As Joanne Ewen and Frankie Culpin, senior Meadowlark vinyasa flow teachers, prepare to teach their 45-hour Vinyasa Flow Training weekends, they reflect and give advice on creating, developing and sustaining a regular yoga practice.
One of the beautiful benefits of the physical practice of yoga is that, with care and attention, you can practice for a lifetime. It can support and nourish you, no matter what is happening in your life, through any number of physical, emotional, and circumstantial changes. If you approach it with care and compassion, your practice can grow and evolve with you over the course of your lifetime.
“As you age, your understanding of asana becomes more sophisticated. You move from working on the external alignment and mechanics of the pose to refining the inner actions to finally just being in the asana,” says Iyengar Yoga teacher, Marla Apt. “Ultimately, your years of practice and familiarity with each asana allow the poses to serve you at the times when you need them the most.”
However, if you want to try and support a practice over a long period of time, you cannot expect your body to work at the same level and have the same energy levels throughout the months and years of your life. It can therefore help to have a plan or a ‘go to’ sequence for your personal practice. Your plan can be adapted and changed depending on where you are with your practice. For example, a simple plan could be as follows: –
- Plan for a Long Practice – This can be for the days you have strong energy or have the time to spend on your mat. It can be when you play with your most challenging asana, or just when you have more time to explore.
- Plan for a Medium Practice – your ‘go to’ practice where you do a set amount or a certain part of a sequence. It’s a manageable and balanced session which can fit around your standard day.
- Plan for a Short Practice – a short simple session that you can do when you do not have a lot of time, know you have a busy day ahead or you need to save the energy for your commitments later in the day.
This practice planning is focused around a self-practice. If you do not have a self-practice already and always go to classes, this may be a simple way to start to introduce one. You can use the idea of long, medium and short sequences but replace one for attending a class. For example, your long practice can be when you go to classes at your studio and you can supplement your studio classes with self-practices, medium or short.
Alternatives to Vinyasa
What about the days when you step on your mat and you feel exhausted and stiff? This is a time to have a plan for an alternative practice. Over the duration of our Vinyasa Training weekends, we will introduce you to the options that you can explore to replace or supplement a Vinyasa practice. The following alternative practices can support you and keep you practicing during different periods of your life:-
The above practices can be a great way to continue a practice during various times in your life, such as:
- Dealing with injury
- Low energy days
- Menstrual Cycles
- New moon/full moon
Simple Ideas for Sequencing
- Pay attention to the quality of each movement. Instead of moving quickly, slow movements down.
- Experiment with adding spontaneous movement within the transitions of the poses. For example, instead of pressing immediately into Cobra Pose, try circling your shoulders back and swaying side to side, check in with your neck with gentle movements.
- Slow all your movements and transitions and take more breaths to explore.
- Sequence without the goal focus. Take out the drive to move towards a peak pose or to achieve a certain feeling or sensation.
- Set the mood and/or intention. Set the scene with/without music, lights or even change the time of day you practice.
- Try and keep the sound of your breath a little quieter or softer. Be mindful that a powerful Ujjayi Pranayama may be too over-heating or stimulating for this type of practice.
- Experiment with props to support your postures.
- Pranayama-Nadi Shodhana / Alternate Nostril Breathing. This is a simple and powerful balancing breath. It helps harmonise the left and right side of the brain, the sun and moon, the masculine and feminine.
Find more information on the 45-Hr Vinyasa Yoga Training here.