It’s that time of year when many people review and plan how to create optimal health in their daily lives. My question is, “Do you have a personal practice or routine that serves and supports you?”
Having come from a sports science and fitness background, I came across many people who were 23-hour couch potatoes. An hour at the gym was noble but many health goals were seemingly out of reach. By building a personal practice, we can connect to our routines through mindfulness and intention and, perhaps, begin to see the whole world as our own private yoga studio or gym.
When I first began practicing yoga, I’d show up to the class, do the practice and leave. At the time, that seemed to be meeting what I needed and expected from attending. I wouldn’t necessarily leave the class with a precious nugget that I was going to instill in my next week of intentional growth but would reflect on the class largely because of sore or aching muscles. My practice was the time I spent on my rectangular rubber mat.
Yet, something buried within was asking for more…it had been beckoning for quite some time to seek something meaningful, even spiritual, in life but I had yet to discover what that calling was. This began to change during my training to become a yoga teacher. We began to look at the ancient history and philosophy that much of yoga has as its foundation, and that flipped the switch – a way to connect to something deeper, yet practical, that would give me better skills at coping with my life.
A personal practice is what we do once we leave the larger environment of the class. It’s our solo journey through inner space and it’s completely personal; custom built by ourselves based on what feels right in our life in that moment. I have no idea as to what your personal practice should look like, but I can tell you what’s worked for me and offer some guidance about things such as consistency and understanding things that are non-negotiables (such as a daily contemplation practice), but that’s about as far as it goes. It’s something that we need to uncover for ourselves, and it can look completely different from someone else’s practice.
When asked about different personal practices, people have answered in a variety of ways ranging from “finding present moment awareness,” to “being flexible in how it can look each day,” and “making a consistent commitment to some aspect of it.” Does it need to include yoga poses? I don’t think so…it can, but that’s not what constitutes it being a practice. It might be something as singular as being kind: kinder to ourselves, to each other, and perhaps kinder to the planet. If that’s the case, what does that look like in practical terms?
So, if you lack clarity as to how to build a stronger personal practice, start by slowing down and set an intention of a daily connection to it and see where it takes you. And may we all find optimal health now and throughout the year!
Jayne Robertson is owner and instructor at Desert Yoga Therapy in Rancho Mirage. For more information, visit www.desertyogatherapy.com or call (760) 456.5160. [email protected]