Kylie in Utkatasana (chair posture) incidental yoga at the farmer's market

How to be a yoga ninja – incidental yoga that won’t turn heads!

A good friend and fellow yogi recently sent me a text from a children’s indoor play centre. He was doing a bit of, what he calls, ‘incidental yoga’. Subtle poses he can discreetly practise in public without feeling like everyone can notice. He was wondering if there was a resource for this type of yoga?

A bit of googling revealed quite a few blogs written on the subject. My personal favourite was a lighthearted blog written by Rudy Mettia on Huffpost. It seemed my friend wasn’t the only person incorporating ‘incidental yoga’ into his daily routine. However, none of the blogs I read touched on the idea of being a stealth yoga ninja and practising in public without people noticing… Until now!

This series of yoga asana are particularly good for parents in parks and indoor play centres. However, anyone waiting in line for shopping or queuing for their morning coffee would benefit. I recently gave a few of these poses a whirl at my local farmer’s market and barely drew a sideways glance. Have fun!

Tadasana – Mountain pose

The easiest of poses to perform unnoticed, tadasana is prefect for those times when you feel the rising frustration of waiting in line. Improve your patience by becoming the mighty mountain of tadasana – immovable and strong yet peaceful. Stand with your feet together and arms activated by your sides.

Press down evenly into all corners of the feet. Lift the kneecaps and engage the thighs, draw the pit of the belly up and feel a lift in the pelvic floor. Broaden the chest, keeping your ribs contained and lengthen through the crown of the head. Live precisely in this moment and breathe.

Uttanasana – Standing forward bend

This beautiful restorative asana calms the nervous system and the mind. Next time you need to ‘dig something out of your bag’ or ‘tie your shoelaces’, do it through Uttanasana. Ground down through the centre of your heels as you align your hips over your ankles.

Bend your knees as much as you need and activate your thigh muscles. Engage your core as you lengthen your spine and draw the crown of your head toward the floor. Soften your face and neck. Take your hands to the ground to deepen the pose. Lift your hips high and squeeze your thighs.

Surrender to your breath and feel the sense of calm wash over you. Casually ferret around in your bag or slowly tie your shoes to conceal this magical pose to unsuspecting passers by.

Utkatasana – Chair pose

One of the more expressive shapes in this series, Utkatasana is best pulled off in public by sneakily incorporating it when sitting down to an actual chair. This powerful posture requires a strong foundation to lengthen and open the spine and chest.

From tadasana, bend your knees and sweep your hands forward as you begin to engage your core and squat down toward your chair. Press into your heels, grounding the legs. From this strong base, lengthen the upper body and open the chest breathing in deeply the air that surrounds you.

Lift your gaze and hold for a few breaths before ever so casually taking your seat. You could also do this in reverse next time you need to stand up from your chair.

Garudasana – Eagle pose

Another expressive pose that may draw a few looks if not executed in the right context – waiting in line for the toilet! The only downside is that people may insist you jump the queue!

From tadasana – mountain pose, place your hands on your hips and raise your right knee toward your chest to balance on your left leg. Ground down through the left leg, activate your glutes and stabilise your left hip.

Keeping your balance wrap your right leg over your left thigh and hook your right foot around your left calf. You might need to bend deeply into your left leg as you do this. Take your arms out wide at shoulder height.

Take your right arm underneath your left crossing at the elbows, bend your elbows and bring your hands together with palms facing each other. Lift your arms up in front of your face and draw your shoulders away from your chest. Hold for a few steady breaths before repeating on the other side.

Ardha Matsyendrasana – Half lord of the fish pose

Another easy pose to conceal, this seated twist is perfect for realigning the spine, aiding digestion and casually checking the kids are ok on that play thing over there…

From a seated position, fold your right leg across the front of your body and place your foot to the outside of your thigh. Ground down evenly through your sitting bones. Raise your left arm and lengthen your spine as you inhale, as you exhale, engage the core and twist toward your right thigh, place your elbow on the outside of your thigh and gently deepen your twist.

Look to where you want to take your twist and use your breath to deepen the pose. Feel the detoxifying effects as your twist gently rinses out your organs. Slowly return to centre before repeating on the other side.

For an anatomical view of many of these poses, check out Bandha Yoga’s 3D pose viewer.

I hope these fun and simple asana help you become a stealth yoga ninja and give you the confidence to practise incidental yoga in public. Let me know how you go by leaving a comment or posting your pics to my Facebook page.

