How to create your own yoga practice
It is one thing to go to a yoga class and be guided by an instructor, however to create your own home yoga practice is a completely different ball game. However... this is where the magic can really happen. This is where you can find the strength and growth and overcome challenges on your own and really understand how powerful you are.
It is also the hardest thing to get started with. There is a huge amount of resistance surrounding it. I know... I still get it! Despite being a yoga teacher and knowing exactly what 'to do' some days it is so hard to actually get myself to the mat and this may be for a number of reasons.
- There is a fear of not 'knowing' what to do.
- There is a fear of not having enough time.
- There is fear about doing something wrong.
- There is a fear of hurting yourself.
- There is fear of letting your body decide what feels good and what doesn't.
- There is fear of being on your own.
- There is fear of what emotions and feelings might come up.
It is funny how one simple little harmless yoga mat, can spiral us into an emotional roller coaster. And often, it is so much easier not to face those concerns, it is much easier to skip your yoga practice.
An honest admission...
Last year, having been teaching for 6 months, I lost my confidence on the mat. Not in my teaching - but on my own mat, by myself. It had never happened to me before - I had always had the confidence to show up and go with whatever my body gave me that day.
But for some reason I felt totally blocked. I was scared I would hurt myself and not be able to teach and earn money. I was scared that I didn't know what to do in my own practice, despite spending so much time putting together sequences for others. I was scared that I didn't really enjoy asana (the physical postures) anymore and maybe that meant I wasn't 'supposed' to be a teacher! I felt in a little bit of turmoil to be honest and instead of facing these fears head on, I buried my head in the sand and came up with every excuse under the sun not to get on my mat by myself.
But we all know that ignoring our feelings and being an ostrich, doesn't make them go away now does it? Fears and worries tend to keep arising until we put our brave pants on and deal with them!
I began to feel a bit of a fraud in my classes. I began to experience envy and comparison when I saw other yoga teachers and yogis with a seemingly strong self practice. I began to believe that I wasn't good enough to be a teacher and guide others.
Finding courage again...
And there was only one way to find out if these beliefs I had created were actually my truth.
On 1st January I returned to the mat for myself. It wasn't easy. There was so much resistance. Fears came up but instead of running from them, I looked at them as learning curves and obstacles that I know I needed to overcome. I was ready to overcome them. Sometimes with our fears we have to wait until we feel in a strong enough place to tackle them, and after a week off from teaching and any other exercise, and having nourished myself with family time, lots of chocolate and giggles with friends, I felt I was in this place.
So many of my students say they want to practice at home, but something gets in the way. It is usually a time constraint, or space, or not having the right 'equipment'. But even if you don't have a yoga mat, even if you have just five minutes (which EVERYONE can find if they want to), and even if you have the smallest space in the world - you can still find some way to practice.
What can you learn from the resistance?
For you it may not be a yoga practice, it may be a change in your diet, another form of exercise, a work change or big life decision. See your resistance as a way to question what is REALLY going on here. It isn't about space, or time... this is about trust. This is about trusting your body, trusting that you know enough or are good enough, it is about fear of the unknown, the uncertainty of what might happen when you find that space and start connecting to your body. It is about self worth.
And I agree. A lot of these things can be so utterly terrifying. I know. I experience it almost every time I get on the mat. And maybe you aren't ready for it yet - and that is OK. You can rest assured that when it is the right time you will know. Nobody will tell you - YOU will know in your gut that it is time.
Some practical suggestions...
Here are a few suggestions I have found useful to develop my own yoga asana practice and they can be applied whether you have never done yoga before, whether you are a yoga teacher or whether you are an experienced yogi...
Dedicate a time of day to your physical practice. For me, first thing in the morning is best - before I look at my phone, before I have my hot water and lemon, before I even go downstairs. Mornings are a great time to practice and help you check in with the body as to how you really feel.
Find an area in your space that feels good. I use my spare bedroom because it is opposite my room, I don't have to go outside in the cold to my studio, there are minimal excuses for me not to go in there. Make this place accessible to you - so that you have as few distractions and obstacles to get there.
Get everything organised in advance. The act of physically getting yourself on to the mat is by far the hardest part so if it is all set up and ready beforehand, the night before if you can, you are far less likely to miss it. Equally get your clothes ready to put straight on - if you can't find some comfy clothes to practice in quickly and easily, you are likely to miss that window of opportunity!
Make it special. Have your favourite blanket to sit on, get some nice pillows to support your head or to go under your knees, have a lovely room spray or even light a candle if it helps you. Allow yourself this time - even if it is just ten minutes! Play your favourite music - especially handy if you are trying to drown out the sounds of a busy household!
If you are new to yoga then definitely use the internet and all it's wonderful resources. There are so many yoga videos and beginner guides you can utilise to get you started. Begin with something like Yoga With Adriene's beginner videos. If you want to meditate, then try Insight Timer or Headspace. If you can't get to a regular class you could always book a private class with a teacher and tell them that you want the session to be very much giving you some basic pointers to help you develop a home practice - that way they can tailor your session to things you can do on your own.
If you are already going to a class, ask your teacher for a few safe movements you can do at home. As a teacher, it is amazing to hear that a student wants to delve deeper in to the practice by finding ways to integrate what they learn in class in their own time, so don't be afraid to ask for some tips!
Honour your body. On the days that you are exhausted and tired, don't skip your practice - simply make it all about gentleness and kindness. On the days you feel more energised, then move a little more. The days you feel less like getting on the mat are undoubtedly usually the days when you need it the most.
Find some form of accountability. Whether it is through a Facebook group, with a couple of friends, or even your yoga teacher, knowing you are doing it along with someone else - even if they aren't physically there - can be much more motivating than doing it alone.
If you are a yoga teacher, then don't be afraid to admit out loud that you are struggling with your own asana practice. I found by reaching out to other yoga teachers and ridding myself of the shame around my lack of asana that I was very much not alone in my experience, and even the most established and well known teachers go through peaks and flows on their own mat.
Stick at it...
When resistance comes up, which it will, see if you can work through it. Sit for just a minute longer than is comfortable. When everything within you is telling you to pause the video, or get up and walk away, see if you can just stick it out. Learning this resilience and endurance on the mat will mean that when things get challenging off the mat - you have already demonstrated that you are capable of working through things and are much more likely to withstand anything life throws at you.
I am always happy to help, support and guide people to finding more yoga in their lives. Whether you come to my classes or live on the opposite side of the world - feel free to get in touch and let me know if this blog brings up anything for you. I would love to keep the conversation going.
PS... If you are looking to find ways of bringing a more 'yogic' approach to your life, through mindfulness, meditation and a compassionate support network, then I would love to welcome you to my private Facebook group here.
If you are a yoga teacher and want to connect with other teachers in a safe space then hop on over to my new Facebook group here that has been set up specifically for ambitious yogis!