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Keep calm and do Yoga: how to start a home practice

By Indira Das-Gupta

Make no mistake, we are living in unprecedented times. Even just a week ago many of us probably still didn't appreciate how dramatically the covid-19 epidemic would change life as we know it. Certainly this time last week I had no idea that I would feel compelled to close the studio. The truth is that now, more than ever, we need to try and find some kind of inner peace and calm to help us navigate our way through the challenges that lie ahead.


As a studio we will be offering online classes and keeping in touch to offer you tips and advice. But one way you can really help yourself stay sane is by starting a home practice. I know that the very idea probably fills many of you with dread. I get it, I really do. But this needn't be as daunting as it may seem.


One of the biggest mistakes people make when they think about starting a home practice, or Sadhana as it's known in Yoga, is that they feel they have to try and recreate what they do at the studio. You really don't!


If you have the confidence and experience to pretty much replicate what you would do in a Yoga class then go for it, but the likelihood is that you don't. So start small and build it up. Often the hardest part is just rolling out your mat. Don't have a mat? No problem, you could use a towel or just do it directly on your carpet or floor. Come in to a comfortable seated position, no it doesn't have to be cross legged, close your eyes and then just start paying attention to your breath. Congratulations, you are now doing Yoga!


You could stay here for a few minutes in silence, just continuing to observe your breath, or you could come onto all fours and do a bit of a cat/cow or other warm up stretches like circling the hips, and then maybe try a few Sun Salutations. Maybe then you could try a few standing poses like Trikonasana or Warrior II and Tree, perhaps some back bends, a twist, and finish off with a calming seated forward fold. If you are not sure if you are doing it right, don't worry! Just try to move mindfully, connect to the breath and do the best you can, that's all any of us can do at the end of the day. The point is to just try and do something - something is always going to be better than nothing.


Your practice should be something you look forward to and enjoy, not dread. If you set yourself the goal of mastering handstand or some fancy arm balances in a week, you're going to feel disappointed in yourself when you don't. That doesn't mean you shouldn't work towards these poses, just do it because you want to, not because you feel you should. Your practice will vary from day to day depending on so many factors such as your energy levels and state of mind. In truth my own personal practice probably wouldn't be that that exciting to watch, but I get so much out of it and the key thing is that I don't skip it.


Often one of the biggest hurdles is making the time and space for a personal practice. Some of us are suddenly going to find ourselves with much more time on our hands and maybe looking for ways to fill it. Others, such as those working for the emergency services or helping to feed the country are working flat out. Ironically it's often when we are most busy that we need our personal practice the most - even if it literally is just five minutes of mindful breathing before you head to work - it's still better than nothing.


Creating space for your practice is going to be tricky with the whole family at home. One option is to practice together. But it is going to be more essential than ever that we all have a little bit of me time now, so why not just get the kids to watch a movie so you can practice? If your kids are young, maybe you need to do it before they wake up or after they go to bed. Where there is a will there is a way. Trying to carve out 10 minutes each day for yourself might turn out to be the best investment you can make into your mental health in these crazy times. If you can do half an hour or more, great, but don't put pressure on yourself. Doing little and often will make a bigger difference than doing an hour once a week.


I will be sharing more tips and advice over the coming weeks. This is just intended to get you started. Personally, I have been practicing Yoga every day for 14 years. Yes sure there might be the odd occasion when I skip it, like Christmas Day for example. Although I actually did practice on Christmas Day come to think of it. I don't look for excuses to skip it because I know how much I get out of it, it keeps me sane and I'm a much nicer person to be around when I do it - ask my family! Maybe that's why they respect my need to do it. If I can inspire at least some of you to try and start a home practice that would be amazing. Please email me if you have any questions and I intend to set up a Facebook group where we can all support each other through these difficult times. As long as we can keep calm and do Yoga, we'll get through it.


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