Kylie in eka pada rajakapotasana (half king pigeon posture) variation.

Tips to cultivate a nourishing home yoga practice

I love the connection and community of practising regularly at my local yoga studio. However, for those times I can’t get to the studio or when I want to work on something specific, I practise yoga at home.

Sometimes, my home yoga practice is a journey to bliss. Other times, it can feel like an epic battle against my mind. After one incredibly frustrating day on my mat, I took some time to reflect upon the essence of a nourishing home practice. Since then, I have been able to cultivate a gentle and compassionate home yoga practice, led with my heart rather than my head.

Here are my top tips to cultivate your own nourishing yoga home practice. I hope they work for you too…

Clear a space and create your temple

Find a space in your home and set it up for practice. When the weather is good, I love nothing more than practicing outside on my deck. If it’s too chilly outside, I head indoors. Whatever space you choose, take some time to clean it up and create your temple by filling it with things you love.

I love candles, oil burners and indoor plants and have added these to my own space. Once you have created your temple, set up your mat and any other props you have such as pillows, blankets or blocks. If you don’t use props, it’s ok, having the space and mindset to practise is all you need! Now, put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ and settle into your pre-practice ritual.

Create a ritual

Rituals can help to settle your mind, bring you into your body and onto your mat. This includes pre-practice rituals such as lighting candles, burning essential oils or playing music. Once you bring yourself to your mat, settle in with intentional breathing (pranayama) exercises to quiet your mind. Yoga Journal have some excellent pranayama techniques you might like to incorporate into your home yoga routine. Now you’re ready to practise!

Set an intention & be honest with yourself

Each yoga practice should be purposeful and personalised – be honest with yourself about what your body and mind need as well as the time and space you have available. After all, by practising yoga, we are learning about who we are and who we want to become.

An intention I’ve been working with lately is to let go of my expectations and move my body with love and compassion. Your intention will become the thread that ties your practice together. Will it be 5 minutes of drills or half an hour of flowing practice? Will it be energising and sweaty? Or slow, grounding and meditative?

Listen to what your body needs, reflect upon what has brought you to your mat and honour this through your practice. Let go of the idea that your home yoga practice should replicate the yoga studio otherwise you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Lead with your heart, rather than your head

This is something I am still learning to do. Leading with my heart and letting go of expectations or pressure I place upon myself to practise yoga perfectly. What really matters is that your practice comes from your heart, that it nurtures, inspires and helps you to grow.

Each time your head starts to take over, close your eyes, breathe and come back to your intention. I also find taking restful breaths in child’s pose can bring my awareness back to my body and quiet the chatter in my mind.

When we lead our practice with our heart we can truly let go and find freedom. We stop worrying about what each pose should look like; we practise from a place of unconditional love and compassion rather than judgment.

Enlist the professionals

If you are just starting out and feel like you might not have the experience to lead your own yoga practice. Or perhaps you’re an experienced yogi wanting your practice to be directed? Apps, DVD’s and virtual classes can help.

I have used the free version of the Down Dog app and it was really useful when I didn’t have the inclination to plan my own sequence. I’ve also used yoga DVD’s and many studio’s are now bringing their classes to your home through online yoga subscriptions.

While apps, DVD’s and online classes have their place, there are some drawbacks. First of all, they aren’t intuitive – they don’t know your intention, level of experience or how you’re feeling. They also don’t know if you’re carrying an injury.

Use these with caution and remember to let your heart be your guide. If your body is telling you something doesn’t feel good – listen to it! Pause the program and take some rest. You can always come back to it later on.

Another alternative is to enlist the help of a registered yoga teacher. Many yoga teachers, such as myself, offer private yoga classes that are tailored to your goals and your body. We can help you to create a detailed plan for practise at home.

We also teach you the purpose of each asana and how to practise it safely. Through one on one yoga classes, you will be bringing a much deeper and authentic understanding to your home yoga practice, with a plan tailored just for you.

Interested in booking a private yoga class with me? I’d love to hear from you!

Post – practice ritual

You may have noticed I’m big on rituals! Once you’ve finished, seal your practice with another ritual. This doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. The simple and loving act of thanking yourself, or sitting in quiet contemplation with a steamy pot of herbal tea, are both sure ways to stay in your post yoga bliss!

I hope my tips inspire you to create your own home yoga practice. I hope they lead you to a journey of bliss rather than a battle against yourself. Please feel free to share your home yoga experiences and tips by leaving a comment.