From Self-Isolation to Self-Practice
While Covid -19 is raging globally, terms such as “social distancing” and “self isolation” have not only become everyone’s reality but will likely become the new norm in the near future. And for those of us, for whom yoga is part of life, with the closing of yoga studios and gyms, we have resorted to self practice at home.
For many years as a yoga teacher I have often stressed that one’s yoga practice should eventually lead to a self practice. Such a self-practice does not necessarily mean one must practice alone at home; it is rather an inner awareness and sensitivity that allows one’s practice to be in tune with one’s current state of being, hence one is able to make adjustments and tailor one’s practice to meet this unique state of being because we are never the same person. Our activities, diet and sleep all influence our physical, physiological and conscious states.
A self-practice is a beginning of serious practice. Without others watching, our motivation for practice is purer, we confront ourselves, not other people’s opinions. We can truly consider what yoga is to us and design a practice that really takes us to our goals.
Each self-practice is unique and always different: because we are different in every moment, our physical, mental and emotional states greatly determine how our practice will be. Therefore a self-practice develops awareness that knows when a posture is complete(which might be different from practice to practice) and the sensibility that knows the “proper alignments” in each posture that are unique to each one of us.
Without a teacher and a group of practitioners in the room, to start a self-practice is not easy, it requires initiative and disciplines, certain self knowledge and re-organizing daily activities and creating a practice space at home.
Here are a few things to consider before you start:
Practice space: ideally you have a room dedicated to your practice, but if it is not possible then find a corner in your home, try to avoid high traffic areas such as hallways and if possible, avoid having to move furniture every time. Take some time to reorganize the space such as clearing up the clutter. Place something beautiful that elevates your state such as an orchid (orchids last much longer than cut flowers). Treat this space with reverence, you want to build good energy around it, and if possible, reserve the space only for practice. Ideally your practice should face east.
Length of practice: If you consider yoga part of your life then don’t rush, think long term and sustainability. Don’t plan on practicing 3 hours a day especially if you are new to self-practice, you might be able to do it for a few days but soon you will begin to find excuses to quit. My suggestion will be a short practice, very short, so short that you cannot find excuses not to practice, perhaps begin with 15 mins and you can always extend or shorten it as you go.
What to practice? You can practice anything, just stay safe! Persistence is the key to success so avoid practice that risks injury. If you believe Yoga can bring you good health then you would want to pay attention more to your physiology such as heart rate, blood pressure and nervous system throughout the practice. There are a lot of benefits to build muscular strength and joint flexibility but this should be balanced by a calmed and relaxed nervous system with lowered heart rate and blood pressure, so healing and rejuvenation can take place.
These days since the best we can do is to self isolate, why not take the opportunity to get familiar with ourselves through a sustainable and beneficial self-practice? Self-practice is not a compromised version of group classes with your favorite teachers, but a practice that surely going to take your yoga practice to a new level.
The impact of corona virus Covid-19 to the world is beyond measures, while we are deprived of our familiar lifestyle and forced to self-isolate, some suffer great loss in their investments and jobs and some have lost their lives fighting the virus. For a moment we seem to realize the superficiality of our apparent differences: political views, religions or our races, but we are in fact on the same boat. Covid-19 has brought us together in a most unexpected and painful way.
And with the disruption of industrial and commercial activities and reduced frequency of all means of travel, we see how quickly our environment has bounced back and showed incredible improvement…
If we should go through and survive this disaster, let us make sure we learn our lessons.