31st October 2017 Blog: How I cultivate a daily yoga practice
Over the past few months I have been completing my level 1 Certification with the LifeForce Healing Institute. Part of this certification includes a 40 day challenge, to record your daily LifeForce Yoga practice which can include Asana (yoga poses), Dyana (Meditation), Mudras (hand postures), Mantras (sound), Self Inquiry (Svadhyaya) and Pranayama (controlled breathing). I am grateful this has been included as it has been instrumental in getting me in the habit of having a daily yoga practice. I think a lot of yoga teachers neglect their own practice and I have been one of them, making excuses that I didn’t have time to get to a class or practice at home. Now it’s just second nature. I think it’s important to walk our talk by having a regular practice. Not only this, but this has taught me more about myself and what practices work well for me and which don’t. Not only that, but I now better understand all of the LifeForce yoga practices so that I can better prescribe them to my students.
One of the most common misconceptions with yoga is that you need a mat to practice it as you need to do asana. This is completely untrue! Asana (yoga poses) is only a small part of yoga. The second chapter of the Yoga Sutras is about the actual practice of yoga, yet no postures are included, only the word Asana described as taking a seat for Dyana (meditation). For the majority of my home practice I don’t use a mat, it’s more common for me to use my iphone for a guided meditation!
For this 40 day challenge I’ve also recorded how I’m feeling on the day as to which emotional state I’m in. For those of you who are not aware, in yoga philosophy there are 3 main emotional states (they can be broken down further to complicate matters but I won’t go into that here). These 3 states are Rajas (energetic, nervous excitement, anxious, motivated, manic, anxiety fuelled depression); Tamas (inertia, most forms of depression, lethargic, un-motivated, lacking energy); and Sattva (the ideal state). One of the goals in yoga is to achieve this Sattvic state so I use my yoga practice to try to achieve this balance and my daily practice depends on how I’m feeling at the time as to what I do.
For instance if I wake up in a slightly Tamasic state I might start off with stair step breath lying down to meet my mood then get out of the Tamasic state with a Rajasic practice of Breath of Joy, Bhastrika (bellows breath), backbends if I do asana and energising tones for Mantras (such as Lum, Vum, Yum). On the other hand, I’m often slightly Rajasic at bed time so I will meet that mood with some movement with something like breath to stimulate the nerves which involves a long holding of the breath (Khumbhaka) which is calming. I’ll then balance myself with some forward bends with cooling tones, Brahmari (Bee breath which causes the exhalation to be longer than the inhale which is calming too), Chandra Bheda (left nostril breathing) and maybe the LifeForce Yoga Chakra Clearing Meditation with cooling tones and then yoga Nidra. If my lower back is currently playing up due to Sciatica and /or Sacroiliac Joint Pain then those forward bends can also be hip opening ones to help ease that pain too (yin poses such as shoelace and square). This helps ensure a deep restful sleep for me and I’m sure my husband is happy as he doesn’t get disturbed by me tossing and turning during the night!
Many of these practices can be done in as little as 3 minutes without any props! I might often even divide it up so much that I’m doing something each hour! As sometimes I need something little throughout the day.
On my way over to Europe I managed to incorporate my yoga practice on the plane flights.
Obviously, I avoided using mantras as I didn’t think my fellow passengers would enjoy listening to me chanting and my partner would have been mortified! But I did manage to practice Yoga nidra (using a recording on my phone), Dirga Pranayama (yogic 3 part breath), Ujjayi Pranayam (some call this darth vader breath), Stair Step breath, Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing), Chandra Bheda (left nostril breathing) while lying on my right side, LifeForce Yoga Calm Strength Bhavana and some hip opening poses such as double pigeon (square in Yin) or Gomukhasana (shoelace), Kumbhaka (breath retention).
Obviously I didn’t feel that it was safe to practice Sirsasana (headstand) on the plane, but one of my yoga teachers is known to practice handstand on the plane when the air hostesses are asleep on international flights to help the lymphatic system! I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have a very strong practice when it comes to such asanas!
If I’m stuck in traffic (which is more common in Melbourne than in Canberra) I will often practice kumbhaka, Brahmari (bee breath), Dirga Pranayama (yogic 3 part breath) with Ujjayi to keep calm when I’m running late or just annoyed by the traffic!
I don’t do Pilates exercises every single day of the week, but I do them regularly as part of my
exercises regime, especially fundamental mat work exercises such as leg slides, bent knee fallouts and clams which you don’t need any equipment for and can be done even in my hotel room! My Pilates fundamental exercises is next on my list as part of a self directed 40 day challenge. I encourage you to start your own 40 day challenge to get into the habit of having a daily yoga practice! And if you fall of the wagon, it’s never too late to start again!
‘The ancient yogis understood that emotional and mental well-being were possible through yoga practices that did not require a mat, blocks, straps, eye pillows, or even cushions.’
Amy Weintraub – author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists; Effective Practice for Mood Management
If you’re interested in learning more about Lifeforce yoga, have a look at this website: