When I think back to when I first started practicing yoga, my practice was very different. I was incredibly disciplined with it, and practiced Ashtanga Yoga for at least 90 minutes everyday.
I was on a mission to get somewhere with my practice. To become stronger, more flexible, calmer. I used yoga as a way to escape from reality.
My practice has changed a lot over the 4 years that I have been doing yoga, and here are 3 things I have learnt on my yoga journey.
1) It’s not a competition-
Yoga is not a competitive sport. Every single body is different and will express the poses differently. There is no right or wrong way, just your way. My body is not very flexible. My hamstrings and hips are a constant battle for me. I wanted to be able to do all of the beautiful hip opening poses (especially the splits or Hanumanasana) but my body wouldn’t let me. And I don’t know if it ever will. When I first became a yoga teacher I thought ‘how can I teach people yoga if I can’t even do these advanced postures?’. I have come to realise, this is exactly why I should teach yoga! Just because your body is tight doesn’t mean you won’t ‘be good’ at yoga. Being flexible and in ‘good shape’ doesn’t mean you will ‘be good’ at yoga. There is nothing to compare. Just you, today, on your mat.
2) A daily practice is important, but doesn’t need to be too long
I used to stress myself out trying to fit a 90 minute practice in everyday. Putting more stress and pressure on your self to practice a full sequence is not productive. Yoga shouldn’t create more stress in your life, it shouldn’t have to make you rush everything else to fit it in. It was an obsession for me. If I didn’t do it, I felt guilty.
Now I am more realistic with my routine. I like to practice when I first wake up in the morning, whether its 15 mins of meditation or 70 minutes of asana practice. Sometimes I wake up late and have to rush to work, so I don’t get my morning practice in… so I try and do a short bedtime sequence or relaxation. Even if it’s just 5 minutes.
For me, keeping a daily routine is important, but let it fit around you. Let it help you through your day, not add pressure and stress to it!
3) Savasana is the most important pose.
The relaxation at the end of the asana practice is the most important part. I have always included it in my routine, but never stayed in Savasana for long enough. I felt that I didn’t have the time and that fitting more asanas in was more important.
Giving yourself 10 mins to relax after your sequence is the most important thing, even if it means you have to skip a few asanas to have time. Savasana allows the body to ‘reset’. All the movements of the practice can integrate into the body. The whole body and mind get the chance to completely relax and find stillness. For some people, they need a vigourous vinyasa practice first, in order to access that stillness. Some people just need a few Yin poses. Savasana is just that little bit easier to slip into after you have opened the body with asana practice, which is why it is so important to your practice with it.