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Are you prepared for a Yoga Emergency?

No time in your day for your regular practice? It's a yoga emergency.

No time in your day for your regular practice? It's a yoga emergency.

If you’ve ever wanted an inside look at a  yoga teacher’s practice, you won’t want to miss Sandy Blaine’s account, titled How Last Week Went.

Sandy has been teaching for 20 years in the Bay area. She studies with Donald Moyer and has had two books published by Rodmell Press, one on Yoga for Computer Users and another on Yoga for Healthy Knees. She teaches corporate classes for Pixar animation.

Would you expect a daily schedule stunning in its regularity? An orderly progression of poses through days? A sacred, never to be violated morning practice time?

Me too.

Instead, as she writes, “there were days that worked, days that didn’t, and in betweens.”

There was, for example, a practice-free day Tuesday, brought on by sitting down at her desk to look at the schedule and to-do list.

Ah, so familiar. Once the computer is on, and you’re just going to do one brief thing, that’s it for practice. Breaking away is next to impossible.

The full piece is well worth reading. But here’s one part that stood out for me.

Wednesday I had a full schedule and knew from the outset that there wouldn’t be time for a full practice session, so I realistically planned for a shorter practice, using what I think of as my go-to practice sequence.  This is an assignment I give in my class on developing a personal practice; it’s what one apprentice referred to as an “emergency practice,” a great concept. The idea is that, as with vegetables, any amount is infinitely better than none, so having a practice or two in your back pocket for busy days helps to ensure that practice doesn’t fall by the wayside altogether. Even ten minutes is better than nothing. (my emphasis)

I love the idea of an emergency practice. I suspect every long-time practitioner has one, even if that’s not what they call it.

I’ve always called my emergency practice “my minimum,” somewhat inaccurately since some days slip by without it: a chest opening on wooden bricks, Paryankasana, Supta Virasana, dog pose, arm balance, elbow balance, headstand, shoulder stand, Marichyasana III and Malasana.

I can do it in an hour, with no lollygagging about, and still have time for five minutes in Savasana.

Sometimes the elbow balance gets dropped. Sometimes the shoulder stand has fewer variations than I’d like. But those few poses at least leave me feeling that I have touched the most important bases, kept the faith, no matter how imperfectly, and am at least not sliding backwards.

In a three-alarm practice emergency, I’m very tired, there’s lots more to do in my day, and I don’t have much time. Then I will do 15 minutes of Viparita Karani, ending with cross-legged variations.

Do you have an emergency practice that you pull out when time is short? A set of poses that you do every day no matter what? Do tell.

Image courtesy of Susie T Flickr Creative Commons

If this was your kind of post, you might also like:

How to Keep Going When You’re Practising on a Plateau

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, How Do You Get There?

Other fabulous yoga on the Internet this week:

YogaSpy sparked an impassioned discussion of what constitutes a meditative experience in a yoga class. Should you be losing yourself in movement? Or finding yourself in stillness? Yogi Interrupted let out a heart-felt wail on the subject of round sticky mats. Best of all, especially if you like horses, Yoga Dork gave a roundup of horse-related yoga videos. Most of them are about people doing yoga on horses. The last one,  with April Battles, is yoga for horses. It’s riveting – she analyses a client’s horse’s posture, shows where the tight spots are, and releases them. Magic.


Bite-sized Random Acts of Yoga continue to unfold daily at the dining room table.

Here’s today’s set. Seems like there could be several sequencing options – and you’d have to fit at least plow pose, if not shoulder stand in there just to have Karnapidasana make sense.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Birdie November 15, 2010, 10:54 pm

    Hey Eve!

    Thanks for the shout out about my sticky mat post! I love your blog!


  • Dhana November 15, 2010, 12:17 am

    Wow, you get to do yoga for an hour a day? That makes me very envious. For me emergency yoga is usually a kind of “stop, drop, and roll” type procedure. Drop everything, lie down flat on my back, breathe in and out a few times, realize I am still alive, and then roll onto my front for a.m.svanasana or u.m. svanasana, a trikonasana, a handstand, and then back to the toddler and the teen and the classes and all those things in between. Great post Eve.

    • Eve November 15, 2010, 1:33 pm

      Hey Dhana,
      I love the “stop, drop and roll” yoga practice.
      I don’t always get an hour a day. Some lovely days I get two hours, some I get 15 minutes.
      But I don’t have anything like the demands on me that you face with a toddler and a teen. I’m in awe.

  • Eve November 12, 2010, 2:30 pm

    Hi Terri,
    Good to hear from you!
    Iyengar calls downward dog a “panacea pose” – it challenges everything, and helps everything. A good dog pose can energize or relax or do both at the same time, depending on what you need. So yes, I’m with you on it being the all-purpose pose.
    Shoulder stand is the one that leaves me feeling most nourished – but I have to warm up for it, so it’s not the instant payoff of downward dog.

  • Terri November 12, 2010, 2:06 pm

    For me, the bare minimum is a chest-opener over the bolster (I’m a sloucher.) and downward dog. Does everyone feel downward dog is the all-purpose pose, or is that just me? On my low-energy days, I tell myself, “Get on the mat. Do anything, even for 5 mins.” And often, I’m still there half an hour later.