What are the obstacles to practice? For me right now it is learning how to give myself feedback when the teacher isn't there to provide guidance. Are my legs really straight? Are my shoulders level? But I am well- acquainted with the other obstacles: disease or sickness, inertia, doubt, heedlessness, laziness, indiscipline of senses, erroneous views, lack of perseverance, backsliding...
How am I feeling right now?
How much time do I have?
How do I want to feel at the end of the practice?
I am pretty disciplined when it comes to my home practice, in the sense that I manage to start my work days with a routine that incorporates 20 minutes yoga and 20 minutes meditation. Depending on how I feel and how much time I have, I rotate between 4 or 5 different routines to get a good start to my day. So it was reassuring to hear that 20 minutes every day yields better results than 2 hours twice a week, and that it is perfectly fine to tailor a practice to how you feel and what your energy levels are. I don't usually think much about how I want to feel at the end of the practice, and that's something I will pay more attention to in the future.
In both the morning and afternoon, we developed a few sequences in groups of four, and then followed up with an hour of practice. I found myself improvising along the way with a few additions, it felt great to find myself in a certain pose, and when another came to mind, to just add it. Like cooking dinner vs. baking a cake.
For the Iyengar system, there are a few ground rules to keep in mind
- Headstand never stands alone... if you do this pose, make sure you follow it with something from the shoulder stand family (the reverse isn't true, it's fine to do shoulder stand without headstand). Headstand is incredibly powerful and energizing for the brain but it needs a cool down after, and the jalandhara bandha activated by the shoulder stand family seems to do the trick.
- It's fine to do backbends followed by forward bends, but put a twist in between
- If doing lots of backbends, don't end with a full shoulderstand
- Want to feel grounded... standing poses
- Want more energy..... do inversions and backbends
- Want to 'cool' your brain..... do forward bends
- Are you tired or just lethargic.... try 3 standing poses, and if you are still tired, then do a restorative practice.
- When in doubt... do inversions and supported backbends
Here's a new prescription for winter doldrums, holding each pose for a few minutes:
- adhumuka savasana (dog pose)
- uttanasana (standing forward bend)
- pinca mayurasana (arm balance)
- urdhva mukha svasana (updog)
- chaturanga dondasana
- vipirita kirani
To sustain practice,
- confidence in what you know!
- going to class, workshops
- use tools (books, DVDs, You Tube
- use teacher as a source of information by asking questions before and after class
- challenge yourself
- pamper yourself