Creating a Self Practice.
After practising yoga for 15 years I can see clearly how different stages of life require us to bend and be flexible, like in our practice, if we are going to even get to our mat! Where once as a student at university it was easy for me to go to the shala every morning then head to school, suddenly when the babies came along walking out the door took a whole lot more planning. It could have been easy to put my hands in the air and say "too hard" ( and for a period I did) but that hour to myself was also what sustained me. Yes, sometimes it cost me double because of paying a babysitter, but it was worth my sanity and made me a better mother. Now my children are at school, and my husband leaves for work early so there is no ducking off to my mat during the morning crazy time! Keeping my practise now requires me to be stable and strong - because in that short six hours they are at school, there are sooooo many other things calling me to get done, and for the last few years I practice my yoga at home, alone, meaning I have the biggest obstacle to be strong with - myself!
Yet self-practice, while sometimes it can take a bit to carve out the space, can be incredibly rewarding and deep. When it is just you on the mat, you can go into a mediative state that is much trickier to find in a class with a teacher telling you what to do next. You have to rely on yourself, you have to be inquisitive with yourself and you have to motivate yourself. All of which can be trickier on some days - and some days the energy that comes from being in a group is what you might need - but when you can get into the flow of self-practice it is such a blessing to yourself. Plus you don't have to deal with parking/ travel/ class times/ babysitter/fees all of which can be road blocks for people at different times of our lives.
So how to create and keep a self-practice?
- Schedule it
There really ARE so many things to get done in life - especially once you are at home, the distractions are endless. So you have to prioritise getting onto your mat and put it in your diary, otherwise your day will fill up and you will be left with no time! This also means telling others that that is what you are doing - they wouldn't expect you to talk to them/do something for them while you were at a class, so the same goes for when you are practising from home.... ( well, to a point, sometimes its nice for the children to poke their heads in and see what your up to!)
For me it normally works to do my practice at the first chance I can. Yes, I preferred that to be with the sunrise but right now, that isn't possible during the week - so straight after school drop off is the next best time. There are two advantages with practicing ASAP, that is 1. You feel better after, which means you are giving yourself the most amount of time to get the benefits of your practice and 2. If you get it done, you don't have to think about it anymore and its less likely you will get busy with something else.
On the days you can't make it happen in the morning, don't despair, find an hour and block out your diary. Set an alarm and DO NOT IGNORE IT! Even if your in the middle of something else, roll out that mat. Remember how important feeling good and connecting to yourself is. It helps your productivity, your relationships and your health.
2. Put your phone away ( preferably in another room) and leave it in aeroplane mode
Once you get to your mat, you need to make that space sacred and guard it from the outside demands that will pull you out of yourself at every notification and phone call. There is a reason phones are NOT allowed into yoga shalas. Just because you are at home, the rule are no different.
Unless someone is in a life or death situation, your calls and emails and social media CAN wait an hour. Your attention is precious and you must honour it by giving it space, so you can get the benefits of your yoga and also so you literally DO your yoga. It can be too tempting to take a call and before you know it you would have missed the time you allocated to do your practice.
3. Put on your "active wear"
There are jokes about it and for good reason, but the lycra gear really can work its magic. Studies have even shown if you were your exercise kit, you are more likely to do exercise. I am normally busting out my LuLulemons for school drop off - and not as a fashion statement, but as a big loud reminder what I am doing straight after. I am giving myself the best possible chance of getting to that mat. As soon as I put on a pair of skinny jeans my chance decreases a little. I know, I know, it is SOOO easy just to change pants, but Im just telling you how it is. Some of us need cues. Going to a business meeting - wear the power heels, going to the mat, wear yoga gear.
4. Have a Playlist
Much of the time I practice in silence and focus on my breath as I find this is how you can really get to break into the interesting and sometimes uncomfortable parts of ourselves and go through them with our asanas. But there are times when my head is just much much too noisy, to the point I am finding it hard to stay with myself the whole practice. When there is no teacher telling you what pose next, or a whole class keeping you from getting up and leaving, it is up to you to keep yourself interested enough to stay and music is something that can dictate the energy in a room and be the difference whether you stay or not.
I actually have a few playlists so depending on what medicine I might need, I can help myself with the right tunes. My two favourites are a grounding, slower chanting playlist, that can help ground me when I am feeling anxious and an upbeat sanskrit and drumming playlist for when I need a little more motivation and stimulation. Spend sometime creating your one - not during your practice though!
5. Get into a flow
Finding a rhythm that works for you will help you sustain a self-practice. The hardest part is getting going, but after a week you will find each time you go to your space, it will be easier to slip into the asanas, it will be easier to stay on your mat and it will be easier to listen to your body. ( Well, mostly... but some days will be hard, because thats life!) You will create your own sacred space at home and the energy will begin to align with you slipping into the practice when you go to that place - whether it be a room or a part of your lounge, or your garden - or even down at your local beach or park.
With that then comes the magic of being able to choose postures that YOUR body is craving and to hold them for as long as YOU feel they are needed. Following a general class structure or an ashtanga sequence is a great base, but then you are free to listen to you, to be a little more exploratory ( with safety) and playful.
# I always thing it is good to check in with a teacher now and then to make sure you aren't doing a posture that is doing you damage and to get inspiration.