Yoga: Developing a home practice recipe for beginners

yogahomepracticeAs a yoga teacher, I am often asked, “Is it a good idea to try this at home?”

Answer, “Yes, absolutely! That’s the whole point.” Yoga is called a practice because it is just that, something that must be practiced. It is only through regular practice that we are able to truly observe change and delve through the exterior layers which as a beginner often include mental statements such as, “Wow that feels weird!” developing into, “Maybe if I relax my shoulder…” You get the idea?

So where to start? The great thing about an ashtanga practice is that you have a set sequence to practice day to day however, ashtanga doesn’t float everyone’s yoga mat. I do hope that this rough guide will help.

To begin with, learning the sun salutation off by heart will simply be enough and on busy mornings, may suffice in itself. However, in an ideal world, my recipe for a decent practice sandwich includes:

1. What to practice

The Bread on Top

5 minutes of meditation and connection with Earth and Heaven visualisation

(if time allows) 5 minutes of pranayama – which will depend on your mood/energy levels – I feel that if you are practicing ashtanga style holds for 4-5 breaths, pranayama can be skipped and instead, practiced as you move through poses.

Set your intention

The Vegan Butter (or dairy if you prefer) *smiles*

Sun salutation A between one and three times (find a download of it here Sun Salutation A)

Sun salutation B minimum one time and here I would sometimes stick to the straight salutation and other times begin to incorporate other poses depending on time constraints and mood.

The Filling

Sequencing of standing poses, seated poses, twists, back bends and inversions – here I would get hold of a yoga book or check out Yoga Journal online and find the poses that you think will flow well into each other. Choose not only poses you find easy but some that you find challenging in terms of your comfort zone.

The Bread Underneath

5 minutes minimum – Savasana, longer if possible

Optional Additional Butter

Meditation if time allows – set yourself a minimum  time to practice for and stick to it. Ideally, 15 minutes when you are first starting.

2. When to practice? As often as you have the energy. This might be every day, every other day, twice a week or twice a day. The point is, practice at a time (morning or evening) that suits you. This is your practice so do what you want to do. Just ensure that you have given at least an hour and a half for any meal to have been digested and that if you’re female, you’re not practicing inversions whilst on your period (poses where your heart is lower than your head e.g. shoulder stand).

3. How to practice?

a. Practice awareness of mind

During your practice, you will become aware of your thought processes. Simply notice the things that get your attention, the emotions that arise and the ideas you may have. You’ll probably find yourself pleasantly surprised.

b. Practice awareness of body

Maintain a focus on your breath at all times whether controlling or observing and notice sensations in and around the body.I know many people worry that they are not ‘doing it right’ but through practice, you will begin to get a better feel for alignment and provided you continue to attend classes, you will be adjusted as needed. So what are you waiting for? Get your mat out today! Before long you will wonder how you coped without it. You’ll notice that you feel calmer, healthier, less stressed, more focused and clearer of mind.

c. Practice compassion and love

Be gentle and compassionate with yourself at all times. Avoid pushing yourself too hard simply to reach a goal you are chasing and instead, honour the stage in your practice.

If you’re curious and feeling inspired, for guidance on philosophy, you may wish to read the yoga sutras or bhagavad gita though this is entirely up to you and you may take from it that which you will.

Additionally there are hundreds of yoga videos on youtube and very soon I’ll be making some of my own.