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Tips on How to Start a Home Practice

 

Touching your toes is not important…awareness, breath, kindness, opening to what is, these  are the real elements of  any true yoga practice

I write this as someone who finds it difficult to discipline myself. It does not come naturally to me. Three years ago I would have found it difficult to imagine myself having a regular practice, lasting up to an hour or more, most days in the week. So I write this for those of you who think it is unattainable, not possible. I write this for those of you who would like to have a regular practice but feel daunted at the idea of rolling out your mat at home without the guiding voice of a teacher telling you what to do. I write this for those of you who wish to bring some of the peace and equanimity that yoga can unfold into the ordinary moments that fill your  daily life.

Because it was only when I began to practice regularly, at home, that yoga began to reveal it’s truest gifts.  By practising daily, it reminds me to come back to my centre, to my breath, to open to myself, accepting everything as it is, in each moment. When I remember that is, and I accept how often I forget : )  Put simply, practising Yoga regularly has made me a happier person.  Not that life doesn’t have it’s ups and downs, just my relationship to those ups and downs, and my relationship to myself, has changed.

In years gone by between meditation and Yoga,  I have read many posts on clearing a sacred space and shutting all doors to the world.  Candles and altars suggested, uncluttered space a definite. Close the door and explain to family that this is your time was another suggestion.  This is surely the ideal, but in my reality with three small kids, two dogs and a cat, and the general chaos that most often makes up my household, this was a step too far.  Unattainable, therefore not worth trying for,  because I knew in my heart I could not make it happen.  So baby steps are what I recommend.

 Do what you can, when you can, as best you can. 

Do not set up lofty goals that are so difficult to attain you drop at the first hurdle.

It helps to have a space in your house where there is enough room to roll out your mat.

 Ideally this will be in a room where others will not be roaming freely,  voicing their opinions or demands!  My space is at the end of my bed.  There is only just space for the mat here..but it is enough.  My kids still roll in and voice whatever the hell they feel like…and I hear the voice of my teacher Marie Mills, exhale and smile. So yes, work with what you have and exhale and smile when you find it is not perfect.

Of course it helps to have a clear uncluttered space, music and candles too, but to be perfectly honest I usually have to practise when the house is still a mess, and I shove several laundry baskets around the corner of my bed so at least I can’t see them.  Of course I wish for a house of perfect order, but I have to start where I am at.  You too, start wherever you are at.  Be kind and accepting if you find it is not ideal.  Rather then picking at yourself for where you fall short, congratulate yourself for whatever small attempts you are making to reach forward and grow towards your full potential.

START SMALL with BABY STEPS 

Roll out the mat and get on it!  

This can in fact be a huge step.  But don’t let it be.  No big deal.  Just roll it out and get on it.

Don’t decide that you are going to spend one hour doing asana’s and a further twenty in meditation etc.  Well not if you haven’t established your practice.  You need to start small.

Start with allowing yourself ten or fifteen minutes on the mat.  

Really you might sniff at fifteen minutes, but if you start small there is a greater chance that you will start at all.  Once you try this a few times the benefits you will experience will encourage you to spend more time there.

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO DO WHATEVER IT IS YOUR BODY FEELS LIKE DOING.

Really this one is a biggie.  Your body knows what it needs.   So beginning to listen to it and really respecting it’s innate wisdom is the first step to having  your own best yoga practice. Just do whatever it is your body feels like. If you are tired give yourself full permission to lie down and just breath for ten minutes. If you are frustrated and irritated, give yourself permission to roll and groan and hiss in exhalation releasing your frustration. If your back is sore, just work with whatever you find brings ease and relief.  Whatever it is your body desires give in to it. Let it speak to you, let your bodies wisdom guide you. It is your greatest ally and holds your deepest secrets.

