Yoga Lesson #2: Self-Practice
Since leaving India my biggest takeaway and intention was not only teaching yoga classes but continuing my own self-practice. Interestingly enough, one of the last pieces of wisdom that my teacher, Rakesh, passed on to us was the importance of maintaining a strong self-practice when we return to our respective homes. He emphasized that once we return, we will get caught up in teaching this class and that class, and find ourselves going days without practicing. He actually encouraged self-practice over taking other yoga classes so we can really be intentional about our work on our mats. Intention was the key to this rather extensive yet encouraging talk.
My first question to Rakesh was the following:
I would love to dedicate at least an hour and half at least 3 mornings a week to my self-practice but I don't know if I can commit to that. What do you suggest?
Rakesh: How ever long you can commit to yourself on your mat is good enough. Even if you find that you only have 3 minutes to get on the mat; just roll it out, stand at the top, take a deep breath, lift your arms to the ceiling, exhale your arms down say namaste and move on. Anything is better than nothing.
I know it's best to practice in the morning but I often wake up and convince myself that it's too much of a bother.
Rakesh: I once had a student that would sleep in her yoga attire to take out that extra preparatory step in the morning. Another student would roll out her mat directly next to her bed before she fell asleep so it's the first thing she see's in the morning. Do what you need to do to make the transition from your bed to the mat easier. You'll find that once you skip those smaller steps, you're already ready to go.
The idea of doing an entire self-practice can be overwhelming.
Rakesh: Get on your mat say your opening mantra and promise yourself the you will do 3 rounds of Sun Salutation A. You'll find that once you've done a few rounds your body and mind will want to continue, you just have to set the intention of starting on your mat.
But to really progress in my practice shouldn't I always be trying new sequences?
Rakesh: Honestly no. I recommend sticking to one sequence on a weekly or even monthly basis so you don't have to think too much about what you will do. That extra effort can be discouraging. I do recommend maintaining a tradition of how you will start all your practices though. It should be a go-to habit like a chant, meditation or breathing exercise that your mind and body recognizes as the start to your practice. It puts you in the zone and reenforces your intention on your mat.
A couple days after returning to Brussels I started my self-practice with a strong focus and intention. I decided to practice the same sequence for the entire month and continue the amazing training I received at Samyak. I noticed that my body LOVED yoga first thing in the morning and I continued to see progress in asanas that I struggled with at YTT. Self-practice as my first successful intention of the day started my days off right and I was riding off this YTT Honeymoon phase until October creeped in. Next thing you know, I didn't even try the next sequence in my manual until almost two weeks in (eek!). Everyday I would think about it and find some reason in my schedule to not even breath at the top of my mat. I seemed to fall back into Briana's regularly scheduled programming. I did develop a ritual of looking at my mat leaning against my desk and whispering sweet nothings for a couple seconds and then moving on. So I guess I never completely lost the intention in the first place, but my body begged to differ.
I actually started taking some classes around Brussels assuming that they can replace my self-practice but it just wasn't the same. The intention that I set and followed for myself just doesn't compare and boy oh boy did I notice a difference. My body started to feel all sorts of stuck energetically and physically. I mean, my body's balance between strength and stretch was so off that I started to experience random pulls and strains here and there. I then remembered the words that Rakesh said:
You just have to set the intention of starting on your mat.
I opened my planner and scheduled the time, I told people no to meetings or classes, and I was intentional about getting back on the bandwagon. Even when my mind would find some sort of excuse like that unread email I should respond to, I just put on my clothes, crossed my legs and closed my eyes. From there I felt my equilibrium come back, and I was intentional in my mind, body, and spirt. This was all that I needed. External things will always pull us this way or thatta way but we have the power and control to set and follow through with our intentions. Don't think, just roll out of bed and get 'er done.
Thank you Rakesh and for reading,
And remember to always have faith, keep a vision and make art in everything that you do.