guide to creating a heart-based yoga practice

In our beginners yoga class we are talking about the importance of “setting up” our practice through a series of stages or steps.  These are the ones that I have outlined for my own practice, and have found great benefit to having a plan of attack so to speak…

All of these steps are connected to each other, one seamlessly flows into the next although sometimes surprises happen and they present themselves to us that isn’t in the order that we think things should happen.  This is the beauty of yoga.

We can use this outline to prepare us for a yoga class of any type or a self care appointment that we have chosen to arrange and keep for ourselves.  This time is special, a time where we have taken and scheduled time solely for our well being.

ARRIVE – we are so connected all of the time, to the busyness of life, our never ending to-do list, our jobs, our families, to other people that it often becomes that being constantly busy is our new normal.  Before we start to even think about our yoga class it’s nice to start removing all of the external and internal stressors that we have in our lives…judgment, expectation, all self talk, and begin to become more mindful of how we arrive into the studio space.  Putting all of that extra baggage into a suitcase and leaving it at the door is a great way to let all of those “things” go as you walk through that doorway. At this time we start to turn our attention inwards by moving into silence.

SETTLE– After arrival, start to settle into the space by placing your yoga mat in a spot that feels great for you, but, don’t be afraid to choose another spot in the room besides your favourite, a new perspective can open up new ways of thinking about things!  At this time, think about what props you may need, straps, blocks, bolsters, eye pillows etc. and have them handy.

GROUND – finding a comfortable position that works for you before the practice begins, (Savasana, seated meditation, legs up the wall) …start to relax into the posture or pose that you’ve chosen by releasing tension in the muscles, and become aware of moving into a place of steadiness, of balance while becoming open to recieve the practice you are about to experience.

BREATHE – the breath is such a huge part of the yoga practice, (and life in general) and it’s a great indicator of how the body is experiencing each part of the practice.  Tuning in and connecting here will allow the mind to settle, and give your brain a “job” to do.  The brain is supposed to think all of the time, that is its function in the body.  By turning our focus on the breath, it will help to bypass the thoughts that pop up from time to time.  A gentle reminder to bring our focus back to the breath, if you find that distractions arise…steady breath, steady mind, steady body.

CONNECT – this is a time to find that internal connection with yourself.  I like to bring my attention towards my heart, where I can find comfort in the beat of my heart.  This connection with your heart is strong, steady, true, real and can bring comfort.  This is a great time to repeat a quote, a mantra, an affirmation to yourself, something that you can relate to and you find inspiring.  The one that I use is…“I meet myself in silence, and we breathe.” by S.W. Berry.  A feeling of complete peace moves over my whole body…I encourage you to find something that works for you!

This is also a great time to set an intention, by asking yourself why you showed up on your mat today. This moment soooooo often stumped me, I can’t even tell you how many times, that some days it prevented me from showing up because I had no idea what to “pick“…cue anxiety!! What is a person to choose anyways? I finally came to the realization that if I focused on how I wanted to FEEL, then the answer came easily.  I am LOVE, I am JOY, I am PEACE.  OR it could be something that you choose to focus on while on your mat.  I am BALANCE, I am my BREATH, I am MYSELF.  Whatever you choose, it creates a powerful message that you are committing to YOU, all the while creating a mindful moment where you are tuning in to your heart’s truest desire.  These moments will start to create moments outside of the times when you aren’t on your mat.  And when you catch yourself doing it, I can almost guarantee a little smile will form on your lips.

RETURN – I knew that I wanted to use this particular word in the steps to explain what happens for me, but to actually describe it is the hardest.  This is the place where we return to our own true nature, where our internal compass is leading us to our internal home.  The place where we are truly comfortable and accepting and aware of who we are at the very very BEING of our being.  This is the hardest because if we struggle with knowing who we are, it’s a tough one to tap into.  That being said, we also have to realize that we need to start where we are.  So many opportunities have ‘slipped’ away for me because I was operating out of a place of fear…stepping in to that fear and accepting where we are sends a powerful message to the universe that we are ready to move forward not backwards…even though there will inevitably be hiccups along the way. (that’s the lesson 🙂

BECOME – ahhhh the place where it all comes together. The surrendering of ALL to allow the pose to move into the body.  That moment of bliss where we fall into acceptance, trust, and faith that we are doing the very best for our bodies, our minds and our spirit in that particular moment.

We can also use these 7 steps each time we move into a new pose during the practice. Setting up the foundation for our practice, will over time start to become second nature, and open up all sorts of new possibilities as we continue to explore the practice of yoga…together.

You have the choice as you walk out that door, to pick up that bag of luggage that you packed at the beginning.  I promise I’ll take care of disposing of it for you.

May you be filled with loving kindness
May you be safe from harm
May you be healthy and strong
May you be happy as you are
May you be at peace and ease