Yoga is not about being flexible, limber or having a meditative demeanour that you can turn on at will as soon as you arrive on your mat. Yoga is simply a method, that may (or may not) suit you, for finding a flow state of moving, breathing and bringing your mind and body together.
And when you start feeling this state, those moments where the mind is clearer and calmer, and your body is moving with the breath, become a wonderful insight into you.
Forget your yoga fears
One of the most widely known definitions of yoga practice, a quote from the Yoga Sutras that formed the yoga we know and love today, is this: “Yoga is the cessation of the mental modifications of the mind.” The first step to embodying this? Get rid of any fears you might have about starting a practice.
Now, this might sound easy in theory, but in practice it can be a little more tricky. However, don’t be discouraged. Remember that your practice is within your control – it can go as far as you want to take it.
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Yoga isn’t another activity to add to the list of things to achieve in our busy lives, to push forward, or to strive to prove something in. It is a practice that we can utilise to get to know ourselves better; a way to find calm and peace in the moment that we can carry forward with us into our day.
And if you’ve only got 10 minutes? You can still give it a go, even if it’s just in your bed in the morning.
Mix up your yoga practice
There are so many various styles of yoga, I truly believe that each approach will have its place over the course of the ebbs and flows of your life. Practice changes to be slower and more mindful in busy times, perhaps becoming more dynamic and charged when we enter a season of growth and change, then evolving into a more restorative practice when we really need to rest more in life.
And at other times, get playful with it and change it up! Allow yourself to be open to new experiences and trying new things.
A recent addition to my own yoga practice is doing and teaching yoga on SUPs (stand up paddleboards) in Bristol harbour. I’ve been on some paddleboard jaunts before, in lakes and seas, but adding yoga to the experience is a wonderful new feeling.
The extra challenge of balance and strength needed in the legs requires much more mental focus than on land!
Take notice of what you need
Instead of starting your practice full of fear and worries about how you should look, feel or act, tune into you. Listen to how your body and mind are feeling.
Listen to what you need and accept it, then adapt your practice to complement those needs. Ultimately, yoga is about you, not anyone else, so make sure that you get everything you want out of it.
Experiment to find what you enjoy, change it up sometimes (you may surprise yourself!), nourish yourself well and enjoy being in the flow, whatever form that may come in.
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Try this simple sit-up-in-bed yoga routine
- Use your pillow to raise your seat in bed. Sit cross-legged on it in any comfortable seated position.
- Breathe deeply, feeling like your entire ribcage is filling with air. Exhale slowly, matching the length of your inhale. Repeat for 10 breaths.
- Reach your arms up, taking your time to stretch to the tips of your fingers. Allow one arm to release to your bed, the other arm reaching over to stretch the side of your body. Repeat on the other side.
- Bring your hands behind your back on the bed, then puff your chest out and let your head hang loose. Bring your hands forward, sliding them onto your bed as you let the head hang.
- Sit up, close your eyes and breathe for another three breaths.
Photography courtesy of Charlene Lim