As we move into the season of Autumn it could be a great opportunity to look at what is truly important in your life. It can be a busy time over the summer with friends, relatives, holidays, work and getting children back to school. It is at times like this when our yoga practice can suffer as we get caught up in all the “doing” of life, but one thing is for sure if you have built a strong foundation in your yoga practice then it will support you as you navigate your way around the “busy-ness” of life.
How do you build a strong foundation? One of the most important features of yoga is its ability to keep you grounded. When all around you seems to be flying off in many directions…taking time to be still and focusing on the breath is the perfect way to ground yourself. The many pranayama or breathing techniques taught in yoga provide tools to help (literally) keep your cool ( try Sheetali or Sheetkari breathing) and focused on the here and now.
Asana practice too will provide you the opportunity to be in your body…. to feel the parts that feel good, the parts that need more TLC, the parts you worry are not quite right and the parts you love (yes loving your body is part of a solid foundation!!). As you move through a small sequence of postures listen to the messages from your physical body, not the chatter in your head and allow your body to move with the breath. No matter what state you are in when you move to your yoga mat it is as if all the other stuff dissolves (sometimes it takes a little longer but it will happen) …
Developing your own meditation practice is also the basis of a strong foundation in yoga. There are many different meditation techniques and it is worth exploring different ones to find what suits you. If you find sitting still difficult try a walking meditation. You don’t have to meditate for very long for meditation to be effective. Again it is the practice of often being present …of allowing yourself to simply be. Some people find the regular activity of simply lighting a candle and some incense or exploring nature as way to stop the clock for a brief moment.
All of these practices contribute to what we call a sadhana. A sadhana is a regular spiritual practice that helps you to find balance in your life by giving you the opportunity to turn inward. It is not a religious “thing” ( you may or may not have a connection to some higher God and you could incorporate this) but it is an attempt to connect with the bigger picture…nature, your place on this earth, the bigger YOU.
Having a sadhana means you are making a commitment to yourself. It requires discipline (even if it only 10 mins a day) so cultivates this. It allows you to grow as a person affecting your relationship with yourself and others. A sadhana provides an opportunity for self reflection…to look at the patterning of the mind, to see your thoughts as they come and go…to discover that your thoughts are not you. And of course it builds a foundation…just like your sankalpa ( see post from Jan 2012) . A strong platform from which you can make decisions about your life, your work, your health, your relationships with others. This foundation is strengthened by the repetition and regularity with which your sadhana is performed. No matter how small you start, by developing this regular practice you will slowly notice a shift in the constant demands of the mind…you will not feel so swayed by the fluctuations of mind and emotions and find yourself more accepting of yourself and life ups and downs.
So how do you go about this? First of all find a space that you feel comfortable in – a part of your room, a separate room, somewhere outside. Decide how long you wish to practice each day and what your sadhana components will be. Remember this can be as small as lighting a candle and sitting quietly for a few moments. It may include asana practice, breathing practices, chanting, singing, meditation, walking in nature…choose what you know makes you feel good. It does not have to be a long session…it is the regularity that provides the benefit not the length of practice.
I find practising my sadhana first thing in the morning the best for me..it allows me not to get caught up in the day and make excuses for missing it and I always find mornings more peaceful (mind you I am well past the age of having little ones awake before me and making their own special demands on my time!!) so if mornings don’t suit find a time that does and make it your time.
May you find time to be you.