For some people this can be too daunting.  Responding to the form of the practice is an easier task.   In this case just try some of the asana’s that you can remember from Yoga class.  Or get a Yoga book from the library and flick through it, and try whatever captures you attention and interest.  Do not be disheartened if your form of the asana looks completely different from that in the book.  Just follow the instructions for safety in alignment, and after that remember to focus on the breath, accepting where you are today, and opening up to how you are in this moment.

Of course nowadays there are heaps of videos on youtube for beginners yoga, so that is another option.  They are really useful for getting live instruction as you move, rather then having to return to a book over and over again.  Though there is still something about finding your own rhythm before falling again into the outside guidance of another.  Yoga is also about finding your own inner guide and learning to trust your own inner wisdom.

Take a few minutes to arrive on your mat, meeting yourself as you are today.

 Rather than launching straight into asana practice take a few moments to exhale, let go, dropping into your body and letting the busyness of the day float away on your out breath.  (Taking a few deep breaths and exhaling out in a loud sigh can really help to let go of whatever you may be carrying in your psyche today. ) You can do this sitting with a straight back, (use a cushion or two underneath if it helps you to sit with a straight spine), or if your body is tired you can do this lying on the ground.  You will have a much deeper practice if you go through this step first.  Because yoga is about gentle awareness.  Your breath will be your best anchor to hold you until the turbulent waters of your mind still.

Accept yourself wholly, as you find yourself in the moment, accept yourself with kindness and compassion.

It is worth saying accept yourself twice here.  Really embrace yourself as you are in the moment.  You might be sad, angry, agitated, tense, lethargic any number of human experiences.  (I just named out some of the more difficult ones to accept.)  But this is it, this is how we are.  Life is difficult.  It is.  Give yourself a break.  The more we can let kindness in our hearts for ourselves the more we can soften and be flexible in our living.

Whatever it is you choose to do let your breath move you.  Let the inhale give itself to beginning a movement, let your breath fill the pose so that you are fully expressed in it, and let the exhale give way to coming out of the movement.  

Slow everything down.

Do whatever it is that might support you in the practice.  If music helps, have music.  If a candle burning sets the tone for quiet reflection then light a candle.  But again work with you have.  Some will have toddlers who just won’t go away : ) Well practise with them in the room.  They might crawl over you, but simply let them, stay with your breath.  They will probably come to enjoy this time on the mat.  But if this makes you scream internally, then this way of working won’t be right for you.  You will have to be creative and resourceful and find another way to get your time on the mat.  A blog post of suggestions on this is to come, I can empathise deeply with harassed mothers : )

Finish with a few minutes in Savasana, deep relaxation.  

This is a hugely important part of the practise and often people can disregard it.  Trust me you will come to appreciate and love this part if you give it some time.  Simply put savasana is about letting go.  Just let go of all effort and let your body drop down,  resting on the earth.  Scanning each body part and consciously letting the muscles here release and let go, dropping down, surrendering themselves to complete rest on the ground.  Let your breath happen naturally, being gently aware of your being in this moment.

Finally take one or two moments to take stock of the immediate effects of the practice.  The quality of your mind and body in these moments after your practise.  Be grateful to your self that you have given yourself this time to nourish you.  It will have  a ripple effect.  The peace and kindness you have afforded yourself will more easily flow to those near and dear to you.

So to summarise again the main points

Touching your toes is not important…awareness, breath, kindness, opening to what is, these are the real elements of any true yoga practice

Do what you can, when you can, as best you can

It helps to have a space in your house where there is enough room to roll out your mat

Start small with baby steps

Roll out the mat and get on it!

Start with allowing yourself ten or fifteen minutes on the mat

Give yourself permission to do whatever it is your body feels like doing

Your body knows what it needs

Take a few minutes to arrive on your mat, meeting yourself as you are today

Accept yourself wholly, as you find yourself in the moment, accept yourself with kindness and compassion

let your breath move you

Slow everything down     

Finish with a few minutes in Savasana, deep relaxation

                                        

 

    Wishing you the best in finding your own path to liberation : )

Any comments, questions or suggestions are gladly welcomed here.

Namaste

Trish