I teach yoga, so I meet people who want to make yoga a part of their lives. The ones who succeed find space in their homes and time in their days for practice, even if it begins with a kitchen counter and five minutes. Others never quite manage it, and drop off before they can build a self-sustaining practice.
When I took my first yoga classes, in 1983, that was me. I liked parts of the class and found other parts shockingly difficult – downward facing dog, for instance. I didn’t practice at home, partly because I didn’t remember what to do. Gradually I’d start to miss classes, which meant, in the progressive environment of an Iyengar class, it was even harder when I came back. After two sessions, I drifted away, a yoga dropout.
A few years later, on a beach in Thailand, I watched as someone practiced headstand on the beach, and a seed of yoga that I didn’t even know was there suddenly sprouted. What happened next turned out to be the second most important moment in my yoga life. I went back to our beachside cottage and did triangle pose, and then a seated forward bend. This time, the poses were different. Yes, I felt them physically. But I also felt how they worked on my mind and my emotions. In triangle pose, with my feet firmly planted, I understood that this pose was about standing strong and resilient in the world. And as I folded into seated forward bend, I knew that I was surrendering to my Self.
Back home in Vancouver, I looked for a teacher and found Wende Davis, the Iyengar yoga teacher with whom I would study for the next 10 years. The first time we met, Wende showed me a simple stretch and told me it was vital for the health of my spine. The most important moment in my yoga life came later that week, when I made a commitment to do that pose, plus a forward bend, every day, as soon as I put the kettle on for coffee. It took about 90 seconds, and it changed my life.
Within two weeks, my experience of class was different. My shoulders were more open, my hamstrings a little longer. In the careful structure of Wende’s classes, I was able to go deeper into the poses. Within a year, I was taking two classes a week, and practicing at home. Twenty years after my first class with Wende, I passed my assessment and became a certified Iyengar yoga teacher.
No wonder then, that I talk a lot about home practice when I teach, and I ask students how their practice is coming along. What I hear is: “I don’t have time,” and “I need you to come home with me and tell me what to do.”
My Five-Minute Yoga Practice is my answer to those two objections. It’s a collection of nine five-minute yoga practices, each one with an illustrated pdf, and a separate mp3 file. You can load the mp3 files onto an iPod, or play them on your computer. You can also play the mp3 file from the pdf, and look at the pictures as you go. It’s available loaded onto a memory stick, or as a download.
Everyone has five minutes somewhere in their day. And as long as you can play an mp3 file and look at a pdf, I’m happy to talk you through it.
No, you can’t expect five minutes a day of yoga practice to transform your life. But you can take five minutes a day to slow down and immerse your mind in your body, which is one definition of yoga. Make a commitment to five minutes a day, and you’ll gradually find 15, and then half an hour. Come to class, practice often, and there’s no telling where your practice will take you.