Thursday, 26 May 2016

Yoga: developing a self-practise

A few students have asked me how they can best practise yoga at home, in addition to their weekly class. This is for you.

Practising yoga once a week is beneficial – no doubt about it. Your posture improves - which benefits your breathing, you ward off stiffness, gain strength, ease tension and reduce your stress levels.

Practising twice a week results in faster progress of the above. In addition, you discover more about yourself, become more positive, happy, active and at ease with yourself.

When you practise at home you learn to become your own teacher. You build on what you have done in class. Often, there is a particular chord that strikes…perhaps your yoga teacher introduced you to a new way of approaching a pose. To go home and ‘play’ with this is invaluable. Doing it a few times, on your own, helps you to internalise it: to understand it and really feel it. This may well be beneficial to your practice of other poses. It is likely this quiet practise at home might throw up questions, which you can ask at your next class.

At home, practising alone, you can become completely absorbed in your pose. There are less distractions (arguable if you can see the washing up or a heap of laundry!) and you can tailor your home practise to what you need.

Some people are naturally self-motivated and find it relatively easy to develop a self-practise. Others find it impossible and never practise at home. Either way, don’t beat yourself up over it, or you are simply adding to your stress levels.

If you would like to begin practising yoga at home, my advice would be to start with 10 minutes. Sometimes the thought of practising for an hour or so can be overwhelming – so much so that you do nothing at all! If you just say to yourself, “I am going to do 10 minutes and then just see what happens.” You may surprise yourself and lose track of time as you become immersed in the yoga. And if not, then at least you did 10 minutes.

Another question is, “What poses should I do?” You can be inspired by a point/pose in your regular yoga class. You may find a yoga book motivating , or perhaps a yoga workshop throws up something new for you to work on/’play’ with at home.

When inspiration is lacking then practise what you need. If you are menstruating, then practise the menstruation sequence (which I will be teaching next week). If you have a sore back/tight hamstrings or shoulders then practise poses you know relieve these. Practise uplifting backbends if you feel sluggish, demotivated or down. Following a restorative sequence is beneficial if you have been burning the candle at both ends, or are recovering from illness. If inspiration simply doesn’t strike then just get on your mat and start with downward dog and see what follows.

In terms of safety, practise only what you are confident. If you are unsure of alignment then it is best to practise it a few more times in class first, to be sure you are working correctly in the pose. Never practise after a meal and don’t practise in direct, hot sunlight or tight clothing.

Other than that it’s up to you! Light a candle or don’t. Burn incense or don’t. Set up a special little yoga area or don’t. It’s your practise, so practise away!

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