Standing on your Mat; Yoga self Practice
More than ever, the need to practice Yoga has become a priority. First and foremost as a tool to remain mentally strong and calm in these uncertain times. As well as to develop and keep a strong, healthy physical system to navigate our selves through any kind of illnesses and disease floating around.
It is now well known how powerful the practice of Yoga is to achieve these goals. Numerous scientifically based researches have proven and confirmed these time and time again. Reiterating these facts, is not the objective of this article for now. I might however come back to it at some point soon. A reminder is always beneficial!
For now I would like to explore the necessity and incredible asset of developing a self practice. We will look into the benefits, but also the impediments of starting on our own, the mental restrictions. We will finally explore the possibilities and ways to make this self practice possible, safe and a moment of pure enjoyment in your day to day life.
Why a Self Practice
First of all, to come back to our current global circumstances, it seems like an obvious and safe step to take. Because going into a Yoga studio might not be possible, because numbers can be limited, or we simply don’t feel safe.
This really there should not mean stop practicing.
We have nowadays many online options to practice from home, you might tell me. And you are right. Which takes me to the real point of Self Practice and what Yoga really means.
If we look at the most common and widely used definition of Yoga, it translates as Union (body, mind, breath). This Union is internal. Only you can make this transformation real. As teachers we are here to give you the tools, teach you the postures, explain the biomechanics of Asanas and give you the right corrections, modifications. For you, to then start your exploration. This part we as teachers can not do for you.
Unless we were getting into Dogma, and the whole point of the practice has then evaporated.
Where to start… I have heard many of my students say, they have all the best intentions in the world, wake up, step on their mats… and blank… Not sure what to do, where to start.
Where to start
1 _ Create a simple (very simple) 5 min routine. Below this article you will find a detailed example of a 5 min practice that will work for you.
This point is primordial. Your routine needs to be short and simple, easy to remember.
You will otherwise give your mind an opportunity to wander off and go and have a coffee instead (because that routine is well anchored in your mind, you know how to make a coffee or a tea).
2_ Make this happen very first thing in the morning. This is the best time for clarity of mind and physical receptivity (even though you feel more stiff, it doesn’t matter).
Please remember, this is only 5 min, therefore you do not need to set up your alarm earlier or make any drastic changes to your life.
Stay aware, that if you don’t make this happen 1st thing in the morning, you will give your mind hundreds of opportunities throughout the day to not do this.
3_ If you have the chance and the space creates a little space for this in your home. Where you can have the mat unrolled, ready to step. If you can, make that space nice to come to, maybe a candle, a blanket, colour you like, incense if that works for you. Something between an Altar and your own mini studio. If this is simply not possible in your living arrangements, don´t worry about it. However, do have your Mat very close to your bed, ready.
You would be surprised how the simple fact of reaching a cupboard in some random corner of your home will give your mind just another excuse to not start.
4_ ” Do not question it”. This is very powerful. Whether you think you feel like it or not, or you feel tired, grumpy, achy, had a wild night, just woke up next to a stranger, you´re running late… all of this will happen at some point (or maybe almost all of it). The point is do not question. Get up, step on that Mat, show up and try. Some days you might just achieve 1 breath and will have to lie down. That’s fine. Tomorrow is another day, but you stood there.
5_ This is the point of your day where you will make all the difference. Keep reminding yourself that you will not gain much from an extra 5 minutes in bed, but a huge transformation will begin by rising up.
Please keep in mind that if you have never practiced Yoga before you will need guidance at first from a teacher. Do not start on your own.
Within 3 to 5 classes (ideally 1 to 1, private sessions) you will be able to do this simple routine, with the right modifications for you.
– Stand on you mats, take 3 deep breaths lifting the arms up (inhale) and back to the sides of the body (exhale)
– Keeping the knees bent, come into a simple forward bend (don´t push or pull, just let the upper body soft and the knees bent)
– Slowly come back up inhaling, unrolling the spine, take your time.
– Roll the shoulders back, X3
– Take your arms behind you, bring your hands together, interlace the fingers, roll the shoulders back, open the chest and look up. =
This should take you about 2 to 3 min.
If you are familiar with Sun Salutations, do 1 to 3 rounds (you can choose the Ashtanga version, or any one you are familiar with). I would personally recommend the Ashtanga version, for its speed, simplicity and a structured coordination of breath and movement.
This should take you another 3 mins (you are obviously welcome to do 5 or 10 rounds of course, if you have the time and inclination).
– To finish: come and lie on your back, bring your knees to your chest and arms around the knees
– If you are familiar with the bridge pose, lift the hips up, shoulders in, take 1 deep inhale, and exhale slowly back down.
– Back to knees to chest, with the knees slightly open towards the shoulders.
– bring the knees back together, roll on to your right side and come to seating.
– Take a moment, inhale arms up, bring your hands together and bring your hands into prayer at the centre of your chest.
Enjoy. Take your time. This is your practice. Explore.