One of the great benefits of having a regular yoga practice is that I know I will have some dedicated “me” time, each week. This month, as we consider how to make time, maybe reflect on how creating time to regularly practice yoga is a way of putting yourself – you and your health – first.
When I lived in London I used to take a regular yoga class at my local gym on a Tuesday evening. I would race out of work, run for the tube then the train, do some work on the train, walk to my house as fast as I could, change clothes and rush off to the gym, arriving at my yoga class stressed and head in a whirl. I would dash into the room and roll out my mat in a whoosh. Then I would lie down, give a really deep sigh, close my eyes and close out all the other women and men, giving myself a few moments of peace. By the end of the 60 minute class (which always included that my favourite part of the class called “savasana”, rest!), I left feeling much calmer and more present.
When I first took up yoga it felt like I had added another item onto an ever increasing “to do” list. London life was so busy, running around with work, meeting friends, renovating the house and studying for a Masters degree. I had to keep reminding myself to prioritise regular yoga classes, feeling like I was wasting time that could be better spent crossing off some of those items on the “to do” list. As the months and years increased, I kept going to that class, and added other classes into my week. With this regular practice I came to realise that the sixty minutes that I spent in a yoga class helped me to reset myself. My mind became a little bit calmer, and when my mind was calmer, time seemed to stretch itself a little more – so that I felt that I had more time to do things. I found that I could focus better, and I could make decisions more quickly (and they are often better decisions!).
Often when I teach one of my yoga classes here at La Crisalida Retreats I start by saying “this is your yoga class, and it is your time on your mat. There is nowhere else to be, nothing else to do, except to be present in your body. Let go of everything that happened before you arrived in the class and let go of all plans for activities that are coming after your class. Ignore the other people around you, there is nothing to compare. Be present on your mat. Be present in your body”. Next time you arrive at a your yoga class, take a moment to mentally shake off everything that has happened, or whatever you might be worrying about.
How do you centre yourself?
Now, when I attend a yoga class I usually aim to arrive a couple of minutes before the class begins and roll out my mat. I then settle myself into wide knee childs pose, eyes closed, hands next to my feet, and focus on my breathing. I find this is a great way to centre myself, to prepare myself for the class. As you wait for your next yoga class to begin, consider how you would like to start your practice. Take a moment to fully arrive on your mat and in your body.
Many teachers will open a class with some time for breathing, a body scan, or another technique to enable you to become present. Give it your full attention. It´s an important part of the class and you will reap great benefits from doing this.
Occasionally in my yoga classes in London, people would get up and leave the room before we started savasana – they had somewhere more important to be. However, yoga is more than asana work. Some people may find savasana difficult, because it is dedicated quiet time, where you allow your body and mind to rest – so it seems like it is competing directly with the “to do” list. Savasana is an important part of any yoga class, as it allows your body to assimilate all the asana work it has just done. Again, stay present, maybe focus on your breathing (read this months article “Five minute meditation”) and give yourself this quiet time. If you notice that your mind starts wandering “what am I going to make for dinner?”, or “I wonder if John fed the dogs” and so on, then as soon as you notice, imagine exhaling out that thought, to let it go. Come back to rest in the present.
New to yoga?
Everyone is different and the same applies to yoga – there are many different types of yoga and each teacher will have their own way of teaching. So, when you first start yoga we suggest that you explore different yoga classes in your local area – try different styles and different teachers until you find a style and a time of day that suits you and fits into your life. Here at La Crisalida Retreats in Alicante Spain, we offer different styles of yoga across the week, and we currently have five yoga teachers, all with their own backgrounds, training, style and approach. We all have in common a love for yoga, and have in our own ways, found yoga to be a healing and transformative practice.
So, next time you step onto your mat, take a moment to fully arrive. Close your eyes. Ground yourself, let go of all plans, musings, mind chatter and give yourself a gift of staying present for the whole class. Create time for yourself.