[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lindsey Lewis, yoga teacher and life coach, founder of www.libreliving.com.]
Getting going can be the hardest part. Some mornings, like today, I’ve been up late the night before, man oh man my mind is all over the place, and I’m convinced my body is telling me to go back to bed. “Don’t you think another hour’s sleep would benefit you more than meditation and asana?”
On days like this, I can spend almost a quarter of my allotted morning practice time just sitting on my mat, debating with myself. “Go back to bed; it’s okay.” “Don’t you get off your mat; you know how much better you’ll feel after you do this.” Then I sit and try to plan my flow, “Hey, at least I’m thinking about doing it.”
This morning, from beneath the banter, a powerful idea, which I credit to Danielle LaPorte, bubbled up: Just start. Stop planning. Stop debating. Stop over -thinking. Just start. I began with neck rolls. I moved on, to sufi grinds. Cat-cow. Downward dog. Surya Namaskar A. Aaaah, here it is. My flow.
7 Ways to Maintain a Home Yoga Practice
1. Do what feels right for you, not what your social self might think you ‘should’ do. Honour your body, mind, and soul. Yoga teacher Mark Whitwell recommends just 7 minutes a day, and figures it’s easiest to fit in in the morning. I prefer a morning practice, too, since once my day really launches I’m likely to get caught up in prioritizing other things. Plus, I like the peaceful vibe and quietness of the early morning. What amount of time and time of day feels right for you? Start with something that feels totally manageable.
2. Do some asana. Surya Namaskar A can be a nice place to start, but once you get going and used to doing a morning practice, I’d invite you to take some long yogic breaths and then move into whatever poses or series of poses you feel called to.
3. A bit of meditation. Ancient yogis and modern swamis tell us that the main point of asana is to be able to sit in meditation. Moving and breathing helps us to stretch our muscles, ease aches and pains, and calm our mind—which is the whole point of yoga—which helps us sit in meditation. There are lots of ways to encourage meditation, or dhyana and most of them are based on dharana, concentration. One of the simplest things to concentrate on is your breath. Just notice: Inhaling. Exhaling.
4. Breathe first. Let your breath guide your asana practice. If you’re not breathing, you’re probably not being mindful. BUT, don’t beat yourself up if you notice you’ve lost your deep yogic breath. Compassion and love is what it’s all about.
5. Your body knows best. Stay aware of your whole body during your practice. We tend to pay more attention to areas that are reaching—like hands lifting in the air. Remember your feet, or your sit bones. Feel everything. Breathe into it.
6. Mindfulness. Pay attention to your thoughts during your practice. What are you thinking? How is this making you feel? How is this affecting your practice? Just watch, without judgment. Simply notice. Remember compassion and love.
7. Most of all, don’t judge yourself. It’s your practice. Compassionate curiosity and self-inquiry will bring more self-enlightenment than trying to align with any kind of dogma or rules set by other people—no matter how experience a yoga teacher they might be.