If I could write a letter to myself at 39, I’d probably make it anonymous, so as not to freak myself out by revealing a rupture in the space/time continuum.
But what would I say to that brand new yogi with her faltering home practice? After 23 years of practice and 10 years of teaching, what’s my best advice on having a home practice and keeping it going?
Here are the top ten things that spring to mind:
1. Do the standing poses. They make you strong. Whenever you’ve been away from practice, and in the beginning that’s going to happen more often than not, start back with the standing poses.
2. Aim for a short practice every day, and make it a habit. Find a spot in your day for 15 minutes and make it as automatic as brushing your teeth.
3. Start by centering. Sit still, close your eyes, connect with your body. Drop your sitting bones, lift your spine, relax your face. Then do some standing poses.
4. Move in slowly, move out slowly. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn by slowing down. You can only hold your alignment on the way into a pose if you’re slow. Move out of poses slowly and you’ll protect yourself from injuries – like that nastly little hamstring tear from sitting up too quickly from wide-legged forward bend (Upavistha Konasana).
5. If you’re not completely sure of a pose, do it anyway. Figure out where your confusion is and ask your teacher at the next class. If you don’t practice it, you won’t remember to ask.
6. Always include a pose you love.
7. Set a timer for three minutes short of your practice time. When it rings, lie on your back with your knees bent, and relax your back into the floor. Never skip savasana.
8. Every practice contains at least one improvement or insight. Celebrate the small gains.
9. Remember how good you feel when you practice.
10. Be grateful. At the end of the practice, take a moment to give thanks for arms, legs, eyes, ears, breath, yoga mats, bolsters, teachers, teachings, for whatever moved, or didn’t move, and for being alive to experience it all for one more day.
What would you add to that list? Is there a practice principle, or a practice tip that helps you?