Developing a daily practice: part two

At last, the spring is on its way and, with it, the best time of the year to undertake or renew a regular home practice. Although commencing a daily practice can initially be challenging, once it has become a regular part of the day’s routine, it will become an incredible source of peace, strength, guidance and inspiration.

“Should the yogi start their yoga practice in
spring or autumn, then it is said that the yoga will be easily successful” Gheranda Samhita 5:7

Here are a few simple suggestions that may help you to establish and sustain your practice:

  • Make an intention: Take time to set your intention to practice yoga regularly. In sanskrit this is called “sankalpa.” By regularly affirming a sankalpa, our intentions are easily made manifest within our lives. This could take the form of writing down your resolution or repeating it to yourself at the beginning of your practice.
  • Start small: even 5 or 10 minutes focused practice each day can considerably enhance the rest of your day. Remember, today’s tiny acorn is tomorrow’s mighty oak. By taking small steps initially, given time and nourishment, your practice is sure to grow in duration and intensity.
  • Be realistic: if you decide that you’re going to practice for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week: check whether this is achievable or sustainable. If you set yourself an unrealistic schedule then you may become disappointed or frustrated with yourself. Its more effective to practice for 3 days a week consistently over a long period than to sporadically practice for 6 days a week.
  • Space: make a space in your home where you can practice: ideally somewhere clean and quiet. If you are devotionally minded you may find that creating a shrine to a Guru or your chosen Deity will help to create an atmosphere conducive to yoga practice. If you’re not the devotional type then some flowers, a houseplant or crystals can help create the right vibrations.
  • Time of day: most practitioners find that morning or early evening works best. The ideal time for yoga practice is early in the morning. This is also the time when the stomach has been empty for a long time, so a good time for asana and pranayama practice. It is recommended not practice asana for at least 1.5 - 3 hours after eating.
  • Regularity: choose a time each day and stick with the same time.
  • Preparation: I find that when I practice each morning, it really helps if beforehand I have a cup of herbal tea and sit quietly for about about 20 - 30 minutes. This is also a good time to read an inspiring book on yoga such as Patanjali’s yoga sutra.
  • What to practice: find a practice that suits your temperament. Most people find that practising what they have learnt with their teacher will help them to progress. Its good to have a regular practice sequence so that its possible to gauge progress. But its important to be flexible with that sequence too. Each time you come to the mat your body is different and what worked yesterday may not be suitable today. Don’t be afraid to modify your sequence and experiment. You are a free being with a unique body. There are as many ways to practice yoga as there are yoga practitioners. We are all different and yoga is a reflection of that diversity.
  • Compassion: be kind to yourself. Rather than being judgemental in your practice its more nurturing to develop an attitude of self-acceptance and forgiveness.
  • Patience: don’t expect immediate results. Yoga is a life-time practice. We want to be still practising in our 80s and 90s.
  • Have fun!: enjoy your practice. If your practice become a labour or chore then its unlikely that you’ll want to continue with it. Find a practice that you enjoy and embrace that feeling so that you want to repeat it each day.
  • Gratitude:The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga’ Yogi Bhajan.

We are all incredibly fortunate to have a human body, let alone a body that has been exposed to yoga teachings and that is healthy enough to do some practice. There is no guarantee when such an opportunity for self realisation will occur again, so make the most of it now while you can. Practice heroically, diligently and, over time, your practice will bestow innumerable benefits on yourself and upon all beings within your sphere of influence.

Hari OM Tat Sat
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