On the Mat, Off the Mat

Inspiration / On the mat

Deepen your Yoga Home Practice Workshop Follow up – Tips for your yoga home practice

Thank you to everyone who attended my workshop on Saturday on how to Deepen your Yoga Home Practice. It was an absolutely beautiful day in Muizenberg outside and inside Sangha Spot!

Here are some of the tips I discussed to encourage you to start and sustain your home practice.

Start with what you know, whether it’s a few Sun Salutations, some forward bends or standing poses. It’s easier to just flow into something that comes natural to us. Once you have established a regular time and practice, then you can start exploring and expanding your practice.

Nobody is judging you or double-checking how you did or what you did. You either did your practice or you didn’t. Try not to get caught up with “well, I couldn’t jump into handstand” or “I couldn’t keep my balance in tree pose.”
You got on your mat – well done!

Do what you body tells you. If you start off unsure about what to do, then lie in savasana or Supta Baddha Konasana for a few minutes until you feel ready to move on. If you’re exhausted, start slow and see how your energy builds into a more active practice. Or you just might need to lie in savasana for 10 minutes. Be gentle with yourself, but not lazy.

Class is great because you have your alignment corrected, get new ideas and guidance from your teacher. It’s also social and fosters a sense of community. However, class practice is not a quiet practice, your teacher will usually be providing many instructions for each pose, there’s usually a fair bit of talking. On the other hand, home practice is quiet and you are alone. Enjoy this quiet and solitude. Initially you might hear your teacher’s voice when you do the poses but eventually, tune out of that voice and listen to your body and your inner voice. Awaken your awareness and body intelligence within.

Through this quieter practice, a process of self enquiry will unfold – embrace it. Let your curiosity and interest in the experience lead you to a deeper, more probing practice.

In her book, “Yoga, Mind, Body & Spirit”, Donna Farhi talks about comparing yoga practice to cooking. You need to know the basics of the ingredients in order to know how they complement each other. That’s what we get from classes, we get introduced to the ingredients and once we are familiar with them, we can get creative cooking for ourselves.

Get books, find blogs or get the sequences you’ve liked from your teacher. Build yourself a knowledge base creating your own practice library and variety of sequences and ideas to keep you inspired and challenged.

Here, I’d like to touch on the 2 principles of practice – Abhyasa (sanskrit for practice) and Vairagya (letting go, detachment). It’s not an easy thing for many people to really get to grips with. Our sense of worth, ego, our ambition and drive to succeed propels us to usually endure things that we find challenging, if there is a great reward at the end. Yoga, or specifically here, our home practice, should not be like that. In order for our practice to become truly a sustainable and deeply altering experience, we somehow need to figure out how to put in the hours, effort and commitment but be completely detached as to how well or poorly our practice goes. It is not the point of practice. Yes, by being consistent and dedicated, of course one would expect to see improvement and all the great so-called rewards yogic texts promises. However, the goal or reward should not be the start.

The last 3 niyamas (social ethics – 2nd limb of ashtanga yoga – The Sutras of Patanjali) Tapas, Svadhyaya and Isvara Pranidhana guide us deeper into our practice. Tapas is the desire  that drives us to action, to perform. The heat that fuels our effort. Svadhyaya is self-study. If your practice is sincere and committed, then you will absolutely find that you naturally become self reflective, more intune with your emotions, you’ll start to have more control over your responses to life events and you’ll gain greater awareness of your mind-body connection. This is where study and learning deepens. Isvara Pranidhana or surrender to the the Divine is Abhyasa in action. Here, your efforts, intentions and any expectation of outcome evaporates as you practice for no gain but to practice. Literally translated it’s a surrender or “fixing” to a divine or Supreme Being such as God. For those not too inclined to gnostic beliefs, this translation may not be an approach or explanation you feel comfortable with, so broaden the idea of a literal “being” to the universe or even humanity. Let the energy created, released or harnessed from a practice move into the world in ways you cannot necessarily perceive but don’t need to hold onto. This is Kriya Yoga – the yoga of action.

More than anything, if your practice is to progress, you need to be consistent in your effort and time on the mat. Doing your practice 3-4 times a week for even 20 minutes is better than an occasional two hour practice. Dedicate times during the week that you can sustain and manage without your practice becoming yet another item on your to-do list. It should not create more stress in your life but help you cope with life better. By finding time for this practice, you might find that you’re more efficient, focused and energised to get things done and move through life effortlessly!

My challenge to any yogi looking to deepens their home practice is to get to a point with your self-practice where it becomes so much a part of you and your routine, that classes supplement your home practice, not the other way around. 🙂

I hope to offer more of these workshops later in the year.
If you are keen to be told about them, then please drop me an email here.