When I think of starting a home practice it’s all about the starting and not about the practice. How do you get to that instant, on your mat, with at least a few moments stretching out in front of you to curl your body and savor your breath? A few moments before the day crashes in and whips up a whirlwind whilst a residue of the practice frames your exploits, enriches your interactions with poignancy and your actions with aesthetic delight.
Making time to find some peace in a manic world
In relation to the starting, this blog is less an inspirational pep talk and more a bunch of rather practical tips gleaned from my enchantment with relatively high demand group of Ashtanga Yoga (and Ashtangis with their intensity and their shadows).
Here’s my list:
- Go to bed early if you want to get up early.
- Set your clothes out the night before.
- Set one, two or three alarms. Stagger alarms to go off at two minute intervals. Place the alarm on the other side of the room so you actually have to exit your deliciously warm cosy bed to turn it off. Race to get the alarm off before it wakes the household or neighbours. There’s a certain adrenalin to peeling off a sleeping babe who if awoken will cling-on until they’re asleep again - and most likely you too.
- Aim to get up at the same time everyday. My natural mode would be to rise well after the sun, and from bitter experience that first morning of rising early is shocking. The second is merely terrible. And the third is a breeze.
- Coffee. I could wax quite lyrical about this element of my morning routine: whether using a machine to freshly grind your beans is a social nuisance in the wee small hours or a human right; whether a second cup is just naughty; whether coffee is a sacred ritual or a mundane encouragement to your digestive track. But hush on my addictive habits.
- To more lofty matters: sanctification of the ritual space. Clean mat, clean clothes, clean body. Yes there are textual prescriptions for all this, along with social niceties. Continuing the trajectory towards the mat rather than lurching back towards bed might be aided with candles, cranking up the heating, filling the ether with incense.
Oh coffee, how we need thee
Then the practice. And that’s easy. You’re there, on your mat, breathing. You have a body. You are a body. Your centre of motivation dissolves in bodily tissues. You are intention, you are vibration, you are light. You are tubes and fluids. As for technique? Move or be still, gaze into the test-tubes of your experience, fired with the intensity of your focus. Release all that you find.
For form or structure try out things you’ve done in class. Make them your own. Teachers should be delighted to give you simple pointers for getting started at home. There are heaps of great classes on the internet (but, stern note, your screen can’t give you feedback on foot placement endangering your knees and such, and should never replace working with a teacher. End lecture). Keep it simple and short rather than awkward and ambitious – and never repeated. How many times a week is up to you. Three is where the magic starts for me but forget all the rules – you are not a machine but a miracle.
You're not a machine, you're a mircale
Ruth Westoby is an Ashtanga practitioner, a researcher on yoga and she shares ideas on the history and philosophy of yoga through workshops and teacher training. For writings, workshops and footage please see www.enigmatic.yoga.