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How to build a practice.

Small steps

Creating a habit takes small steps. If you want to practise every day in the morning, it might be a great idea to just start by simply doing one pose every morning. Just one! The idea is that you create the habit because you'll stick to it and may add in more once you've got used to it and it becomes second nature. Whilst morning is a great time for yoga, if you've got a busy schedule getting ready for work and getting children ready for their day, you absolutely don't have to practise in the morning at all! Stick to 2 minutes of breathing and one downward dog. Why not do your bit of yogic breathing in the bath or shower? Or maybe on your daily commute. Just keep your eyes open...

You'll feel the benefit. You might then be able to find time later in the day. For years I never did much regularly in the mornings- just that one downward dog or maybe a forward bend or two and a bit of thoughtfulness with my morning coffee. Realistically, unless you want to get up at 5.30 each morning you may be the same. I was busy juggling everything in life, like so many women, but I found time for meditation at some point and it helped me through some tricky times. I would tend to practice in the evenings in my little space and then started to develop a full-on practice. I couldn't get out to many classes and I noticed that home yoga did me good. So I wanted to do more.

Ideas for a practice

1. Research and write down

At first I had no clue what to even do in my practice and so would look in books for some poses and learn their names. This was before the days of Google. I would write them down and then do them- and I still think this is a good start. These days you can easily find so much out online and Yoga Journal is the go-to website with a huge list. You may just want to keep it simple though- stop googling and looking at all the array of information online that sucks away our time. Just keep it basic and do those poses.

When I first started, I would always do a standing warm up, shaking out all the body to a great tune and then move to breathe into the spine in cat cow, child's pose (Balasana), forward fold (Uttanasana), downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), bridge (Setu Bandu Sarvangasana) , tree (Vrksanana) and seated forward fold (Paschimottanasa).

Not even a single warrior (Virabhadrasana)- hard to believe. I couldn't really remember how the feet went! I should really have had triangle (Trikonasana) in my early practice too, and some twists, but it felt good. It was my own and it was a start.

2. Do what you can remember

.Once you remember how to do a few poses you can build on that. You might feel you want to stay in longer holds one day and flow through poses another day. The best thing is that you can decide yourself and take your time. You might work on a balance, or perfecting a pose you did in class. You may know Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) and it is great to do these at home because you can go at your own pace, tuning into your breath and adapting them to suit you. You can miss out anything that doesn't feel right. You could also just lie with your legs up the wall (vVpariti Karani), which is what I often still do. It feels great!

3. Try to move in different ways

There are 5 ways of moving the spine and once you get confident at doing poses yourself, you can maybe try to move in all the following ways:

  • extension, which rounds the spine back;

  • flexion, which rounds the spine forward;

  • lateral flexion (side bending);

  • rotation (twisting the spine) and

  • axial extension (decompressing and elongating the spine).

Basically, try to move in different ways to loosen anywhere you may be holding on and you won't go far wrong.

4. Breathe from the centre and just see what happens.

Once you start to build up a few poses just notice what thy feel like and have a sense of inquiry as your breath leads you into the movement- just see what unfolds. If you remember more sequences from a class, try them out for yourself. Just don't over-think it.

5. Love and accept your body

I'm also fond of telling you how much I liked to practise balances whilst waiting for the kettle to boil- and it really is something I do. My yoga teacher called me 'Wonky Ellie', and it's a good job I appreciated her humour. I still am wonky, but regular practice has made things a lot better, though far from perfect. There's a lot of truth in the old saying 'Done is better than perfect'. If I had worried about it I would never have done yoga. The truth is we have one body and we must accept and love it in all its wonkiness. Some poses are just going to be hard so just breathe and cut yourself slack. It's not a competition. The same goes for the mind. We should try and let go of our inner critic which tries to sabotage our efforts. We are all 'perfectly imperfect' to some extent if not full-on wonky!

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