Saturday, 2 November 2013

Self practice

Yoga teachers are probably the only people who aim to make themselves redundant! Or at least to encourage students to start self practising. Even really experienced yogis still come to classes for the social side or for inspiration, but a good teacher aims to encourage her (or his) class to do their own thing. So off you go then.

Not sure where to begin? OK, here’s a little checklist of things you need
to start self practice.
1 Will power!
2 Somewhere big enough, and clean enough, to practice.
3 Knowledge of what to do when, and how to do it safely…so postures to avoid at certain times of the month or with particular health conditions or injuries you have.

No 2 sounds trivial but is probably the most important in a way. Years ago in my BWY Foundation class, the instructor asked us to discuss the main thing that prevented us from getting up and doing sun salutations or some other yoga at home. One student sighed and said his flat was too small: “I can’t raise my hands above me or out to the sides, and there is no space to lie on the floor.” We all laughed at him… but I remembered that whenever I was in down dog at home I found myself examining the dust under the furniture and wanted to stop and vacuum. Clearly I wasn’t very adept at focusing within — or pratyahara — withdrawal of the senses, as it’s known in yoga!

 But you don’t need a lot of room. One of my students recently drove an ambulance to Syria and asked for some yoga sequences she could do, that didn’t require her to touch the floor as there wouldn’t be anything other than dust, and preferably things she could do in the confines of the ambulance cab! We worked something out (mostly seated twists, stretches and joint rotations). And as for the guy in the tiny flat — he took up meditation to create space in his life.

My kids were always good about letting me do yoga at home, though they would copy me, jump all over me or generally try to get involved. The only thing I couldn’t do with them around was meditate. But now they are teenaged, meditation has come into its own, to take my mind off the clock, wondering when they will be back from a night out!

Self practice can be just 10 minutes in the morning, seated twists at the desk, or pranayama before bed… and if you need some more ideas and inspiration, and you’re in London, funnily enough I am running a workshop Sunday November 10th at the Yoga Body Centre, E5. 12.30pm-2.30pm.