Recently I ran a workshop on creating your own practice. I enthusiastically handed out class plan templates and started to run through my presentation when I began to notice a whole lot of silence. As I looked around the room I saw a look of unease on some of my students’ faces. “What’s going on here?” I wondered. Having chosen to come to this workshop I was unsure why some participants looked as though they were in need of child’s pose and a bolster to hug when we were only ten minutes in.
After gently asking for feedback from the group, I realised what the problem was, they wanted to create a practice, but they already felt the guilt of a daily practice unrealised. They could see themselves procrastinating, feeling guilty about procrastinating and then feeling resentful. All this is happening before we have even started.
Like so many things in our lives, there is too much information. So many guides and ‘how to’s and should’s that can make actually getting starting overwhelming. If you have come to yoga in part to help with feelings of anxiety, the expectation of cultivating a daily practice may feel like it’s adding to your distress.
So, if you have the best intentions in the world – start there! Make an intention to start a yoga practice and make it just for today. Don’t think about tomorrow or wonder how you are going to sustain it, just take a couple of slow, comfortable breaths and feel your feet on your mat. Take a few more easy breaths and gently sweep your arms toward the ceiling, exhale and sweep them down. Try that a few times. Check in and see how you are feeling now, and if you want to continue do something gentle that you enjoy.
Let’s take it right back to enjoying the moment, the feeling of the mat beneath your feet and the sensation of the breath. That’s all. In those few moments there are already many physiological changes happening in your body. You have started to initiate the para sympathetic nervous system response, the ‘rest and digest’ response that helps us begin to relax and begin to edge away from our habit of reacting to every thought that pops into our mind.
That might be all you have time for today and that’s ok. If you want to stay on your mat, fine. If you don’t, that’s fine too. That was today’s practice, setting an intention to practice moving gently with the breath, noticing what’s happening. Head back to basics, you can add postures and sequences when you’re ready. Yoga has never been about achieving the most complex postures, or pushing your physical limits. It’s about connection and union, firstly and most importantly, with yourself. The breath, your feet on the mat, the moment. That’s enough for today and that’s yoga.