Monday was my first day back on my mat after almost a week off for a whirlwind trip to Florida to celebrate a family wedding. Between the preparations, travel time, family obligations and wedding festivities, practice took a back seat for the week. I didn't even try to get to a class, as I normally would while out of town, even though I'm sure I could have found plenty of yoga in Key West.
When I woke up, back in my own bed, on Monday morning, I felt like I might be coming down with a cold. I was a little congested and had that tell -tale feeling of sinus pressure that made me suspect more than allergies. Between that and just the general fatigue that comes from flying cross-country, I was inspired to do a sequence given to me by my friend Michael Lucey, a serious Iyengar practitioner and teacher who is diligently working his way through the Iyengar certification process. The basic sequence is one that he learned in Pune and is intended to increase immune function. But of course I tweaked and added to it quite a bit, so the final practice is a combination of orthodox Iyengar elements and my own style.
supta padangusthasana series/assorted reclined leg stretches
uttanasana/standing forward bend (5 minutes)
adho mukha svanasana/downward facing dog (5 minutes)
adho mukha eka pada raja kapotasana (pigeon lunge) (2 minutes per side)
virabhadrasana 2 + viparita virabhadrasana/warrior 2 + reverse warrior (2 minutes per side)
utthita trikonasana/triangle pose (1 minute per side)
prasarita padottansana/wide leg standing forward bend, hands in tripod position (3 minutes)sirsasana/headstand (5 minutes + 3 minutes of variations)
eka pada sirsasana, parsva eka pada sirsasana, parvrtta sirsasana, etc./headstand variations
viparita dandasana/reverse staff pose, supported on 2 chairs (5 minutes)
prasarita padottanasna/wide leg forward bend w/ variations, including shoulder stretches (2 minutes)
salamba sarvangasana/shoulderstand w/ strap for arms (5 minutes)
halasana/plough pose (5 minutes)
eka pada sarvangasana, parsva eka pada sarvangasana, setubandha sarvangasana/shoulderstand w/ variations, including dropping back to bridge pose (5 minutes)
halasana/plough pose (1 minute)
karna pidasana/ear pressure pose (1 minute)
supta baddha konasana/reclined bound angle (1 minute)
setu bandha/bridge pose supported on bolsters w/ sandbag on ankles (5 minutes)
parivrtta supta padangusthasana/reclined twist
agnistambhasana/fire log pose
baddha konasana/bound angle forward bend
pascimattonasana/full seated forward bend, aka stretch for the west side of the body (2 minutes)
salamba sirsasana w/chairs/chair headstand
viparita karani/inverted right angle, aka legs up the wall relaxation
pranayama -- ujaii & viloma breath
Notes & How it went
This was a long practice; at 2 hours, 10 minutes, too long for an average day (you can find a shorter version below). But on a day where I needed to make yoga my focus and first priority -- both because of having been away from my mat and also as a prophylactic treatment -- it was bliss. By the end, I was breathing easily through my nose, and although I did not completely escape that cold, it was very mild and only lasted 2-1/2 days. And the next morning when I started my practice, my body felt open and free -- as if I'd never been away from my mat at all.
Most of the timed poses are from the Iyengar sequence, with the exception of pigeon lunge and the standing poses. I added the first because, as I've mentioned before, my body feels the need for hip openers just about daily, and even more so after being locked in an airplane seat for hours on end. And the long holds in warrior poses are a weekly prescription for keeping my knees strong and stable. I'd probably use this version of viparita dandasana in the photo for a deeper backbend practice; a more restorative version using two chairs (so that the legs are level with the pelvis, and the backbend is all in the upper back), which I did in this practice, can be found in Mr. Iyengar's wonderful book, Yoga: The Path to Holistic Healing. I added more hip openers and seated poses toward the end of the practice to help release my lower back, and the chair headstand because it's a special favorite of mine and I'll use any excuse to add it to a practice. More time upside down helped clear my breathing, and there is nothing better than this pose and the traction it gives the neck to help release neck and shoulder tension.
The inverted poses and hip openers made for a great antidote to flying, and I definitely think this practice helped me fend off a worse cold. I think this is a wonderfully restorative sequence -- healing, relaxing, and rejuvenating -- and I hope you enjoy it. I've found that regular restorative yoga can be great preventive medicine during cold and flu season.
Shorter version, also good for an evening practice
adho mukha svanasana/downward facing dog (3 minutes)
balasana/child's pose (2 minutes)
salamba sarvangasana/shoulder-stand supported w/ a chair (6 minutes)
salamba halasana/plough pose w/ legs resting on a chair (6 minutes)
salamba sirsasana/headstand w/ 2 chairs (6 minutes)
viparita karani/legs up the wall relaxation (10 minutes)
pranyamana -- ujaii & alternate nostril breathing
Here's a link from Michael to the original sequence.
Here's a link from Michael to the original sequence.