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Creating (and sustaining) a Self-Practice

Join the Building a Self-Practice Workshop on July 6th at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, from 1:30-4:30pm. 

My self-practice began when I moved to Kosovo in 2006. Prior to that time, I had yoga classes readily available to me, and despite attending classes for almost ten years, the idea of unrolling my mat in my home seemed daunting and untenable. Then, I moved to Kosovo.

Equipped with nothing but my yoga mat, a belt and a couple of blocks, my self-practice commenced. Left on my own without a teacher’s guidance, a couple of things struck me within the first couple of weeks. First, I knew more than I thought I did. When left to move freely, my body could inform itself of what to do. My muscles and tissues had a memory after all, and may have been more present in those thousands of prior yoga classes than my mind! Second, I could move to my unique breath count, which was a big revelation to me, and very freeing at the time. Third, I realized that my mind was more attached to practicing certain asanas than others, for a specific period of time and in a given environment than I would have liked to admit.

At that moment, my self-practice opened wide up to a limitless sea of opportunity. My practice became as much about letting go of my mind-made constraints as it did about creating strength and flexibility through asana, pranayama and meditation. Engaging with learning tools such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali was also a big part of my self-study.

Whether you have 5 minutes or 55 minutes, a daily self-practice is a time to check in and be in your body. Here are 5 tips to help get you started:

1. Drop your Expectations:  So often, our expectations are what prevent us from being present in the moment. 5 minutes of a yoga practice everyday is better than no practice, and actually, your yoga practice can start now! How are you sitting? What is happening with your breath? Are your feet grounded as you read this? What kind of subconscious thoughts are going through your mind?

2. Set your Clock: If you are under time constraints, set an alarm for the time you need to finish by. This will allow your mind to fully be present with your breath and your body, rather than lost in thought, anxious about over running.

3. Follow your Breath: Allow the breath to inform the movement. The more breath is used as a metronome, the more external environments and sounds move into the background and the state of yoga is truly available.

4. Take time to warm up, and cool down: Even if you have ten minutes, give yourself a few minutes to ease into the practice and heat up the spine. As important is a cooling down period leading to rest. My general rule of thumb is 20% of the practice should be in warm up or rest mode. This is when and embodied awareness is cultivated and can be brought into the practice, and also out into our daily life.

5. Fuel your Practice Right: Yoga practice happens in daily life, starting with how we treat other beings, and what we put into our bodies and minds. Eating nourishing whole foods that have the least impact on the planet and animate life is as much a part of the yoga practice as rolling out your mat. When we eat other beings who have suffered, beyond contributing to the cycle of suffering in the world, we ingest the suffering of the animal as well. This contributes to the thought cycle in the mind, which leads to physical and emotional toxicity. A positive intention set before each practice is as important as an organic, vegan smoothie. Speaking of smoothies, Raw Fairies will be at the workshop to talk more about diet and nutrition for fueling a yoga practice, and may even have some smoothies on offer.

For more information on sequencing, self-adjusting and building a rounded practice, hope to see you at the workshop on June 6th.

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