First - well done.
Getting here, making the time and space, for simply being you - it takes courage, and commitment.
It’s tempting nowadays, in an information-saturated world, to box everything into walls of definition. The wish to know and anticipate, so you can seek a specific outcome or result.
But let’s loosen from the constraining rigidity of expectation for a moment. Let’s step back for a broader view.
What is Yoga?
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning ‘to yoke’. It is a thread that connects everything.
Simply put, yoga is a highly personal and constantly evolving relationship with felt experience.
The physical and mental benefits of pranayama (breath work), meditation and yoga asana (postures) are vast, and thoroughly documented: improved strength, flexibility, toning of muscles and organs; a centering into calmness and concentration, the improved ability to witness and actively respond rather than passively react.
For me, Yoga is a more intimate connection with life itself.
It’s found wherever you are fully immersed in not just doing, but being. It is a felt experience of the unseen aliveness connecting mind, body, spirit.
This experience can be found when you are running, when you secretly dance to your favourite track, when you soak up warm morning sun with beloved friends, fully present. You might have felt these moments in your own body.
It’s all yoga.
When we get on the mat, we dedicate time and energy to the practice. It is called a practice because as humans, our nature is to forget that this joy, and fullness of being, is available in every moment.
On or off the mat, our practice is to remember.
The postures, breath and meditation are tools to help us do so, and perhaps create more and more moments of fullness within our daily experience.
Here are a few things that are handy to keep in mind when beginning, or reconnecting to your yoga practice. There are no rules, but these are what I’ve found to be nice guides for those moments when the path seems uncertain.
THE PRACTICE OF YOGA : 3 TIPS TO BEGIN
1. Stay Present: Keep it simple
In or out of a yoga class, direct your focus on something significant for you that day, or that moment. It might be as simple as staying with each breath - full inhale, full exhale. Allow for whatever else arises - emotions, stories, loose thoughts - come by, and float past like a cloud in the sky of your awareness.
Be in this moment.
2. Stay Dedicated: Keep it regular
Dedicate a specific time and place to your practice. Whether that’s in the yoga studio, or somewhere safe and comfortable in your home. You might like to create a simple ritual our of arriving: lighting a candle or placing your palms together for three quiet breaths to mark the beginning of your practice.
Devoting your presence for 5 minutes to simply observe the breath can have much more impact than an hour spent manipulating your body into shapes that don’t serve you. The regularity rewires your neural pathways into a new habit. It’s not always easy, so avoid expecting a calm and blissful ‘result’ each time - some days it will be wonderful, and some it will be tough work.
It’s about showing up with honesty, for whatever comes up - and choosing to be ok with what you find.
Process over product, always.
3. Stay compassionate: Keep it kind
Some days your yoga practice may involve a dynamic vinyasa flow, challenging your physical capacity for movement, strength and balance. Some days, it might be sitting down, and just breathing for 5 minutes.
Inviting the quality of ahimsa, or non-harming, into your choice making can be daunting at first, but also incredibly liberating.
So many of the walls, the ‘should’s and ‘must’s in your mind, are actually walls created by your own perception of other people’s expectations. You might like to take a curious scan over your own thoughts, each time you feel tension arising in mind or body. Whose voice are you listening to, really?
When we can see these ‘rules’ for what they are, it offers so much more space to move, breathe, and feel, from a space of openness rather than restriction.
Be kind to yourself. It ripples outwards.
A yoga class is wonderful for strengthening your tapas (discipline) in tuning into awareness, and of course creating beautiful connections with other fellow yogis. It can help set the tone early in your morning, reconnect you in the evening, and provide a watchful oasis from the noise any time of day.
However you choose to practice, know that there is no ‘right’ way, only a different path towards the same direction: more connection, integrity, and joy in each moment.
Above all, remember that your practice will always be your own.
So own it. Take what you learn, and live it.
READY TO START YOUR journeY?