We are two weeks away from August, and the panic is setting in. As you know, Paris in August is dead, with yoga studios offering fewer classes or downright closing for a couple of weeks as part of their annual holidays.
A home practice is an essential part of yoga life. Of course teachers do it -- it is an important method for discovering and gaining insight into sequences and poses -- but yogis of all types can benefit from letting their breath and body guide their movements. You know how occasionally at the beginning of class, a teacher might congratulate the students for simply showing up? They are speaking from experience! There is sometimes nothing harder than unrolling your mat at home. Trust me on this.
That said, teachers have an advantage over Beginners because they have an encyclopedia of poses in their heads and can feel their way into a postural sequence that responds to their energy level, their therapeutic needs or their desire to play with a particular pose or class of poses. Beginners, on the other hand, are not sure where to start. So many poses! Which one should follow trikonasana? This is where studying Ashtanga or Bikram has advantages -- students learn a set of poses, performed in a fixed order, and this repetition makes it easy to remember what to do when you’re away from the studio.
Don’t panic! Here are some ideas.
•Sign up for Sophie Boller’s series of three workshops (28-31 July) to develop your personal practice and greet the month of August with confidence. This is a terrific way to acquire or hone the trust and skills you will need for doing yoga on your own.
• Use videos or podcasts to stay inspired!If you don’t yet have faith in your inner guru, let a teacher guide you.
• Mix your chocolate (Ashtanga) with your peanut butter (Bikram.) (Check out this super ridiculous commercial for the reference) Try a traditional Surya Namaskar A and B (1 breath per movement) then use Bikram holds for subsequent standing postures (1 minute for the first hold, 30-45 seconds for the second.) A nice standing pose sequence is Virabhadrasana II, Parsvakonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, and high lunge. Judith Hanson Lasater has some great advice for how to create a well-rounded practice, too.
• Make your practice area inviting by preparing the space with care. Make it pretty with flowers or meaningful mementos, make it smell good with candles, incense or essential oils, make it sound fun with a groovy playlist.
• Speaking of setting the stage… if you don’t already have your own yoga mat, now is the time to get one! Spend some time thinking about how you’re going to use it. Will you only use it at home? Will you travel with it? Is your practice super sweaty, or more zen? I’ve used a Tapas mat (light but not very durable,) Yogistar (easy to transport,) a Manduka PROlite (great however a bit heavy,) a Jade travel mat (super light and practical,) and I am now test-driving a Tayrona Tolima (so far, so good.)
• Cultivate a restorative or slow practice. Close your eyes, breathe deeply for five minutes. Move into a gentle rhythm of cat/cow before relaxing into Balasana. Inhale and exhale for five counts. Stretch back into Downward-facing Dog, hold for five breaths, then melt back into Balasana. Repeat as necessary.
• Want to really, really relax? Try Yoga Nidra! This is a terrific complement to a more dynamic asana practice and feels especially delicious in the evenings after a sun-drenched day.