One of the most frequently asked questions students of yoga have is “How do I take this practice home with me?” “How do I make yoga not just something I do 1 1/2 hours a week?” More and more I am convinced that only through daily regular practice can the deeper benefits take root in our hearts and beings. Over time you will find you are able to maintain your sense of calm center throughout the day, even when you encounter challenging situations. This is the gift of our efforts, and is a gift that will continue to grow and deepen in us throughout our lives.
The following suggestions come through discussions with students and observations in my own life, to help you create your practice.
By invoking divine grace and the blessings of spirit, you can turn any space into a holy and sanctified area to do your yoga practice. A quiet, clean, uncluttered, airy place is best. A firm level floor and a thin mat are also useful. Create a space that invites you into it: clean and uncluttered, both warm and airy, a sanctuary, even if it is only a corner of one room. Burning a candle or light incense can also help sanctify the space and focus your practice.
Any time of day can be used to practice. The most important element is regularity. Practicing regularly throughout the month, with a few days to rest, perhaps around menstruation or with the phase of the moon. Regularity during the week is more important than doing your practice at the same time each day. An empty stomach is best, but you also do not want to feel weak or ungrounded. Wait at least three hours after a full meal and at least an hour after a snack. If your only chance to practice is directly after eating, sitting poses have a quieting effect on the system. Poses like eka pada supta virasana, supta virasana and twists are supportive to digestion. Wear loose, comfortable clothing when you practice. Bare feet are essential.
Set Realistic Goals
Set Realistic Goals Coupled with Self Compassion, Honor and Tolerance (and Humor! ) One of the best points of advice I can give someone is — start realistically ! My teacher John Friend helped me jump start my yoga practice after a lapse by suggesting the simple self-agreement: 10 minutes a day.
For me, the hardest part is simply getting to the mat. Once I am there and I start my practice, the practice builds on itself and soon enough I don’t want to stop. But it’s the 10 minute agreement that I can realistically stick to — even after a long day when I’d rather go straight to bed, the 10 minutes passes quickly and my body and mind are both more prepared for sleep. Stick with Self- agreements. Keeping a yoga journal to mark down your daily or weekly experience and track your ebbs and flows can be useful.
A friend can also serve as this “sounding board.” Temper your Self-discipline with Self Compassion, Honor and Tolerance, recognizing that life has its own rhythms, and we are engaged with a dynamic, flowing dance with life, and not always in control. Frequent reassessment and adjustment of your goals can help one flow with the inevitable variances of life. Each time you experience a lapse in your practice, when you restart it, let it be fresh, without guilt for the lapse.
Value Self/ Spiritual Practice
When planning your day or week, set aside time for your practice. If necessary, set up agreements with your family, friends or co-workers around your intent to practice, so you all have a clear understanding and you are not shadowed by feelings of guilt or “shoulds” while you are practicing. This also strengthens your own commitment.
Value Internal Rewards
Take a moment at the beginning and end of your practice to notice the difference, and honor it. Again, the use of a yoga journal or support friend is helpful.
Create A Support Group / Friend
Practicing even once a week with a friend can add great fuel to your fire. Even simply having friends who support you and your commitment can be valuable resources to contact when you need help overcoming the challenges.
Set aside Retreat Time
At least once a year, I have found it vital to my practice to take some time and retreat. Leave your regular environment and go to a place without the usual daily distractions, where you can dive deeply into yourself, and get an overview of your life. A time of reevaluation and assessment, this is vital to observe and reset the course of your life journey.
(this section written by Hanneli Francis)