Tag: yoga self practice

The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice

Starting a yoga self-practice. Blog post with tips and inspiration
Click this photo if you’re just beginning

If you already started your yoga self practice, great work!!  This post will provide you with some ideas on continuing to challenge yourself and working different parts of your body.  If you’re just starting click the photo to the right.  With your self-practice, it can be easy to get into a rut, only practicing your favorite poses and the ones that are already familiar, and maybe even ones that are easy to you.  It’s important to push yourself beyond that point if you want to progress and improve.  Below are some ideas for how to go beyond where you are now and suggestions for advancing your yoga self-practice.

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Categories of poses

As a yoga instructor, there are 6 main areas to address in a class.

  • warm-ups
  • standing poses
  • arm balances/abs/hips
  • inversions/ thigh stretches
  • backbend/twist/forward bends
  • savasana

Some classes aim to tick all of the boxes and some focus on a specific area, theme or goal.  It’s probably too much to try to tick all of the boxes every day in your home practice (though warm-ups and savasana are always a must).  My suggestion is to assign each of these areas to one or two days of the week.  Then brainstorm some poses in each category– think about poses you like and poses that are difficult for you.  It’s good to have a variety of asanas for each group so you won’t get bored doing the same poses too frequently.  In a few months, you can re-assess your lists and maybe add new poses to your repertoire as your level progresses.  Here’s an example chart of weekly poses.

The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

Another idea: post soThe Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapracticeme pictures or doodles of poses you want to try on your wall.  Sometimes once you’re flowing it’s hard to remember that great new asana you wanted to try or you can only remember the one you’re most excited about.  Some visual clues can help you get to lots of great shapes.

I read this quote in the The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, “People love to do the things that they love to do.”  In the book, the author is talking about making sure you balance your yin energy activities (more quiet, restful and rejuvenating) and yang energy activities (powerful, energized, strong).  To me this quote is also a reminder to try to go beyond what you know and what is easy for you- challenge yourself to do the other things.

Disclaimer!  Always be careful and listen to your body, especially your sensitive joints.  You never want to feel real PAIN in yoga- try to shoot for 70% edge.  Go for the Goldilocks technique, adding and removing strain until you reach your just-right stretch.

Every every every day, yoga

7 Restorative Poses to relax and rejuvenate8 Limbs of Yoga: Pranayama, breath control: about and how toTry to make yoga a crucial part of your daily routine.  Maybe schedule it in before you get ready for work or directly after your afternoon snack.  Starting a habit is the hardest part- it takes a full month of dedicated work before any habit will become natural, including the habit of daily yoga.

Of course, some days are super busy and it feels like there is no time or no energy for yoga.  These are probably the days that you need yoga the most!  Do whatever you can to at least make time for a few sun salutations or a few soothing restorative stretches.  On these days, it’s ok if don’t have room for your complete practice, but send yourself the love of a little practice.

Also illness can make moving your body feel extra hard.  When you’re sick, look to some soothing restorative poses, yin asanas or supine stretches.  At least try for some cat-cow or a supine twist.  Supta baddha konasana is always a good idea!

Spirituality

The spiritual side of yoga isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great tool for staying steady emotionally and mentally.  I recommend incorporating some meditation and/or pranayama into your practice.  At the beginning or the end are usually the best time.

New Inspiration

Extra-long modern mala necklace with 108 hand-knotted Burmese beads (in green, black, and white) perfect for yoga and japa meditation
See Katia Yoga malas on Etsy

Goal: add a new poses to your repertoire once a week!

Finding new asanas that meet your skill level and categorical needs can be a challenge.  I recommend this book, 2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses.  It’s filled with literally thousands of photos of asanas.  This is a great place to find new ideas.  Flipping through the pages is basically guaranteed to make you want to start to move.  The book is already massive so it doesn’t give a great deal of detail on getting into the poses.  When a pose is appealing but unclear, I turn to the internet.  These days even google has an archive of yoga poses.  There are lots of great sites with detailed how to’s regarding getting into the pose and alignment but it’s hard to find them if you don’t know the pose you’re looking for.  Knowing the name of a pose you want to try is a big help.  2100 can help you begin with that spark of inspiration.

The tree of life is a classic spiritual image in many different cultures. This poster is a print of an acrylic painting on canvas.
Click the tree of life print to check out our shop

If you are interested in a specific style of yoga, try to find a book that is directly related.  There is a lot of yoga theory and philosophy behind most styles and a bit of background can help you find the right intention to infuse into your practice.

Instagram is full of amazing yogis showing off their stuff.  This can also be a good place to find new flows and inspiration.  Also, participating in instagram challenges (whether you post your poses or not) is a good way to get into some different poses and learn from hosts who write about the alignment too.  Photographing your asanas is a helpful tool for checking your alignment if you don’t have a mirror in your yoga space. Pinterest also has lots of great infographics for how-to’s and sequences to try.

Personal Yoga JournalThe Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

A yoga journal or even yoga sketchbook could also be a nice way to keep track of your poses and weekly ideas.  You could possibly also make a calendar or tick boxes to track how often you practice.

Things to think about in a yoga class to find your favorite class or style or learn to be a better instructorIn this journal, you can also take some notes after yoga classes you attend.  Try to take note of new poses you like, fun flows your body enjoys and great quotes, themes or intentions you may want to include in your home practice.

 

This may sound like a lot.  That’s ok.  Take whatever pieces may work for you and your practice.  Your practice is only for you so do whatever makes you feel good and makes you want to roll out your mat again and again.  Be proud of whatever you do!

