By the time I graduated high school, I had lived in seven different houses and two countries. Moving around so much meant constantly having to redefine home. As a little girl, it would feel as though I was just settling in somewhere when it was time to move again. I adapted by finding things that helped me nest quickly, like always having my special pillow (which I still travel with!) or putting out picture frames. My family and I were also avid travelers. So, in addition to moving houses, we were constantly on airplanes too. This made for an adventurous, albeit ungrounded upbringing. Even now, my life continues to be such where my karma is to move every few years or travel every few months. Even when my soul is begging to stay put!
How Yoga Brings me Home
The first place I ever really felt settled was on a yoga mat. It was as if all that traveling was really a quest to find this place. I remember thinking to myself, “so, this is what it feels like to be home.” It was not just the soothing walls of the studio or the familiar wafts of incense, but being on my mat and in my body. I realized quickly that our practice can be a way to find home within ourselves.
One of the biggest lessons we learn in yoga is the impermanence of things. How often do we think that if we just hang on a little tighter things will always stay the same? And for some periods of time our lives may not seem to change much, until one day we look back and realize it has in fact has shifted tremendously, right under our nose. I am still not sure what is most disconcerting – taking a sharp turn in a brand-new direction or waking up one day and realizing you no longer fit in your life?
Easing into Transitions with Yoga
It can feel overwhelming at first realizing that existence is one big transition and that everything changes. As a self-prescribed control freak, this has been a lifelong journey of acceptance! The most helpful tool has been a consistent yoga practice. Yoga helps us find home in a number of ways. To begin, yoga is a universal language. Meaning that no matter where in the world you are, and, regardless if you speak a country’s native language or not, you can go to a yoga studio and know what to do. This is partly because Sanskrit is the main language used to teach yoga, but also because of the familiarity of the shapes.
Yoga also helps us find home by connecting us to the present moment. It is in the present, we are most grounded. When things feel like they are shifting underneath us and around us, it is natural to feel scattered and adrift. Yoga teaches us to use our breath and body as an anchor. These are excellent tools to keep us centered when all else seems like it is spinning.
Finding Steadiness Within
Lastly, yoga teaches us that although things outside of us are always changing (a concept called, parkrti or nature), there is a place deep inside us that is unchanging. A place that is steady and perfect. This place, what we call purusha, is where we can take refuge when the outside world is moving around us and because it is inside of us, it comes with us wherever we go. It is here where we learn that home is not a place but a feeling.
Bring home with you wherever you go by practicing this 7-pose sequence. Try it the next time you travel or relocate and want to feel “at home.”
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Come to knees and fold over your thighs. Sink your hips back toward your heels. You may reach your arms out in front of you or make fists and rest your forehead on them. Establish a full and steady breath here. Remain for 25 breaths.
See also Find Comfort in Child’s Pose
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From Child’s Pose, extend your arms out in front of you shoulder-width apart. Inhale up to hands and knees. Curl your toes under, and, on an exhale, lift your knees from the ground, pressing your thighs back toward Downward-Facing Dog. Press your palms evenly into the floor as the outer upper arms turn toward the ears. Keep the spine long, by actively pressing your thighs back. Your knees can be bent for more length. Hold for 15 breaths before walking your hands to your feet and slowly coming up to standing.
See also Dig Deeper in Down Dog
Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskara A)
Starting at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Stand tall for a few moments, connecting to your breath. Inhale and reach your arms up and overhead in Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana). On an exhale, fold at your hip crease, placing your hands by your feet or on your outer shins in Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana).
Inhale your chest forward for Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana). On an exhale, either step back and lower or jump directly into Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana), keeping your elbows and wrists in line. Inhale to Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), lifting the top thighs powerfully as the tailbone reaches toward the heels. Exhale to Downward-Facing Dog and hold for five full breaths.
At the end of the fifth breath, either hop or step up to the front of the mat. Inhale into Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana). Exhale into Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), keeping your legs engaged. Inhale up to stand in Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) and exhale returning to Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Feel free to take a few more rounds depending on time or energy.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Come to the center of your mat, and turn to the face the long end of your mat. Step your feet out about three feet apart. Bring your hands to your hips. Turn the right leg out from deep within the hip socket, and allow your back hip and foot to turn inwards slightly. Aligning your feet heel to heel. Inhale and reach your arms out to the sides. Exhale and begin to hinge over your front thigh, shifting your pelvis over the leg to fold at the hip joint. Place your right hand on a block, the outer shin, or floor. Press your back thigh back. Keep your spine even by drawing the front ribs and front hip bones together as you reach your chest to your chin. Stretch through both arms strongly. Remain here for 15 breaths. Ground into your feet and legs, to lift your torso upright. Parallel the feet and switch sides.
See also Angle of Repose: Trikonasana
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Come to lying on your back. Bend your knees with the feet on the floor, and separate your feet and legs hips width. On an inhale, lift your pelvis, lengthening your tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Draw the upper arms underneath you, interlacing your fingers. Try to get high up onto the shoulders. Broaden your chest while lengthening your sternum toward your head. Hold for ten breaths. Come down slowly, one vertebra at a time. Repeat 2-3 more times.
Thread the Needle (Supta Padangusthasana 4)
Remain on your back with both knees bent and feet hips-wide on the mat. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, and draw your legs toward your chest. Weave your right arm in between the gap of the legs (the eye of the needle) and clasp your left shin or the back of the left thigh. Make sure your head and upper back are fully on the floor. Wrap your right inner thigh outwards to deepen the outer hip release, while lengthening the left side body. Feel free to close your eyes as we begin to shift gears. Remain for 20 long breaths before switching to the other side.
See also Releasing Tight Hips
Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Bring the short end of your mat up against the wall. Sit sideways with your hip against the wall and lay down. Swing your legs up the wall and turn your body so your bum is facing the wall. If your hamstrings are tight and your low back is rounding off the floor, slide back against the wall until your sacrum is fully on the floor. You may rest one hand on the heart and one on the belly or have your arms to the sides in a cactus shape. Close the eyes. If possible, stay for seven minutes. The longer the stay, the more potent the effects. When it is time to come out, move slowly. Slide your feet down the wall and pull your knees to your chest. Roll to your right side and pause. Press up to sitting with your back against the wall for support for a few moments. Welcome home.