat a few times a week, or as often as possible. Crandell advises making that as easy for yourself as you can. “Pick a time of the day that’s realistic for you,” he says. “We aren’t always able to practice at a traditionally ideal time.” If you have kids, a job, a commute, you aren’t necessarily getting up to practice before the crack of dawn. Yoga has to work with your schedule. Be accepting, accommodating, and practical about what you can do—whether it’s a few free moments before getting out of the house in the morning, 30 minutes before lunch, or an evening practice just before bed.
Second, acknowledge that when you do get to your home practice, it will be different from what you do in a class. “Embrace that a practice at home is going to have a different look, feel, and intensity,” he says. “Your home practice can complement anything you do in the studio.” Or it can be your main event. Both options are good.
Third, make sure your home practice is “simple, functional, and well-balanced,” Crandell says. “You want functional poses you can repeat that facilitate your well-being. Do postures that are accessible and balance one another.” He says 10 poses can be a great practice. Here are the postures he prioritizes, why, and how to work them into your home practice.
Jason Crandell’s Top 10 Yoga Poses
To make it as easy as possible for you to roll out your mat, Crandell recommends practicing these poses in order, once on the right side and once on the left when applicable. Hold each for about 5 breaths.
1. Downward-Facing Dog
Adho Mukha Svanasana
“Downward-Facing Dog helps you elongate your back, hamstrings, and calves,” Crandell says. “It also develops greater strength and conditioning in the arms and shoulders. You’re getting the benefits of a mild inversion since the pelvis is over the heart and the heart is over the brain. Down Dog is an accessible, semi-inverted state that helps you focus your attention.”
This pose is an excellent start to your home practice because it’s a good all-around warming up posture. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
“Most people who are sitting at desk for long periods of time are going to have excessive tension in the front of their hips, hip flexors, and quadriceps,” Crandell says. “Anjaney helps relieve that excess tension by stretching these areas.”
Try Anjaney early in your sequence help unravel and release some of your chronic tension.
“Warrior II is a strong pose that is foundational for many others such as Side Angle, Half Moon and Triangle,” Crandell says. “You get to the medial side of the leg, or the inseam. It brings attention to and strengthens the quadriceps and arms. When you strengthen the legs, that increases flexibility in the hip joint.”
Try Warrior II after a few other warm-up poses but before Side Angle, Half Moon, and Triangle. This is a whole-body pose that helps you develop physical awareness and generate heat.
“Triangle adds more hamstring and inner leg opening,” Crandell says. “It also provides a mild side bend and twist. I like that triangle includes a bit of everything. It’s one pose that checks a lot of different boxes. It’s accessible but sophisticated.”
Try Triangle after Warrior II for a smooth transition since you don’t have to change the position of your feet.
“Warrior I strengthens the legs, opens the hips, lengthens the hip flexors and adductors. The pose builds stamina,” Crandell says. “All of the standing poses are highly focusing for the mind because they are demanding. Demanding postures tend to require our full attention.”
The lunge and two standing poses that come earlier help to prepare the hips for Warrior I. Warrior I is harder than Warrior II and Triangle for most people. And Warrior I helps prepare the shoulders for the Handstand and Wheel to come.
“Whether you like it, hate it, you will be fully focused on the present moment when you work on Handstand,” Crandell says. “It’s not a pose where the mind has the ability to space out. Handstand also trains a high level of skillful physical integration. Your whole body has to work together to do it.”
Try Handstand after you’ve done a few poses that work the lower body. This pose will counterbalance standing poses by working the upper body.
“For me, this is the single most important strengthener for the back of the body in yoga,” Crandell says. “We strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, paraspinal muscles, scapular and posterior shoulder muscles that are easy to neglect in other postures. And given our physical lifestyle, we sit in chairs most of the time. It’s really important to practice Locust often to strengthen muscles that get chronically weak.”
Try locust after the body is warm. Do it first and then progress through your backbend series.
“Wheel strengthens the entire posterior body and opens the entire anterior body,” Crandell says. “That means it strengthens the back and opens the front. You develop more flexibility and strength in the shoulders, spine, back of the hips, glutes, and hamstrings. It’s one of these poses where it’s challenging for practitioners of every level. If you have time, include a few repetitions.”
Do Wheel when you’re warm and after you’ve done a few milder backbends building up to it. Wheel strengthens the body while it neutralizes the mind.
“This is a very efficient pose in that you are simultaneously opening both major ball and socket joints of the body: your hips and shoulders,” Crandell says. “It’s a big outer and posterior hip opener. It’s a big shoulder opener. Your arms are doing diametrically opposed things. Both shoulders go through a big range of opening. It’s a really balanced combination. Also, for a lot of people, the other hip openers get a little tricky with their knees. Even most people who have knee discomfort in other outer hip-opening postures are able to get away with Gomukhasana.”
Try Cow Face Pose after your backbends. It helps re-lengthen the back body and outer hips.
“Sometimes people at home skip Savasana,” Crandell says. “They start thinking of all the other things they should be doing at home. But Legs-Up-the-Wall feels like a more active pose. People are more inclined to do this restorative pose. It’s my favorite pose in a workshop or training environment. ”
Do Legs-Up-the-Wall at the end of your practice. It helps restore energy and ground the nervous system after the demands of the sequence. It’s soothing, quieting, and rejuvenating. Stay in it for 3–10 minutes.
Join Kristen Kemp at Yoga Journal LIVE! in New York City for the PFY Plank Challenge on April 22 at 1:45 pm in the community space.
About our Expert A former hockey player and skateboarder, Jason Crandell has had his fair share of falls. Which is why the Ohio native isn’t afraid to challenge yogis in arm balances and inversions that take practice and patience. (Just ask him about the 20-minute headstands he was asked to do during his teacher training with Rodney Yee.) Though the longtime Yoga Journal contributing editor is based in San Francisco, he spends much of his work life leading teacher trainings of his own and workshops in Asia and Europe. Otherwise, catch him in any of his Yoga Journal DVDs, including the Complete Beginner’s Guide.