6 Ways to Fall in Love with Your Yoga Practice
by SYF2023 presenter Nancy Gerstein
For years I loaded my yoga lesson plans with novel sequences and philosophy aperitifs, and I believed I was teaching from the heart. Still, my home practice felt more like I was writing a one-hour script than examining my daily flow of consciousness. Then came the time when my yoga practice, the very thing I depended on for a clear head and able body, wasn’t fulfilling the contract. My heart was uncommonly weary, and I felt ungrounded, disconnected, and heavy with sadness.
The Dreaded Obstacles to Practice
If you’re human, you’ll find an excuse for not practicing yoga. I’m too tired, I’ll do it before bedtime, my kids, spouses, roommates, or pets are in the way.
If you’re looking for even more excuses, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are way ahead of you. According to the ancient text written some 1,800 years ago, the main obstacles to practice are illness, misperceptions, mental and physical pain, unsteadiness of the body, doubt, cravings, dullness, laziness, failure, sadness and frustration, and irregular breath. At one time or another, I’ve found myself using every one of these excuses, which is like saying, “I don’t practice yoga because I’m not flexible.”
Your Practice, Your Rules: 6 Tips for Falling in Love (and staying in love!) with Your Yoga
Create a Practice that Supports You. A home practice lets you cater to your needs alone. Get clear about your intentions: sit for a few minutes and ask yourself the important questions. For instance, do I want to soothe a busy mind, work out the kinks in my shoulders, or relieve today’s digestion issues?
Begin with centering. Sit still, close your eyes, and connect with your body. Drop your sit bones, lift your spine, and relax your face. Breathe, connecting with your physical and mental consciousness. Wait for your inner cue to begin movement.
Start Small. Most of us don’t think we have time for a daily practice. But a practice can be any length you want it to be. You can build a habit with just 5-10 minutes a day, lengthening the time as needed.
Yoga gear is optional. You can do yoga on a mat, your carpet, or a bare floor. If you don’t have blocks, use books. If you don’t have a strap, use a belt or towel.
Include all the movements of the spine. Moving the spine in all directions includes forward bends, backbends, side bends, twists, and elongating the spine. Move slowly, letting your breath be your guide.
Give thanks. At the end of your practice, take a moment to sit in gratitude for your body, your health, your loved ones, and all the gifts in your life. Gratitude is transformative; it leads to contentment and appreciation for what you have, instead of what you’re lacking.
Keep It Interesting, Your Way
Once you’ve established the habit of practicing, try a new twist to keep your yoga feeling lit.
- Include pranayama. Start out strong with the bhastrika breath to elevate your energy and productivity of your practice. In a seated pose, exhale and pull the navel center and pelvic muscles in and up; inhale and release the muscles in the pelvic region, widening the belly and back. Continue for 8 to 10 breaths. After a few breaths, you’ll feel the heat turn on from the solar plexus, the body’s power source.
- Study the eight limbs of yoga.When you learn that asana is one of eight limbs on the yogic path, you’ll see your practice and your life in a whole new light.
- Add (or subtract) music.If you already use music in your practice, try a different kind of music, or subtract the music and listen to your breath, nature, or the sounds of your environment.
- Seek Out Like Minded Souls. Try different yoga classes and teachers, or attend yoga festivals where you’ll find hundreds of like-minded souls.
They say, the more you practice yoga, the more you’ll want to practice yoga. Fall in love with taking care of yourself. I can’t think of a better way to start your day and celebrate life.