I love it when students ask me questions, hopefully I can open the door to a greater understanding of yoga. Questions help to keep my ideas fresh and prompt me to look at things from a different perspective. Obviously I will not know the answer to every question but I will seek out answers so that we can all learn and grow.
I would say that the most common question I get asked is how to practice at home and how to develop a self-practice.
Here are a few tips to help you develop your self-practice:
Create the time – My advice would be to introduce say 5 – 10 minutes of practice to your day preferably at a regular time. It is helpful to get into a regular pattern, for me I prefer first thing in the morning. This means that I have created the space in my day, things don’t always go to plan in the day so I find if I practice first thing problems during the day do not affect my practice. Start with 5-10 mins, you will notice the difference to your wellbeing fairly quickly and you will have no excuses to free up this time in your busy day. You will find over time 10 minutes will expand into 30 minutes and then into one hour.
One thing I learnt at the Sivananda Ashram was that I waste a lot of time in my life. At the Ashram we had a fairly hectic schedule with barely 5 minutes to spare but I learnt to use those fleeting spare moments to do my hand washing, to fit in some extra study, to enjoy the gardens, to have some time to reflect. I am sure that if you look at your life there will be somewhere that you can save some time to create this space for you.
Keep it simple – Start by introducing Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations) into your day. I know when I started to deepen my practice many years ago, I realised that a daily practice made me feel so much better, more centred and more alive but I was inconsistent. Keep it simple and develop your practice over time. Nothing is ever perfect so try not to expect your practice to be “perfect”. You will be surprised by how much you already know. Have fun and experiment with your practice.
Listen to your body and heart – Develop your self-awareness, may be you get on your mat and do not feel like focussing on your asanas. Your body and heart may be telling you to focus on your breath or on meditation. That is 100% ok. Remember to be present, be mindful. Just come to your mat and dedicate your time to your practice and to you.
Our yoga space – You may resist developing your practice as you do not have that “perfect” yoga space. Yes I’m sure a special dedicated space would be wonderful but remember to make a space within the resources you have available. For me, I practice in my living room. I roll my mat out each morning in this space and at certain times of year the sun baths the room in golden light. This room is energised by my practice, I notice that visitors love this space and the plants in this room are pretty abundant too!
Inspiration – take time to work on the things that challenge you or certain asanas where you know you have some resistance. Generally the things we resist are the things we need to focus on! Mix things up to bring new perspective and inspiration. I will sometimes follow online classes to try different teaching styles, to be guided through my practice or just to try something new.
Don’t beat yourself up! – Ok so you didn’t do your practice today, for the last week or month, for the last few months… Today is another day, you can start again. Don’t worry about what you haven’t done, promise yourself that TODAY you will get back on that mat, focus on the moment and look forward rather than beating yourself up with what you have not achieved.
Practice your yoga in your everyday life – This is the key, yoga is much wider than our practice on our mat. Be conscious and aware throughout your day. Perhaps you could react in a different way during a work situation; practice karma yoga (selfless service) giving back for no particular personal gain; practice patience and adjust your relationship with time; check in with yourself to be more mindful and present; use your breath in those stressful moments; sink a little deeper and when you want to quit because something is too hard, keep going.
Developing your self-practice is a great way to complement regular classes and you can fit this into your diary at a time that suits you. Make time with yourself and follow your inner guide. Most importantly have fun!
So why wait, roll out your mat and dedicate some time to your practice and yourself.