Developing a Home Practice: Preparation
Time Of Day
Consistency is always preferable. If you can make a habit out of practicing at the same time every day, this will make it much easier. However, that doesn’t always work, and it is important to respect that. Flexibility is key in mind and body. I have gone through stages where I can get up at seven every morning and practice for a couple of hours. This will go on for up to nine months at a time. Then I’ll get up one day and be completely unable to practice in the morning. For the following months I will have to steal time here and there throughout the day to practice. Then, suddenly, I will find myself practicing regularly in the evenings for several months. We go through many different kinds of physical, mental and emotional cycles in our lives, and, although it is important to be disciplined, it is just as important to be compassionate. (Do bear in mind, however, that this is not a license to get nothing done. Practice, practice, practice.) Here are some points to consider:
- • Look realistically at your day. Is there a consistent daily time you can devote to practicing regularly? Before I started teaching and I was still working in an office, the only time I could guarantee I would be available was at 7am, before work. Perhaps you have a similar situation at another time of day. Right after work, perhaps, or at lunch.
• If you do not have a consistent time, consider making dates with yourself to practice. Because of my teaching schedule, no two days in the week are the same. So I make appointments to practice – Mondays at 5pm, Tuesdays at 10am, Wednesdays at 3pm. I’ve even gone so far as to write them down in my date book.
• Take into consideration the time of day. We tend to be stiffer in the mornings than the evenings. This means that a consistent gentler practice first thing in the morning can be as effective as a stronger practice later in the day. I spent a month at the Yogaville Ashram in Virginia a few years ago. We would be woken up at 5:30 every morning for two hours of meditation and practice. At that hour of the morning I am barely able to touch my toes. I generally find I am stiff and extremely lethargic until about 10am. Not the traditional image of the early rising yogi on the mountain top, I know. Even so, a simple practice at that hour of the morning was incredibly beneficial, giving me very real results by the end of the month.
• Be sure to practice on an empty stomach. Some people insist on not having eaten for up to four hours before practice, which is why practicing first thing in the morning is often a good idea. If you need to eat, eat. Be respectful of your body’s needs. Just bear in mind that all that food inside you requires energy to digest, and that it takes up space inside your body. A heavy asana practice will take energy away from the digestive process, which will be further compromised by the manipulations to which you will be submitting your internal organs.
There are some styles where you are asked to perform very specific types of breathing synchronized to the poses and transitions between them. As you practice the poses here, the breathing is important in that it should be as natural as possible. Obviously, in some of the poses the trunk is restricted and it will not be possible to take a full breath in quite the same way as if you were simply standing or lying on the back. Regardless of the pose it is important not to restrict the breath consciously. Keep the throat unrestricted and allow the inhalations and exhalations to come as they will. It is very easy to forget to breathe when you are exerting yourself. If you allow this to happen you will bring hardness into the body and the natural flow of energy will be restricted.