Cultivating a spiritual self-practice, Sadhana, is one of the best ways to deepen your practice and bring real transformation to your life. Our home practices spark our inner fire through commitment and studentship, and open our heart through devotion and self-care. The ability to roll out your mat (anywhere, anytime!) and intuitively guide yourself through movement, breathing and meditation is a priceless gift. When you cultivate your own practices, yoga no feels like something you have to seek out and add into your schedule, but rather an important ritual that it vital to your days success and overall state of well-being.
Creating your own practice can be equal parts liberating and overwhelming, but as with anything, the more you do it the easier and more seamless it becomes. With consistency your self-practice will be some of your most cherished moments of your day and will shift your perspective on your definition of self-care and true yoga.
Below are simple tips and guidance to begin building your self-practice:
1. Set the space: create a space in your home that is relatively private, quiet and inspiring. Remove all unnecessary technology and commit to putting your phone on airplane mode if you need it nearby. Set up your mat/cushion near natural light if possible, and cultivate a small alter in front to create a sense of reverence and devotion. Your alter is personal to you, and can include (and is not limited to!) items/images you love, a candle and something from nature. An alter is meant to feed us, in the same way that we tend to and feed it. There is an energetic connection and the relationship with it draws us deeper into our practice, reminding us of why we come to the mat each day. If you have family members/children/pets at home, your sacred space can help to set bounderies, so they understand that when you are in this space they should respect you by giving you quiet time alone.
2. Create a simple flow: create a 'base flow' which you can use anytime you arrive to practice and are not sure where to begin. It will set a foundation and give you more confidence to adapt and modify once you feel ready. Create a short sequence including sun salutations and 5-10 poses which are balanced and therapeutic, specific to your bodies needs. As your practice develops over time, you may no longer use this set sequence, however a 'base flow' creates a supportive container and way to measure your progression through consistency and familiarity.
3. Define your intention: before you begin your practice each day, take a minute of stillness and silence to check in with your body and mind. Take note of what would best serve you today? If you feel you need energy, guide yourself through a dynamic flow, if your body is exhausted guide yourself through a gentle flow, and if your mind is anxious a few restorative poses, Savasana and guided meditation may be the perfect combination. Once you attune to your current state of health in body and mind, you can become more clear on your intention. Your intention can be a theme you work with for weeks or months, or it may change day to day based on your life's circumstances. An intention is connected to our hearts desire and what we want to cultivate to support us on our path. Ask yourself what it is you would like to cultivate more of - strength, receptivity, compassion, contentment, sweetness, courage? Set a simple intention in the positive tense and present moment based on whatever quality feels aligned for you. For example: 'I take time to nourish myself today'.
4. Work your practice into your schedule: include your practice in your schedule and give it as much importance as any of your other activities, work deadlines or social commitments. Most important, choose a time of day which works (the majority of the time) for your lifestyle and schedule. It doesn't matter if mornings, mid-day or evenings is better for you...take your pick and commit. Consistency builds neurological patterns, bringing a sense of familiarity and comfort, which leads to new habits formed. Each time you come to the mat at a similar time, you enhance these patterns and help engrain your mind with 'now it's my time to practice'. Eventually it will feel more normal than un-normal and your body and mind will crave practicing around the same time each day.
5. Let go of expectations: some days your energy level and schedule will allow for a full hour on the mat, and other days it may be more like 10 minutes. Don't focus on the length of time and simply complete your practice to check it off your to-do list...instead, enjoy the time you do have each day and allow your practice to shift organically. Be realistic and gentle with yourself. Every minute spent on the mat moving, breathing or sitting is beneficial and cumulative. Consistency is key. Come to your mat 5 times per week for 10 minutes, rather than 1 time per week for 1 hour.
6. Less is more: practice quality over quantity! Don't try to cram everything in to feel like you have completed the 'ideal' practice with a full asana sequence, pranayama and meditation. On days when you are feeling pressured for time or are not focused, cut down your practice drastically and choose a few key poses, and practice them more mindfully with slower, deeper breaths. This will calm your nervous system much more effectively and create a more integrated practice, even if it isn't what you may have intended to do.
8. Keep a journal: a journal is an easy and fun way to record your practices to keep track of your experiences and how you feel each day. Record how you were feeling when you arrived to the mat, your intention set, and the practices you choose. This gives insight into your current state of health and can be used in the future as a guide for how to practice when you feel sad vs. excited.
9. Awaken your intuition: to step wholeheartedly into your home practice, you will need to trust in yourself and utilize your intuitive capacities. Your personal practice is for your benefit, and must be lead by your innate wisdom. Meditation is a wonderful way to refine your intuition and become more honest with what will best serve you on a day to day basis.
10. Stay inspired: like any practice, something things get stagnant, which is part of the cycle of growth. When your feeling un-inspired physically in your practice, get out of your head and follow an online class with one of your favorite teachers, or better yet, go to a studio and have a personalised connection with a teacher and soak up the community. To deepen your practice off the mat read texts, listen to podcasts and enhance your creativity through art, music or time in nature.