Six Tips for Cultivating a Regular Yoga Practice

 

By Ian Stoneham Garden Yoga Teacher and Massage Therapist

We’re all hoping for an end to lockdown soon, and to get back to our favourite yoga class. However, both this hope and the uncertainties of the future should remind us of one of the key tenets of yoga – to live in the present moment.

Establishing rituals or new habits can help us make the time and space in our lives to be present. And it doesn’t matter how much or for how long we do this for, a mindful practice (whether physical or not), can help us remain in a state of equanimity.

Establishing or maintaining a self-practice can be challenging, but there are a few things we can do to help ourselves.

1: Find a space for your practice. If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated space for this, then great. But many of us don’t, so adapting your surroundings to easily turn what might be a living space into a practice space is key. Think about how you can make it easier for yourself to get on the mat. That might involve always having a consistent place in which to practice, with your mat (rolled up) near by, and in a place where it’s quick and easy to move furniture to give you enough space to stretch out comfortably.

2: Minimise disruptions. Don’t sweat it if the kids, dog, cat or hamster are running around you, but try and pick a time and a place where you’re able to make that less likely. Turn your phone on silent, or even better leave it in another room. And remember, when the world around us is going crazy, that’s when we need our practice more than ever!

3. Find a ritual observance that works for you. Rituals help us cement habits, and pleasant ones make us look forward to them. That might involve lighting some incense, using a favourite candle just for your yoga practice, or picking a dedicated yoga playlist that helps you relax and focus.

4: Set a time to practice and a duration that’s not too daunting. It’s easier to do an hour’s yoga at a class at the studio (that’s why we love them) but home can be a different matter. If you’re not usually your best self in the early morning, then don’t set the alarm for 6:30 am and expect to haul yourself out of bed to do 90 minutes of dynamic yoga! Be realistic – maybe just 15 minutes in the afternoon is the best time for you. If you set yourself unrealistic goals for how long you’ll practice, you’re much less likely to turn up in the first place. If you start by setting yourself very small and easy to achieve goals (that require little or no motivation to achieve) you’re much more likely to be able to turn that behaviour into a habit.

5. Make it your ritual to turn up. Even if you just sit on your mat and do nothing, you’ll soon find that this very act will inform what your ritual or practice should be at that time. The act of turning up on your mat is the key: if you find that after a few minutes you don’t want to be there, then don’t beat yourself up about it but just leave and go and do something else. Keep doing it, and at some point, you’ll find you actually want to stay there and maybe do some physical practice.

6. Mix it up. You’re probably not going to want to do the same practice every time you come to your mat. Some days you’ll have the energy for a dynamic practice, other days you’ll want a really good stretch, and sometimes you might simply want a restorative class to relax and unwind – which is just as important for our health as giving our muscles and joints a workout. Trying different styles isn’t just good for overall balance, but it’ll help keep it fresh and keep you engaged.

And of course, check out all the Zoom classes when you need inspiration, or just to keep that connection with your favourite teachers and your community of fellow yogis.

Keep sane, and hopefully we’ll all be back practicing in The Well Garden soon… and that will be truly joyous. It’s important not to forget that however strange these current times are, we can also see them as a unique opportunity to cultivate some positive habits that will positively impact our lives for the long run.

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