I am often asked by students for suggestions on how to create a home practice. My sense of humility surges to the surface of my being as I take on a response to what I consider a sacred interaction between student to student, teacher to teacher, student and guide. What I mean by this is: I will always be a student of Yoga, students will always be their own teacher, and I am a guide for an experience when they come to class.
Let go of expectations
The first thing I say is to let go of expectations. Let go of the length of time you set in your mind about how long to practice, let go of what outfit you’ll wear, let go of having to show up to your mat in a certain mental or physical state—don’t feel you have to feel fit or have a positive mental outlook or have more than an hour to spend on your mat or what poses you’ll do. Let go….of all that. Come as you are—in your pajamas, having a blah mental outlook, and not knowing what poses you’ll do or even if you can sit for a minute. Being able to arrive on your mat just as you are is Yoga.
Once you are on your mat, breathe. Just breathe. Breathe in the nose and out of the mouth a few times, and then begin taking slow, deep, conscious breaths through the nostrils. Notice a sense of stillness that comes about. Take your time. As you breathe, notice what body part wants to move with the breath and move it. Honor your range of motion and move with breath and intention—this will help reduce the risk of injury. As you warm up, you may find that a few movements with the breath is it for the day. And that is fine. Come back the next day. As you warm up, you may notice yourself wanting to move longer, take on certain poses, or hold poses longer. Go for it. Let your breath guide your movement naturally and creatively, without thinking about it. As you continue, you may notice your body taking on counter poses to balance out the pose you just did. Trust in the wisdom of your body.
Find a time that works
Find a time that works with your schedule and be open to the length of time, as mentioned above. If you try and find that a certain time of day is not working out, try another time of the day. Keep trying and know it may be different on different days. Know that one day your body may want to move or only have time for 5 minutes, another day it may be 30 minutes, and the next day it may be 2 minutes of conscious breathing only. Be open and welcoming.
Be curious about space
Be curious about the space your beautiful body takes. As you move, notice how your body can move about space…below, above, front, back, right side, left side. You may notice a more intimate sense of being IN relationship with your body.
When moving with the breath and conscious action, you are allowing the body to respond to what is needed versus using the mind to respond to what is needed. When allowing the mind to enter into the decision-making, it is preempting the opportunity for the body to respond. Notice if you feel a sense of freedom and stillness when you let your body respond. You and this stillness are one.
Let your experience be as it is
At the end of your practice, take some time to integrate your experience in Savasana. The Sanskrit word, Savasana, translates into corpse pose signifying the end of practice. It is an important pose as it gives your body the opportunity to take in and integrate the previous parts of your practice. It is a pose where a sense of calm, relaxation, and stillness is encouraged. Find a position on the floor that you find most restful. Take a few letting go breaths, in the nose and out of the mouth. Eventually allow the breath to be free. Invite release and softening in the physical body surrendering to the gentle pull of gravity underneath you. Release any holding there might be in the body and make any adjustments, including using rolled up blankets to support any areas, as you need so that the body can start to quiet and soften.
As thoughts and feelings come, spend time to acknowledge them with a sense of compassion and curiosity resisting the urge to get pulled into them, resisting the urge to ignore them, and resisting the urge to judge what is coming up. After acknowledging, see if you can let these thoughts and feelings be just for the remainder of your practice. Gradually, return attention back to your breath, allowing your breath to be a focal point for the mind. Eventually, as you are ready, let the mind be free.
As you align these layers, the breath, the body and the mind, you might find the idea of relaxing and letting be might be a little more attainable. From here, there is nothing else to do and nowhere to go, but to simply be.
Close your practice
Finally, close your practice in some way. Maybe it is bringing your hands in front of the heart center in prayer position, or, one hand on your heart and the other on your belly, taking a breath, chanting the sound of Om, setting an intention, and/or thinking of something for which you are grateful. Conclude your practice in a way that resonates with you in that moment.
Keep an eye out for my next post about “Getting to Know Savasana”.
I honor your wisdom and strength. Namaste.