Listening to a favorite yoga instructor’s voice and letting them guide us through an inspiring sequence can feel blissful and amazing. What would happen if we became our own guide? What poses would we find yourselves in? How long would we hold the poses? Would our minds start wondering far away from the breath?
Self practice can be overwhelming at first and even create more confusion or distraction then the relaxing effect of a guided class. So why make the effort? Why explore our deeper thoughts and awareness of the body when it feels so lovely to take a class?
Self Exploration. Getting onto my mat and figuring out what my body needs rather than receiving suggestions from someone else becomes profoundly explorative. I try something and if it doesn't feel right I move onto the next. Sometimes I find myself in a posture and I sink into meditation and find myself still there several minutes later still scanning the body and mind for insight. What do I feel? Can I let go? Can I go deeper?
Connection. The breath becomes the guide and when there is no one else to mimic or encourage a specific rhythm we can truly listen to our own breath. The connection to the breath leads to the connection to ourselves.
Creativity. Yoga is fundamentally without judgement. Get creative in self practice through self expression. Explore movements and breathing exercises. Try different music or aromas for inspiration.
Awareness. Self practice directs me inward. Its just me - my breath, my body, my mind, my soul. Yoga is a path to samadhi in order to reach this state of bliss I must first become aware.
The benefits of starting a self practice routine are incredible but where do we start? How do we make the commitment? Here are a few tips to get us started.
Create a space - Find a peaceful space that receives plenty of natural light (sun or moon). Music, candles, aromas, fresh air these can all help create a space that inspires self-practice. I am moving into a one bedroom apartment in the East Village, NYC so I realize finding space can be a challenge. It does not have to be a room that is only used for yoga just enough space that the mat can be rolled out and voila a sanctuary awaits.
Create a sequence - This is where I find many yogis get caught up. Try not to overthink it. Begin with maybe only 4 or 5 poses. Open your practice with some sun or moon salutations, depending on your energy level, then gradually make your way through those poses and gently come down to the mat and finish with a simple twist and savasana or the final resting pose. The key is to keep the practice basic and concise to help honor the commitment to the practice.
Create a rhythm - The breath is going to be different on a daily basis. Sometime we find ourselves rearing with energy and the breath can cultivate that fire within the body. Other days our energy is drained and the breath can help us relax. Listen to what the body is asking for through the breath and allow the self practice to mirror that rhythm. If its been a hard week find pigeon pose and supported restorative poses - take it easy.
Create a commitment - YOGA EVERY DAY :) Make a commitment to find the mat and explore through self practice on a daily basis or even 3x a week to start. This is key. Keeping the sequence short and enjoyable helps us to keep our commitment.
Sun Salutations 1. Bring yourself into a standing pose at the front of the mat and find the connection to the breath 2. Exhale bring your hands to namaste, prayer pose. 3. Inhale the arms around and up, palms touch. 4. Exhale fold forward down bringing the hands to the floor or behind the calves. 5. Inhale a flat back lengthen the spine. 6. Exhale fold forward bringing the chest towards the legs. 7. Inhale bring the right leg back into a low lunge position, open the chest look forward. 8. Exhale step the left foot into a high plank and bend the knees chest and chin onto the floor. 9. Inhale ground the hips, lift the chest look forward into baby cobra. 10. Exhale downward facing dog. 11. Inhale bring the right leg to the front of the mat and straighten the right leg. 12. Exhale step the left foot to the front of the mat and fold forward. 13. Inhale reach the arms around and up to the sky, palms pressing. 14. Exhale into namasate, prayer pose
Savasana The final resting pose at the en of our practice is possibly the most important part of our practice. Devote at least a few minutes at the end of each session to completely relax the body, This is the time where the body absorbs all the new information that it has just received. Once in the reclined position beginning at the toes and working all the way up to the top of the head one muscle, one bone, one internal organ at a time find complete, deep relaxation.
Self Care Self practice of yoga asanas is a beautiful way to care for our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Adding a few self-care practices to our routine can amplify these effects.
Take a Bath
Get a Massage
Eat a Healthy Meal
Listen to Music
Read a Book