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One of the benefits of developing a personal yoga practice is that you tap in, turn on and tune up  what you really need to balance your body, mind and spirit.

I have now taught yoga for 19 years. It’s one of life’s great surprises to me, just how much I love teaching and also practicing yoga.

When you study yoga, teachers are always encouraging you to practice on your own. Few people embrace this fabulous method of developing a healthy relationship with yourself, the benefits of which go far beyond your time on the mat.

Here are my suggestions of how to develop a personal yoga practice.

What I do:

  1. Basic stretching, 10 minutes. I tune in to my body and work out any kinks that I find. I take it easy, enjoying each stretch and begin to prepare myself for a rigorous practice. Mindfulness begins.
  2. Sun salute variations, 10 minutes. I get my lymph moving and begin to balance my nervous system.
  3. Standing poses, 10 minutes. I focus on strength training.
  4. Twists, 10 minutes. I increase the range of motion of my spine.
  5. Backbends interspersed with hip stretches, 10 minutes. My goal is to practice five full wheels in every practice. If I’m tired, I may only get to three. This is the peak of my personal practice and I really push it to my limit.
  6. Core work, 10 minutes. I maintain a strong midsection.
  7. Inversions, 10 minutes. This may include dolphin, forearm balance, shoulder stand and/or head stand.
  8. Savasana, as long as I feel like. At this point, I am ready for deep relaxation.

Of course, if you live in a home with pets or visit friends with dogs or cats, you may find yourself petting someone or receiving a free face lick while you are gutting it out in full wheel. In this photo, I am visiting at a friend’s house and her dog Mulligan decided I needed a kiss of encouragement in the middle of my practice!

Years ago, I came up with the idea of dividing my personal practice in 10-minute segments, with each segment focusing on different goals.

If you practice in 10-minute segments, then, if for some reason your practice gets interrupted by the inevitabilities of life, you know where you left off and can possibly resume if your schedule allows.

On top of that, you may not have an endless supply of time and may need to fine tune in a shorter period of time.

The main goal pose of my personal practice is full wheel. The benefits of this pose includes:

  • I open and balance all the energy centers in my body.
  • I improve my posture.
  • I develop whole-body strength.
  • I hit an aerobic peak in my practice, strengthening my heart.

About four years ago, I ripped the tendons and ligaments of my right shoulder. Not only could I not practice full wheel, I couldn’t do a single pushup. It hurt to lift my purse or walk my dog on a leash.

Having lost this privilege once before, I very much value being able to practice wheel, especially given the fact that I am about to turn age 56.

The main tools I use:

  • Manduka yoga mat. Long-time yogis all have their opinions, but I find Manduka makes the very best mats. I have a 2-pound travel mat I keep in my suitcase that I took on a trip to Antarctica. My home practice mat weighs about 7 pounds and it’s the best mat I have ever used.
  • A yoga strap.
  • My iPhone. I time my poses for at least 1 minute. In this way, I am not only practicing yoga, I am practicing strength training. Scientific research shows that when you hold yoga poses 72 seconds, the practice will reverse osteoporosis, osteopenia and strengthen your bones.

Once you develop a personal yoga practice, you will still enjoy attending classes to learn more and deepen your practice.

But you will treasure this time to yourself and find yourself arising from your mat a healthier, happier person.