Friday, 15 June 2012

Practising yoga by yourself is the way forwards.


Practising yoga by yourself is the way forwards. This is when our practice shifts from being somebody else's  (that guided by the teacher), to our own, guided by ourselves. Pretty much everyone needs a teacher as well , but with practice we can be taught by the 'inner teacher' much of the time.

The 'inner teacher' is not some mysterious being, it is a faculty we all have that requires we learn to trust ourselves and our felt sense of what we are doing whether in asana (posture) practice, meditation or indeed in how we lead our lives. When we are guided from the inside, we also learn what type of practice we need at any particular time.

As a general guideline to practising the postures by yourself, I would suggest that when you start any pose:
  • Do less than you can. 
  • Relax and feel what you are doing with respect to grounding yourself and breathing. 
  • Listen to the feedback messages from your body and only then move deeper into the position if that feels right. 
It is wise to attend classes or courses regularly so a teacher can correct, inspire and give you ideas. A good teacher will do all these things but also should help to guide you towards your own practice through their mode of instruction.

For formal sitting meditation, some formal instruction would be wise to start, though there is no harm to experiment by just sitting still for 5 or 10 minutes and closing your eyes.

When we start to practice by ourselves, 10 minutes a day will make a difference. It is achievable as we can all find 10 minutes if we want to. Once we start we may find ourselves spending longer. The most important thing is to roll out the mat, or sit on the cushion, and begin.

For asana (posture) practice, roll out your mat and start in whatever way is familiar to you from your class and then try to work from your body memory to proceed from there. You may be pleasantly surprised what you can remember. If you can't remember anything, or enough, try paying close attention in your classes to the sequencing of  poses and try again.

If working from memory seems too much of a leap to start with, then you can try on-line resources such as the yoga journal website or a reliable book such as Yoga - Body Mind Spirit by Donna Farhi. Constantly referencing will break up your practice initially until you are used to a few sequences. Eventually try to use these resources as a source of fresh ideas and inspiration rather than a reference while you practice.

Another option is to work from a DVD. This is my least favourite option as there can be a tendency to copy rather than feel for yourself what you are doing.    

Good luck - and remember - just start.