When I started refining my alignment in postures it became apparent that a public class wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to work on opening my shoulders and refining my lunges, so what happened if I went to a fast paced class that focused mostly on hip openers?
That’s when I began the arduous but rewarding journey of self-practice. And let me tell you, it is not easy. For a procrastinator like myself, all it took was a text message to blow my whole practice over. Sometimes I would just sit on the couch and stare at my mat for hours until I gave up.
I remember Erin Cookston saying: “Once you start self-practice, you’re jamming”. And I thought: “Yeah right. It’s so difficult. How do I push myself out of my comfort zone when I’m alone?”
If I hate backbends then will my self-practice be all about of forward folds? As it turns out, the practice is so balanced and intuitive that it will bring both what you like and what you need.
I slowly began to set a time and a duration. I realized that depending on where I am, specifically California or Costa Rica, there are different times that are best suited for my self-practice. In California, it was late at night, when everyone is asleep and I no longer had obligations for the day. The house was quiet and I could summon my leftover energy to dedicate an hour to myself. In Costa Rica, it’s the early morning. No mosquitos and a cool breeze.
The process alone of figuring out which time is best for self- practice is huge because it will force you to break through mental patterns. I always labelled myself as a “mid-day” practitioner, someone who is too stiff to practice in the morning, who doesn’t have enough energy at night. And here I am, adapting and making space for something important like my yoga practice.
As far as the place, anywhere goes. Once again, you might find yourself thinking limiting thoughts. I can’t practice on the grass because of ants. The sand is too soft. The tiles in my house are too hard. There is no such thing. You can practice anywhere you choose. It’s part of the practice to adapt to your surroundings and make them work.
For the longest time I was convinced I could ONLY do inversions on the grass because I wasn’t afraid to fall, only to realize most balance postures are actually easier on a harder surface.
Once you’ve got your time and place figured out, you gotta find what motivates you. Determine the duration of practice to stay motivated. My rule is one hour. Even on the worse days, I know an hour is not that long so I’ll push through it.
So you can stop, get a drink of water, answer a text message, right? NO. During that time, phone is on do not disturb mode and you got stay focused. (puppy kisses are okay though). When I’m feeling really sluggish, it’s half an hour. As long as I am on my mat for one hour every day, I am satisfied about my progress.
The catch for me is, there are no rules of what needs to happen on my mat for that one hour. There have been times when I have spent the entire hour laying around, but it still served its purpose. There have also been times when the hour became a sweaty two hours.
The beautiful thing of self practice is, no one is telling you what to do, so you have to get smart. Figure out how to bring both challenge and ease. It becomes a process of self-gaging. Your body is intelligent and it knows what it needs. Your mind can then help determine how long a hold will be, the sequencing, the number of repetitions, when to rest. You’re in constant communication with yourself.
And really, where else do you get the chance to choose exactly what suits you? Hold it for as long as you like? Play the music you wish? The luxury of a tailored practice is not to be underestimated.
The bigger gift you’ll receive from self-practice is more confidence and a stronger will power. If you can get up every day at the crack o’ dawn to do yoga, you bet you can accomplish X Y Z.
During my 200 hour teacher training at Green Monkey in Miami Beach my teacher Paul Toliuszis gave us the assignment of practicing a set of Pranayama exercises every day for a month, and said: “This will give you the confidence to be teaching”. I though “How would practicing a bunch of breathing exercises translate into me feeling comfortable getting up in front of a group of people?”
Now, three years later I finally understand what he meant. Because I have enough discipline to do it myself, I can “talk the walk”.
The other way in which self practice will benefit you is that you’ll able to practice anywhere. You’ll no longer depend on a yoga studio and you can keep your practice going even in the remote jungle. 😉
By Valentina Rose
Born and raised in Italy, Valentina is a full time yoga instructor who divides her time between Marin County, California and Matapalo, Costa Rica. When she isn’t hosting yoga retreats or blogging Valentina can be found trail running and baking quiche.
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