Build a Holistic Home Practice
Even teachers and students with decades on the mat can be daunted by the difficulties of maintaining and renewing a home practice. Illness, family obligations, boredom, travel, and that universal perception of a ‘lack of time’ - All these obstacles, and more, will inevitably appear.
This is the point at which you really learn to tune in and move at your own pace, listen and respond closely to your body and develop greater consistency and self- discipline in your yoga. You want your home practice to sustain itself-and you-over the long haul. It will also satisfy you and thus help give you the impetus to practice again tomorrow. If you force yourself to practice because you think you should, because you didn't yesterday, or for any other more external reason, even the most technically polished poses will not answer your inner need for ease, balance and wholeness. Two things are important in pulling it together…. 1. Knowing experientially what the effects of practices are on you. 2. Tuning in.
You must first become aware of the effects of the individual poses on your body and mind. Then you will better understand where exactly to place each in practice. A well-rounded sequence does not emphasize any particular area of your body. Instead, it attempts to move your spine in all directions and thus includes vertical stretching, inversion, forward bending, backward bends, twisting, as well as relaxation. This basic sequence should also attempt to equally increase balance, strength, and flexibility. Another approach to varying your practice over time is to alternate between a basic, well-rounded practice and sessions that focus on a specific group of poses. Each day's practice should in one sense be complete in itself, but it can also focus on a specific group of poses, a specific part of your body, or a specific energetic shift you would like to create. There are many ingredients that you can use to make your practice tasty and nutritious without sacrificing clarity in direction & structure.
How do you know you are practicing correctly?
This question comes up a lot for those stepping into solo practice. Consider what sits behind that question. There are different aspects to delve into keeping in mind that the physical form or alignment is often what people consider as the part to be done correctly. This is only a small fragment of it.
Yoga practice is intended to expand awareness through all of the different layers of ourselves which in Yoga are called (Koshas). These a 5 sheaths or coverings/bodies that form the matrix of our existence. First is the physical (annamaya kosha) then the energetic (pranomaya kosha), the mind or mental dimension (manomaya kosha), then the intuitive (vigyanmaya kosha) or psychic body. Finally coming to Anandamaya Kosha which represents the final attainment of the state of total unity, wholeness, expansion.
Taking this on board its easy to see that the physical practice forms only one fifth of the picture, the grossest and very first layer to our existence.
Taking a traditional approach to Yoga as a transformational technology what we need are the tools to address all of those areas (Koshas) in order for our practice to be well rounded & complete. Eventually we need to move beyond asana (but not drop it) into these more subtle layers. This is where meditation comes in addressing manomaya & vigyanmaya koshas.
How do you deepen into these more subtle aspects?
This is possible through connection with the breath - breath synchronization and integration is the cornerstone to deepening into these layers. You can deepen into these layers in a single asana & through moving through the system that follows a gross to subtle progression. Let me explain further with an example.
Sun Salutation sequence also known as Surya Namaskara. This consists of form or the individual asanas, rhythm - which is established through the breath and movement coming together and energy - focusing the mind, the state of relaxed concentration. By connecting these 3 dimensions through breath, concentration and movement you expand your practice into the first three koshas. This is a beautiful experience to feel the flow and synergy between these aspects as they all connect up. Moving beyond physical dimension is liberating, sensing there is other work to do on the more subtle dimensions of the mind and energy.
The elements of a balanced Hatha practice include; asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, pranayama, meditation and also lead us along the same pathway to connection with the koshas. Each limb of Hatha moves systematically from the physical to the energetic (pranamaya ) into the mental dimension or mind (manomaya Kosha) towards experiencing the psychic body (vigyanmaya kosha) when Chakra awareness is used. This can be further accessed through mantra chanting which activates the nucleus of the chakras and all of them in general. One sequence - with many layers to touch into, expand on and explore further.
Now you might see why developing a home practice can bring such lasting curiosity and motivation. That it is a system and in that an evolving journey to fulfill our inner calling for wholeness and peace. To release ourselves of suffering and to find & experience new ways of BEing.
Go well in your exploration
Aum shanti - Pragyadhara.