No matter what the focus of my yoga practice is for the day, I usually close it out with the same sequence. As with everything, there are some variances that I throw in occasionally to make it a little harder for the day or a stretch my body just wants, but this is the basic sequence I use.
I consider “closing out” my yoga practice to be everything after the sitting poses begin unless I’m doing the core intensive, which gets sprinkled in. The first of these is a basic groin stretch:
This can be accomplished with the hands in a number of places, but I prefer to have them behind my thighs and pushing forward for five breaths and stretching forward for breaths. There’s a thing about holding your feet and trying to open them upward or something but I have never really been able to get into that one.
Then straighten the legs and do a seated forward fold for five breaths:
Consider folding forward with a straight back for a few breaths before allowing just the top of the back to round and reach a little more. Honestly, the leg stretch feels better for me with the back straight. Come back to center and bring one foot in like this:
Then fold over it and hold. Come all the way up to switch. I usually do another full seated forward fold for a few breaths afterward to make sure the legs feel balanced. A twist that come next. With the legs together, bring up one knee and put that foot on either side of the other knee like this:
The elbow should be on the raised knee with the hand up or wrapped around the leg. The other hand is behind you. Sit taller on the inhale and deepen the twist on the exhale. Do this on either side and then it’s time for the supine poses.
Come back to sitting with both legs in front and lay back, bring the legs and arms up into waterfall:
I love this one. I hadn’t known about it until my yoga instructor course for some reason, but it’s relaxing and a first tier inversion. I usually like to do this one for a few breaths before moving on to a shoulder stand and plow. Shoulder stand can be tricky at first and I don’t recommend trying it without having been to a class, same with plow. If these are in your practice, feel free, but it’s easy to hurt yourself trying it out for the first time.
After plow, for the days when I choose to do it, there are some reverse situps. The legs come down to hover of the ground and then pull in the knees like this:
If it’s been a while since I’ve done these or since I’ve done yoga, I try to take it a little east and only do one leg at a time. I’ll do at least ten of these on a non-core day and try to throw in a few sets on a core day. Then there’s my favorite part of the yoga practice. It starts with bring knee to chest and holding:
Then letting go of the knee and bringing i perpendicular to the floor:
Bring it around to the opposite side, over the other leg, while keeping both shoulders on the ground (or as close as possible to the ground) and looking the other way:
And finally, savasana.
The most important thing about closing out a practice is to make sure that every muscle has gotten what it needs. Sometimes that means a few extra stretches or letting it rest a little longer. This is also the point in a practice when the music winds back down and everything starts to settle. One might even say that this last bit of relaxing poses right before savasana is leading us to the entire point of yoga, which is not to get all bendy.
Spiritual or not, there’s an effect that yoga has on people. My goal is always ready to end a practice feeling rested and balanced and calm and somehow ready to take on the world at the same time. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the surrender that allows me to resist in other areas of my life. I can just give in to it and the way the muscles feel and the beautiful release of tension and the control it takes to hold on to some poses and finish with a feeling that I can do anything, that I am ready for anything. Like medicine, the more days I do yoga in a row, the strong the feeling gets.
Click here for other sequences leading up to the close out.