So you have braved your first yoga class at your local studio and now you are completely hooked to the practice. You love the way you feel at the end of the session and you are beginning to notice how much more patient you are with your kids, spouse, parents and friends after a yoga session.
While it is a wonderful blessing to be able to practise daily under the watchful guidance of a qualified teacher, sometimes this may not be entirely realistic due to time, money and accessibility. It should not however be an excuse to determine how frequently you unroll and step on your yoga mat. A home practice gives you the freedom to determine how long you want to spend on your mat. If the usual 60 – 90 minutes classes at your local studio seems like a luxury when you have a long list of tasks and responsibility to fulfill, then a well-established home practice may be perfect for you even if you can only afford to spare 10 minutes a day.
But how do you begin to establish a well-structured home practice that is safe and helps you to build the necessary strength and flexibility? Just like any other physical practice like running and lifting weights, the risk of injury is not entirely eliminated even if it’s ‘just a couple of stretches’ every day.
Step 1 – Identify any pre-existing physical condition(s)
A knowledgeable physiotherapist I once spoke to pointed out that many people who approach yoga for the first time are not aware of their pre-existing physical condition.
So they begin their practice hoping that yoga will help them feel better, be stronger and become an overall healthier person without the awareness of their physical structure.
One needs to bear in mind that the ancient practice of yoga was developed around 5,000 years ago, during which time people were not yet working in a highly stressed environment, hunched over their computers for 12-18 hours a day. The physical imbalances that so many of us are experiencing in the current times like abnormally tight shoulders and back muscles is very different from our parents and even ancestors.
By having a clear awareness of your physical structure, it gives you a ‘starting’ point in which to tailor your self-practice. Even if you choose a highly systemized practice like Ashtanga (in which the sequences are set) there are always modifications that can be done in the interim whilst building the necessary strength to address possible physical imbalance and to further encourage a safer journey into yoga.
Step 2 – Choose a simple and easy-to-remember sequence to start
In many yoga classes, Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutations are a permanent feature as a method to gently warm up, lubricate the joints and prepare the body for subsequent poses.
There are a few variations to Sun Salutation sequences and this largely depends on the school or yoga lineage. The three most commonly practiced Sun Salutations are the classical version, Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B.
The classical version is the gentlest among the 3 variations and is typically repeated many times to slowly bring up the heart rate (in some practices, 108 times is the typical number of repetitions performed before taking on other poses!).
Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B are slightly more rigorous as they warm up the body and bring up the heart rate faster than the classical version. These two sequences are featured in the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice and performed 5 times each.
Classical Sun Salutation
The sequence is to be repeated twice, the first stepping back with the right leg, and the second round stepping back with the left leg.
Sun Salutation A & Sun Salutation B
Step 3 – Create a dedicated space and time for you to consistently show up and practise
The final step is to allocate a space in your house in which you can unroll your mat and remain undisturbed by your pets, phones, emails or people in your house. This is critical for you to establish an uninterrupted practice initially so that you can learn to tune in to your body and listen to its messages.
It is a space that should be entirely yours, and one that makes you look forward to spend some time in (even if it is just 10 minutes a day!). Learning to perform certain poses correctly requires awareness, your body’s own intelligence will be able to send signal if you are doing something completely wrong or you are on your way to injuring yourself.
This means if you are a mother to a young toddler, it would perhaps be a good idea to time your practice during their nap time or early in the morning before they wake up.
If you are a busy executive, turn your phone to silent mode and put in a place where you won’t be able to hear it vibrate (because that too can be distracting!). It is only through consistent and long-term practice can you begin to explore ‘sharing’ this with your children and even involve them into the process of self-discovery.
The video below is one of my favourites and it beautifully illustrates how anyone, even a busy mother of 2 young children can still have her own practice and ignite similar interest in her own children.
What difficulties do you have building your own yoga practice? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!