Some days you step on your mat and need a neatly prescribed yoga routine. Other days you just want to let your body and breath move you on a journey from pose to pose, as you morph into and out of different shapes.
Kira Ryder, a vinyasa yoga teacher in Ojai, California, prefers this second type of practice—one that moves into forms, investigates them, and then plays with them to find the best fit for each moment. Her aim is not to minimize the importance of alignment but to help students move intelligently, according to what their bodies need in any given moment. "The poses are designed to meet you where you are, not for you to conform to each pose," says Ryder. Ryder shares a morning routine that wakes you up slowly and pumps prana, or life force, into all the nooks and crannies of the body, especially the hips and sacrum, which often get stiff and stagnant. The poses look familiar—Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Plank Pose, Cat-CowPose—but each has its own unique expression.
The final pose is a twist with a slightly rounded spine to encourage softness in the lower back. "The twist is investigative," Ryder says. "You'll know it's working if you come out and your lower back feels big and broad and warm. It's real subtle stuff. It's not always sexy and pretty."
As You Practice
Gage Your Tension: As you do the poses, use your face to measure tension in your body. Ryder calls the face "the dashboard of the pranic system." In other words, when your face is tight, your body is too, which limits the flow of prana. Start the sequence with your face soft and check in often to find out if tension is accumulating.
Breathe Naturally: Allow your breath to soften and notice whether you move into a breathless state. This state is a type of stillness that can happen spontaneously. Allow it to happen.
After You Finish
Sit Quietly: Find a comfortable seated position like Sukhasana (Easy Pose). Allow for a few deliberate deep inhalations, followed by audible exhalations to help the body become more grounded. Allow your breath to help align your body. Feel your neck lengthen. Feel your jaw relax. Feel the circumference of your mouth soften. Invite a sensual quality to your lips as your face really relaxes. You can use a timer to help you stay seated for however long you desire. Start with 10 minutes and work up from there.
Rest: Take Savasana (Corpse Pose) for 5 to 10 minutes.