Your Practice, Your Pace
Going to a yoga class to immerse yourself in your practice is amazing. It can be an opportunity to step out of your day to day life and enter into a different experience. A space for focus and awareness; and a supportive environment to expand your knowledge of yoga, and of your body, and push yourself with the guidance of an experienced teacher. Simply being in a room full of other people focusing and breathing and moving together is a powerful thing in itself — you are lifted, challenged and nourished by the energy of those around you.
There might come a point, though, when you feel that there might be more to explore. A kind of experience that you don’t quite access in a class with a teacher who tells you what to do.
So, what then?
Home practice! Once you’ve got a grounding in the basics of yoga, start building your personal practice independently. You can start no matter how long you’ve been practising for, and no matter how many postures you know. You can use books; you can use videos online. You can learn a sequence until it’s set in your memory practice it so it becomes your check-in experience — the practice that reveals to you how you’re changing and developing, both physically and in terms of the way your mind responds to the work.
And eventually, you can drop all of the outside stuff and stand at the top of your mat, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, and then allow yourself to move in any way you want to.
This isn’t about turning your back on the yoga classes you love and forcing yourself to practice only at home, only on your own. But to really understand how to work with your own body and your personal movement and mental patterns, a home practice is important as well — do both!
What You’ll Get Out of an Independent Practice
There are a vast number of benefits to creating a home yoga practice. Some of those benefits will be unique to you, because your practice is unique to you. It’s an exploration of your being on this world, in this body, and it’s slow; it all takes time and it’s never finished.
The key is in consistency. You don’t need to practice for hours every day; but you do need to practice regularly. By committing yourself to a home practice for 30 minutes, 3 times a week, you will discover:
In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes two important intentions of yoga: Sthira and Sukha. Roughly translated, these words mean steady and comfortable. Yoga practice brings more steadiness and comfort into life — both during those moments on the mat and in the way it impacts the rest of our experiences.
Taking that step and rolling out your mat all on your own feels daunting for lots of people — even those who have been practising in a class setting for ages. But the hardest thing about your home practice is actually starting. Unfortunately, that’s true of the very first time you do it, and the second time, and the 50th time, and the 150th time; there’s always a voice in your head that says but you have so many other things to do! or this is pointless, give up!
Accept that voice for what it is. Accept that it might always be there. And do your practice anyway.
If you’re relatively new to yoga it’s useful to equip yourself with a few postures that you know really well before you start your first home practice. Learn the Surya Namaskara (sun salutations) by following a YouTube video or a book. I always recommend the Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual by David Swenson as a really functional guide to standard Ashtanga primary series postures, because it includes options for modifying each posture to suit your body.
The sun salutations give you a range of simple postures and an understanding of how they connect together in a flow, so once you’ve learnt them you already have a sequence to practice on your own. Flowing through five Surya Namaskara A and then five Surya Namaskara B, followed by lying down to rest in Savasana (corpse pose) is a good practice in itself. And then you can build on it by adding more postures, one or two at a time, and experimenting with how to transition between them in different ways.
Start! And commit to a regular practice. Even if it’s daunting, it really can be fun — and in time, it can become a core part of your life and maybe even a highlight of your day.
About the author-
Izzy Arcoleo is a yoga and meditation teacher with a background in Anthropology, currently in the process of opening a centre for yoga workshops and creative residencies in the south of France. She's also a freelance writer with a focus on wellbeing and personal development, and is committed to her own lifetime exploration of yoga and consciousness.
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