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Home Practice: How to start

This is just you and your mat, no you tube, no apps or zoom (sweet if you want to use those too!) just 20-30 minutes of complete undivided attention with yourself. And like anything, we need to start off with a good base or ground floor to build on. This is where you do a lot of the heavy lifting of setting up practice. In this post, I will go through setting up, intention setting and warming up. 1. Setting up, not just physically with the equipment you may need like blocks or a mat, but also mentally. Have you ever noticed a difference in how you have felt in a yoga practice or after when your mind has been elsewhere vs. when you felt present and focused? Maybe you can hop right into sun salutations or maybe you need a few minutes of silence or breathing to get to a place where your mind feels steady? Either way, this can change from day to day. So having the knowledge of how to start a practice different ways is an advantage for days where maybe you need something different. Pranayama is an amazing way to steady the fluctuations of the mind, or to ignite the driving fire in you to get thinking. We have breathing practices like Nadi Shodhana, Belly breathing, 3 Part Breath, Square breathing, Ujjayi, Bastrika, and I could go on! Starting off practice with just 10-15 rounds of any of these is a great way to touch in with the body or mind, centre, or prepare the mind for connection to what you are doing presently. I will do another series with pranayama in it in future, but until then you can find a lot of resources on these practices on YouTube if you can’t remember one from class that you liked. 2. What is it about the physical practice of Yoga that keeps us coming back or wanting to begin? That question is huge! It’s is an individual response that varies and every answer is correct! That is in essence the definition of Yoga, to combine or yoke, that all things equal each other. Equanimity. So weather you practice for your bad back, for anxiety, for peace, to gain strength or to increase joint range, ect... they all are as valid as the other. This type of question is also useful with starting your practice on the day. Asking yourself at the beginning: what do I want to gain from my experience or how is my body/brain feeling and do I want to match this or maybe balance this? This type of questioning is known in Yoga as intention setting or sankalpa in sanscript. How do I set a sankalpa? This can be a very profound statement that you use for months or years, or even something simple you set on the day. It’s is like planting a seed, that you ‘are’ already this word or phrase that comes to you, from taking a few moments to listen. Using statements like, “I am...”, “I have...”, “I can...” in present tense with our sankalpa makes these things that we think we long for, things we already posses. And you do! There may be obstacles in your way that mean you just can’t quite see it now. Okay, you have your sankalpa, maybe, and maybe you have chosen to do a bit of breathing (or not 😉) to focus the mind. Let’s move! 3. Warm up. Yes let’s start moving! But what do I do first? I personally love starting with sun salutations or any variation of them. How much effort or intensity I do depends on my intention, remember that thing we said is the base of practice? Yep, you can do a whole practice based off of your intention! For example: I am feeling unmotivated today and I want to balance that, let’s move with some fast sun sals! Or, I am feeling unmotivated today and I want to honour that, let’s slow down and stay close to the mat. Then my intention for my practice might reflect one of those things (“I am listening, I have the ability to honour myself” ect..) The purpose of a warm up is to get the body ready for more dynamic movement, therefore if you have a slower warm-up you will probably overall have a slower practice. Where do I start? With your breath, does this sound too simple you don’t believe me? Follow your breathing through each movement. Inhale, open or extend forward and up. Exhale, fold or bend down and close. Notice the places where you want to inhale and the places where you exhale. You don’t need me telling you when or how to breath, try to instinctively feel when you move your body which movements you want to inhale/exhale in (why I am not instructing in the video). Do this warm up you’ve chosen a couple times or more, do it until you feel like you don’t have to remember what comes next. Follow your breathing. Follow your breathing. Finally, make it simple! Pick 3 poses and repeat. Here I did child pose, cat, cow. Then I stepped it up with some more. The main goal, again, is to warm-up the spine, joints and muscles. So keep things small and adapt to how your feeling when you start moving. The poses I have connected are: - childs pose - cat/cow Then - downward facing dog (modify with puppy pose) - plank - upward facing dog (or cobra pose) to down dog again - standing forward fold this is just an example, you can create your own warm up with any of the above! Or add in things like neck/shoulder rolls, a seated twist. Remember keep it simple! Stick to 3. Or just do this for 20 minutes and you have a complete practice. Just breath and move. Au voila! Congrats you have just practiced Yoga! You can stop here and just do these couple of steps if you wanted to. Make your home practice something you look forward too by doing things you like doing for an amount of time you can commit to doing! You don’t like forward fold and Nadi Shodhana? Then choose things you want to do! Well done for getting started!

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