Top 5 Calls to Actions to develop a strong and nurturing yoga practice

Casperia, Italy Yoga Retreat – June 2018 

 

Discipline takes time.

As a yoga teacher, I often encourage people who attend my classes to develop a home practice. In fact, the entire feel of how I teach is aimed at cultivating such an endeavour. Group and studio classes are often one size fits all. However, the opportunity to practice at home, at our own pace, through postures, movements and meditation provides the most profound and therapeutic benefit as a unique personal experience. And this cannot be underestimated. But, there also lies the obstacles and difficulties.

As a welcome discourse, on the first day of the retreats I organise, I reiterate to my fellow yogis that we are ‘not’ on a yoga holiday. A yoga holiday is just that in my humble opinion, a holiday with a ‘bit’ of yoga practice thrown into it. A ‘retreat’ on the other hand will suit only those willing to work seriously and observe the discipline, which is there for the benefit and protection of all and is an integral part of the Yoga practice. Progress on the Yoga path depends solely on our own good qualities and personal development, and on five factors: earnest efforts, confidence, sincerity, health and wisdom. On this occasion, the day practice began at 4:30am to the sound of the wake-up gong resounding throughout the magnificent rooms of the Forani Palazzio in Casperia, situated in the heart of the Sabina mountains just north of Rome, calling my sleepy fellow yogis to Action!

Action 1: Balance Yoga theory with Yoga Practice

 

Like anything in life, we usually start our yoga practice with good intentions. We attend class regularly, guided by our teacher, and then perhaps, lay out our mat at home, guided by a video, a book or our own intuition to replicate a practice. But sticking with it, through the disruptions of home and daily life, is where we often fail. To avoid these common pitfalls and to develop, in time, a strong and nurturing yoga practice we must also understand the concepts and meaning. Why is this important? I hear you say. There are many ways of practising yoga and there are no prescriptions regarding where and how our practice should begin. Some of us start the journey by practising asanas and continue to learn more poses until the only meaning of yoga left is in the physical exercise. Similarly, others with beautiful and strong intellect write wonderful books and speak brilliantly about complicated yoga concepts, but when asked to sit erect and still, they cannot do so for even a few minutes. So, let us not forget to balance yoga theory with yoga practice, whilst at the same time keeping in mind that yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice. And thankfully the interest in one path will lead to another.

Action 2: Start small – be reasonable

 

The intensity of retreat programs is not easy to replicate in our mundane lives, almost impossible. However, they give us the tools to make reasonable commitment that we can keep. Even five minutes a few times a week will give great benefit. If our discipline is not well established, we can’t expect to dive straight into a full hour practice right upon waking. If our mind is heating up with thoughts, we can’t expect to have a calm and quiet meditation from the word ‘go’. So best learn to train our mind and body and work with how we are feeling within the time we know we can allow. Gradually, we will become more skilful, our understanding will expand, and practices will become longer and more rewarding. For now, let us be kind, be gentle, and be patient with ourselves.

Action 3: Keep it simple

Yoga is a unique and personal experience. Decide what helps you and establish your practice with the resources you have. Having said that, I personally aim to do my practice with the least number of objects as possible. Not that there’s anything wrong with their use, or imposing our own view on anyone, and they can provide great support,  however, consider that the time we have set up our mat, candles, beads, plants, cushions, blocks, belts, bolsters, statues, and so on in every corner to seek Samadhi, is time we can simply use up to learn to work with what we have. This might perhaps mean that we work even harder to create a space in which we can feel inspired, but, what will we do if we find ourselves in an environment where none of these are available? The mind is easily distracted and quick to form new attachments. Keeping it simple ensures our body, mind and the breath feel at home with our practice, wherever we are.

Action 4: Don’t get frustrated

 

We are not monks, nor practising in an ashram but simple human beings living a householder life. The mind will still be thinking on some level about mundane concerns. So, don’t beat yourself up. We live in a noisy world of emails, tweets, posts and text messages. The need to respond to them immediately is becoming so ingrained in us, that the negative thoughts of a wavering mind will only takes us further from our practice. Children will still need minding, clothes will need washing and set up to dry and Mum or Dad will still need those hours long phone conversation. Whatever it is, address it and come back to practice. Learning to stay on the path within the chaos of ordinary life and not be derailed by all the temporary diversions is the true work of Yoga.

Action 5: Stay calm and quiet

 

We often place our own wellbeing and happiness at the bottom of our own to-do lists. We love our yoga teachers and rely on them to help us feel invigorated and inspired under the supported environment of a controlled studio space or retreat program. The same can feel tortuous and tedious when we attempt it on our own. But the teachers can only take us so far. So, keep at it. With calm and quiet, and in time, these changes will begin to take on qualities of ease leading to find peace in, around, and through the challenges. Discipline takes time. Begin now. Inhale, exhale and keep practicing.

 

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Special thanks to Sunflower Retreats, Casperia – Forani Palazzio Team. Photographs credits to Teodora Andrisan. Video credits to Cher Leo-Imarhiagbe.

For information on future yoga retreats with Fatoumata, visit www.inside-yoga.com or email info@inside-yoga.com