Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beginning a Home Asana Practice

I started this blog with the intention of bringing our little Denton TX Iyengar yoga community together and also to encourage students to begin a home asana (yoga posture) practice.  I know that it's difficult to start any new habit especially when we become accustomed to being told exactly what to do in class.  The first thought I had when starting my own practice was, "What do I do?"  Well, here's what I suggest:
  1. Create a space to practice in your home.  It doesn't have to be a whole room or even a permanent spot where your mat always resides, but it should be somewhere near a wall and have enough room to lay out your mat fully. Keep your props nearby on a shelf or in a chest or closet so that you can get to them easily. If you want, you can decorate by putting up inspirational photos, quotations, and art to make the space your own.
  2. Write down classes that you took and enjoyed (or knew were good for you even if you didn't enjoy them!) Immediately after class, write down as much of the sequence that you remember.  This is a skill that improves with practice.  At first you may not remember everything, but with a little practice you'll be able to remember whole sequences.  You can draw stick figures or diagrams or write down the names of the poses in English or Sanskrit; it doesn't matter! Also jot down any points that the teacher was making about the actions in the poses so you can work on those ideas at home. If you don't know a pose's name or remember how to do it, ask your teacher or look it up in Light on Yoga.
  3. Set a regular time to practice. Most people have more success with starting a new habit if it becomes a regular part of their day.  You might like to practice in the morning or at night--it doesn't matter as long as you feel like you're building a routine.  You don't have to practice for the equivalent of a yoga class on your own! Yoga class is a time to learn; home practice is the time to integrate and take things at your own pace.  A yoga practice could just be 10 to 15 minutes working on one thing or an hour doing a planned sequence--it's up to you.  You'll find that the more you get into the home practice habit the more time you'll want to spend doing asana (postures).
  4. "To plan or not to plan?"--that is the question.  Sometimes I write out an entire sequences of poses that I'd like to do in a practice session; sometimes I don't.  It depends on several factors.  How disciplined I feel or how sensitive I feel may be part of what guides me to choose to plan ahead or not.  When I'm feeling a little lazy (alasya or laziness is one of the obstacles to practice in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) I plan out an entire sequence so my practice is more structured and I'm less likely to let my mind wander and get distracted.  However, if I'm in a place where I don't feel rushed or pressured, I might just start with something and see where it goes.  The possibilities are endless.  Experiment with both ways of practicing and see what happens. There is no right or wrong way.  Remember, the goal is to feel and learn by directing your awareness inward; that's all. 
  5. What poses should I do? There are so many good answers to this question that I couldn't possibly say them all here now, but here are a few hints.
  • Do the sequences listed in the back of Light on Yoga, Yoga: A Gem for Women, or Yoga: The Iyengar Way.  These sequences were written for students to practice.  (The courses in the back of Light on Yoga progress very quickly.  It would be completely appropriate to multiply each week number by 10 and progress at that rate.)
  • Do a sequence that you learned in class (See #2 above). I actually did this today for my practice.
  • Write your own sequence based on what you would like to work on.  There are some basic guidelines. For example, standing poses usually are done toward the beginning followed by seated poses, forward extensions, twists, and backward extensions. Obviously this is just a guideline because we've all been in classes that deviate from this order.  If sirsasana (head balance) is practiced then sarvangasana (shoulderstand) should always be practiced at some point afterwards and for at least the same amount of time.  You should always end with savasana (corpse pose) *don't skip it!* 
     6.  Just do it! There is no time like the present. 

Well, I hope this was helpful, and let me know if you have any questions.  Have a great yoga practice today!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Cheree! I'm going to print this and hang it up to inspire me to practice.