Self-practice

MY JOURNEY & INSIGHTS ON MEDITATION

My journey & insights on meditation 

Someone sat opposite me at a wedding said to me ‘I don’t believe in meditation, it’s the biggest con’. I spent a minute trying to sway her but then thought fair enough. Sometimes I forget what it must look like from the outside if you have no interest. Being told to sit still for 10 - 30 minutes NO THANKS. 

I started meditation when I was 24, 7 years ago. I did the 10 day free trial on the Headspace app and I loved it. It was a profound experience. I realised that underneath everything going on in my life I was happy and calm somewhere within. And it only took me 10 minutes (at the time) to come to the realisation that everything was ok as it is. I was not drowning under the weight of everything going on, I was not treading water, which I often thought I was. I was just fine. I committed to the 10 days and did it each morning before work. I’ve had moments when I’ve struggled with the practice and moments when I could sit for 40 minutes. There have been times when I feel like I haven’t gotten anything out of it and days when it really helps me land in my body and quieten the noise. 

I have stuck with the practice (albeit at times with a struggle) because I can feel the difference in how I treat myself, and how I react to situations. If I don’t practice and allow things to build up, and don’t allow things to process and filter through, my tone is much harsher. My practice has taught me to notice when my inner critic is fully engaged and that niggly inner voice is getting the better of me. It’s how we interact with our thoughts that is important, how we allow them to manifest and affect us. How we interplay with ourselves affects how we are with others. 

I was chatting to a friend the other day who was upset as a girlfriend of hers said a flippant and hurtful comment that clearly wasn’t thought through. However it was how the girl dealt with the comment after that was most hurtful for my friend. We might say things and think things out of our control (saying is of course more in our control) but it’s how we grab the moment and react to these things, which is important. 

I have random insecure moments when my mind is telling me crazy things, which I know are utterly insane. I have to work hard to accept my insecurity with compassion and then consciously not allow those thoughts to manifest. It might sound unbelievable but only through my practice have I been given the tools to do this. (Not to say that this is the only practice that works but it’s what has served me).

Giving yourself the time to sit allows us the chance to observe what is going on. You might even write some things down that come naturally after meditation. Writing things down in itself is an incredible process for healing and working through stuff. 

Give meditation ago, it takes time so don’t beat yourself. If it’s not for you that’s ok. Figure out what does help you get out of the mind and into the body and in to the present and do that. 

N:B photo taken on the stunning Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe where I meditated each morning to the sunrise. 

HOW TO DEVELOP A SELF-PRACTICE?

 

HOW TO DEVELOP A SELF - PRACTICE ? 

Many of my students find self practice rather daunting. People have the illusion that you have to move in a certain way to do yoga. The fundamental importance of our yoga practice is to develop greater awareness of the body and to centre the mind. One of the beauties of being new to yoga and self-practice is that automatically you are more aware of your body as the practice is unfamiliar. In self-practice we have the opportunity to listen to the body more closely and move as the body desires as well as working deeper into areas that need it. Often in class our mind can take over our practice and force our body to do things it may not want to do that day. Being surrounded by other students our egos can take over, so rather than moving intelligently with awareness, we may move with more determination. This will not be the case in every class you take but at some point our ego does creep in. 

With self-practice we have the opportunity to listen more closely to our body and work on areas that need strengthen or opening e.g hamstrings, hips, core, breath, backbends, balancing, heart openers etc. We have the chance to listen to the body and target certain areas more mindfully at a pace you wish. You can explore and work deep into your edge, expanding your boundaries and awareness. 

Yoga is an exploration of the body and when practising we gain a better understanding of our body and mind through increased awareness. 

 

SELF-PRACTICE 

Where to start?

  • Purchase a decent mat Yoga Matters sell good, reasonable and non stick mats. 
  • Invest in blocks, straps and eye pillow (not essential at the beginning but great to have to support and advance your practice).
  • Set a side a time that works for you - morning is the best time to do yoga; try and set aside 20 minutes. If morning does not work then allocate another convenient slot. 
  • If 1 hour feels like a lot then start with 15 minutes and build up to 1 hour.

 

General plan

STEP 1: Plan a warm up e.g. Child pose (Balasana), cat cow, downwards dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), rag doll, Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Make sure you take 5 minutes in Childs or Corpse pose at the beginning of the practice to centre the mind and tune into how the body is feeling that day. 

STEP 2: Standing poses. Either do 1 pose on each side or start to link 2 or 3 poses e.g. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II), Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana), Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana), Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III). Take Child's pose as often as you like. 

STEP 3: Do the same with seated poses e.g. Pigeon (Eka Pada), Head to Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana), Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

STEP 4: Backbends and Inversions. Depending on your practice your backbends and inversions could be restorative or dynamic. To invert you can take legs up the wall or place hips on a bolster and feet to the ceiling. For a backbend Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) is great option. 

STEP 5: Give yourself time for Savasana (5 minutes or more)

Have some go to poses that you’d like to practice and work on these regularly. You can use your self-practice to learn any poses that you might want a bit more time on e.g. headstand (Sirsasana) 

Expanding your practice?

  • After attending a class write down 2 or 3 poses and add them to your self practice. This will help build your flow and motivate you. 
  • Ask your teachers questions and seek advice. 
  • Follow a couple of online classes to give you inspiration - Yogaglo.com is a great platform.
  • The key to self practice is motivation. Set realistic goals and don’t beat yourself up if one week you slip. There is always the next week.

Sanskrit names of poses mentioned above

Childs Pose - Balasana

Downwards Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana 

Mountain Pose - Tadasana

Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II

Warrior III - Virabhadrasana III 

Triangle - Utthita Trikonasana

Extended Side Angle - Utthita Parsvakonasana

Pigeon - Eka Pada

Head to Knee Forward Bend - Janu Sirsasana 

Bridge - Setu Bandha Sarvangasana 

Headstand - Sirsasana 

Corpse Pose - Savasana