I’ve been teaching yoga for almost 5 years now, and my personal practice is now over 20 years old. That is a lot of yoga time. But what is real yoga and what does it look like? Let’s have a look at how I fit it into my day or week.
Dhyana – meditation
My personal yoga practice looks different every day. Meditation is a non-negotiable aspect of my day. I need to meditate to feel together. Sometimes my meditation practice is as simple (or challenging) as observing 10 full, slow deep breaths; on other occasions I might use my mala beads to help focus my mind on an affirmation.
Dhyana is often translated as ‘meditation;’ but more accurately means ‘to think of.’ It is the 7th limb of yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Dhyana builds upon the physical movement of asana, breath control of pranayama and concentration of dharana. These aspects form a part of the overall yoga puzzle and create the bigger picture of yoga.
Asana – physical postures
As for stepping onto my mat, well some days that just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I try to get some movement in everyday and am working to make this a habit. I always feel so much better and sleep a lot more soundly when I’ve practiced. Each day looks and feels different. Legs up the wall is a brilliant pose to do before bed. It acts like a gentle inversion, paving the way for a good night’s rest and ticking the yoga box too.
Lately, I’ve been taking advantage of life being online to learn from teachers across the world. This has also afforded me the chance to try styles of yoga that I haven’t experienced before. Not only does this allow me to get in some asana practise, but it encourages me to have a beginner’s mind. Most importantly, learning in this way is giving me a challenge and re-igniting my love of all thing’s yoga. I’m excited to step on my mat each day as I learn new things.
Svadhayaya – self-study
This Sanskrit word means self-study or self-enquiry, and it’s one part of the overall yoga picture. The concept of self-study is probably the biggest part of my own yoga practice as I learn more about myself and my yoga journey. I love to learn. As anyone who has studied with me knows, I really do love learning new things. If you’ve been to my class, you’ll also know that I am a self-confessed yoga geek. I love sharing titbits about what I’ve learned and how this amazing practice translates into my life. For me this is immersing yoga into my life, into my actions and thoughts – it is not simply an exercise routine but is a way of walking through life with my head held high.
Self-enquiry is also about looking inwards, observing my actions from a place of curiosity rather than judgement – why am I feeling angry about this? What is it about this person that bothers me? When I began to get curious, I started to notice patterns and found that I was able to laugh at myself and the way I reacted.
As a self-confessed lover of learning, there is no greater challenge than learning about myself – how do I feel when I stay up late watching movies or reading the news? Being aware of my choices from moment to moment and choosing my actions and reactions, is the essence of yoga.
In conclusion I may not be ticking the box of stepping onto my mat every damn day, but I am still practising yoga. And that’s what this practice is all about – taking our learnings out of the studio, off the mat and into our lives.