Yoga practices create change and the tools of transition are met daily within a personal, solitary, practice. Photographs of yoga practice can be inspiring and create community; sadhana, but they are not a representation of practice. The rhythm of practice is marked by the accumulation of patterns of wear and tear on our mat and words in our journals, as we move into and out of stillness, creating cycles of turning inwards to work and outwards in relationship. The change that yoga can support is one of clarity and care. In relationship to ourselves but also to those whose lives we occupy whether that be an interwoven relationship or momentary meetings. Care not only to the physical but the emotional lives we lead. A curiosity about our minds as well as our body, these silent conversations, that are incessantly in flux and a practice that moves us behind and beyond to the core of us. A core of sure and steady knowing of our body and our minds.
From our experience of yoga being in a group situation, being held through a practice by a teacher, how can we make that shift to this rhythm of practice, self-reflection and development?
Creating the space to bring yoga daily into our lives in a very practical experience and sometimes an uncomfortably honest one.
Most of us have daily habits and create space for them. Some of these habits serve and strengthen, others create distance and disconnection. We have a set pot of time that we are working with. Our practice works when it becomes high value enough in our lives that we allocate time for it, often replacing another habit with our practice. What we replace is important, yoga is not a path of renunciation or withdrawal. Our practice moves away from yoga if it at the expense of participation in life, family and community. In time we can acknowledge and notice what no longer serves us or what we can reduce to allow time for practice. I am excited to see that self-care is being acknowledged and addressed, it is vital we begin our path by caring for ourselves, coming into knowing with ourselves. Encouraged by viveka, this self-realisation and healing, it is in turn vital to be aware of our ripples of effect on those around us and in our relationship with the environment. How we are, what we buy, how we eat, our footprint, all become part of our practice; yoga.
Often our initial desire to practice at home regularly comes from a real and present need that is affecting our quality of life; back pain, insomnia, anxiety or from an increasing desire to know more. A well-known chant sounds that only through yoga, yoga is known. We can read and talk about yoga and this can be a huge support, however only from a regular and repeated turning inwards and an increasing subtle understanding of our body, breath and patterns of thoughts can yoga begin to be known. So how do we make our practice high value and how do we work compassionately with how difficult it can be to get on the mat?
There are lots of housekeeping tips and nudges that can help. Making a special space; think hygge, think unplugging. Be realistic, short and doable can make all the difference. Find the right time of day for you. Be accountable to your practice without shame or burden. A teacher working in relationship and partnership with you designing a practice that is relevant and personal. Take support from something for your practice, offer and make intentions for your practice to something more than yourself. All of these things will help.
However, the crux of making a personal practice habit, is not a beautiful space or simplifying our days to create more space and time, the crux is make it relevant, make it kind, make it honest and create space for listening and change.
Reflecting on the people over the years that I have supported into a personal practice and my own practice over 25 years, bringing your practice home from class to a personal practice is about finding the right support from your practice to come into a loving, honest, compassionate and content relationship to oneself. Valuing and elevating your body whilst learning not to be fearful of the stillness and the thoughts that occupy. Beginning to experience the clarity that comes when we begin to see we are not these thoughts. We experience how our day is left in our body and the signals it gives, when we witness the connection between stress and shoulders or weak bodies from being in our head too much and we shift this through yoga practice.
Do I continue to find a daily practice difficult? I do. However, I am constantly reminded and aware how the simplest discipline has the most profound effect not only on myself but on my relationships around me. My practice can be a warm bath or a kick up the backside but it’s constantly evolving and yet staying grounded in structure and tradition. There is nothing woolly about the discipline of yoga, it goes beyond a picture and a quote of inspiration, it is work. Ultimately in our personal practice we are our own teachers, there is independence and autonomy, and this is held in turn within a relationship to our teachers and this shared cherished space.
For those of us who are teachers a personal practice is an ongoing requirement of authenticity to this path. As teachers it can be helpful to be aware of whether our practice shifts towards being a rehearsal for teaching, and to find support for making our yoga a practice for our own story. We bring this journey to our teaching and our teaching to others’ and our own journeys. Parallel but separate paths. It is vital that we bring what we know from our own experience of yoga to our teaching, and that we apply what we know to the people we work with translating into a practice specific and relevant to them for change.
I often say make your practice like wiping your bum, not an optional extra in life! Make it compassionate and true, let it be however it is, but just keep returning to the mat with your heart open and held.