 

 

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas #selfpractice #yoga

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas #selfpractice #yogaFor many years, I only did yoga asana in a group fitness class or with a video. I needed someone to follow, someone to tell me what to do next and guide me from one pose gracefully into another.

When I moved to Myanmar, I had two dreams: that I would be able to drive a motorbike around and that there would be a fabulous yoga studio for me to practice at. Only one of those wishes came true: I bought a motorbike on my first Saturday in the country.

So to make up for the other unanswered dream, I started doing videos online.  However the electrical power supply and the internet were both unreliable. I started doing 20 minute “Yoga Download” podcasts. I liked it, but the podcasts were definitely very complete sessions—straight through from warm up to cool down. So I never felt that itch to do just one more pose, though my muscles and joints longed for more.

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Intro: My Start Slow with Yoga Self Practice

One day, I didn’t have any new podcasts so I simply rolled out my mat. That’s always the first step: roll out the mat. At first, I just sort of stood on it awkwardly in mountain pose, thinking soooo wait what do I do again?

Then I remembered sun salutations. I struggled at first with small things, like wait, when do I raise up to the flat back again? Before or after the downward dog? Or both?

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas #selfpractice #yogaBut after a bit, my muscles started to engage and my mind started to connect with my body. I could feel my blood flowing and my lungs pumping. It all felt so right. I knew I needed the movement. After a few rounds, I sort of stopped again, stuck. Well. Then what?
Slowly poses started to come to mind and I threw a couple of vinyasas in here and there when I remembered. My transitions were clunky and disjointed.  As I remembered various poses, I did them. I was standing, balancing, then laying on the mat, then seated before standing again. I had a hard time remembering what I did on one side so I could also do it on the other. I just did everything I could think of! Then after a while, more and more poses were flooding my mind but I had to take savasana because I tired myself out!

The reason I’m sharing this story is to spread encouragement. It’s wonderful to start and to try asana on your own.

Starting your yoga self-practice

If you’ve been to a fair number of classes, you probably know more poses and more about them than you think. Trust yourself and your knowledge when you’re on the mat.

Get visual reminders

Look for some resources, like info-graphics from Pinterest with a whole collection of poses. Print them so you can glance at them for inspiration from time to time.  I recommend printing or buying an image or poster that’s how lots of poses at once for easy reference.  You won’t have to stop your practice to see what poses you can do next.  Alternatively, you could get a Yoga Sequencing Deck to help inspire and remember poses AND put them in order for your practice.  This particular deck corresponds with the book,Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes which helps break down poses by levels and gives many sample sequences.

Inspirational Books

Read some yoga books, like Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit. This book is very helpful for describing the process for getting into each pose and what to focus on once you’re in it. It was great for me as a reminder of the alignment and goals of the poses. If you’re worried about hurting yourself in self-practice, this book could be the reassurance you need to find yourself on the mat.

Another fantastic book is 2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses.  It literally has 2100 different poses.  It’s a great book to grow with.  As you become more flexible and develop more strength, you can find new poses to challenge you every step of the way.

Draw it out

Drawing little sequences for yourself so you know which poses in particular you want to tackle. It is ok to stray from the plan if you find your body actually wants to do something else.

Listen to your body

As you became more and more comfortable with poses and sequences, you’ll start to hear from your body more and more. For example from my experience, I could feel tightness in the back of my leg and I knew from experience downward dog would elongate the muscle perfectly to soothe it. Or I would just get a sense that my body really, really wanted to drop down into malasana (garland pose). That was one of my most common distractions from standing poses: desire to do malasana. I almost always give in to whatever my asks.  I think it’s good to give your body what it wants in terms of asana.  It usually knows what it needs.  There’s a quote, something like, “I listen when my body whispers so I won’t have to hear it shout.”

Pain

On the topic of listening to your body, be aware of signs of pain. In yoga, it’s good to challenge yourself and push yourself. Try new poses, new binds, new variations. However, it’s also good to stop where you feel resistance. You never want to feel real pain in yoga. Injuries take a long time to recover from, physically and mentally.

Start slow when you need to

Sometimes my body would tell me it was too tired to start so I’d lay on the mat in supta badda konasana (reclining bound angle pose) and just wait to feel the pull to shift into a supine twist or happy baby (ananda balasana). Once I got going, I often found starting a few poses begged for more and I would be standing, balancing and striving for new limits before I knew it.  Usually, a little movement will coax you into wanting more.

Some days I practice for 10 minutes and some days I have to cut myself off after an hour and a half or so because I have other things I should do. You never know what may be waiting inside that will find you on the mat.

Creating a Yoga Space

The Magic of Self-Practice: how to start a home yoga practice with tips and ideas #selfpractice #yogaOne of the other most important things about practicing is finding a good place to do it. Make sure you have enough room and set up a pleasant atmosphere for yourself. BKS Iyengar says you must find a place with good light and no insects, but I think it goes way beyond that. Make your space sing: light a Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation spacecandle or incense, turn on some music that reflects your mood or your practice, de-clutter, add something nice to look at or inspire you. If you have props, like a bolster or block or strap that you use, bring them to your space. If you feel at peace and at home in your yoga space, you will be much more likely to feel drawn to it and want to practice.  Click the image at the right to learn more about creating your own yoga space.

Final words of Encouragement

I’m 100% sure you can do it!  Roll out your mat today.

“Yoga isn’t about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.” Self-practice will teach you a lot about yourself inside and out; body, mind, and soul.

Self-practice Suggestions

• Roll out your mat and start
• Trust yourself and your knowledge
• Be present
• Listen to your body