First of all, be loving to yourself as you do your yoga practice. Think of yoga as an exploration. It is a place to cultivate awareness, and that awareness of the self is your teacher in yoga. You can spread the awareness to the rest of your life, observing yourself in all situations as you do in yoga practice. In yoga class, your teacher is giving you points about alignment and how to move your body in the poses. Bring what you remembering what the teacher emphasizes to what you are paying attention to in yoga class. Lovingly correct your posture, and by this I mean bring it into greater alignment in the moment you are doing it. Awareness in the moment, right now, will bring you to the one pointed focus that yoga cultivates. It isn’t about where you are going, or where you have been. It is about right now. How does the pose feel? How is the shape of the posture compared to where you would like it to be? The comparison may use what your teacher has suggested as an ideal, however the comparison is really between you and you. The goal is to be the most present and aware you possibly can be in each moment of yoga practice. Now, those are good goals for life too. Can you notice the moment you are in, the now more fully? Can you bring more awareness to what is in the moment? Can you lovingly observe yourself and what you are doing?
There is a bit of a paradox in yoga practice that is similar to meditation. You should come to the practice with no outcome or goal in mind. The goal is the practice of doing and not expecting to get anywhere. It is more about allowing yourself time in your day to to “just be” instead of trying to get something done and over with, like many things on your To Do List. It is more in the experiencing than the finishing.
Sometimes you may need structure for your practice. The trick is to roll out your mat, preferably the same time every day, and get started. Even better, how about if you recall some poses you like before you start? Do a few poses you know and enjoy from having done in class or from a yoga video. Once you get practicing, you will remember other poses. The first five minutes of any yoga practice is the most challenging, with the hardest part being unrolling your yoga mat and stepping on to it! In fact, commit to simply doing this, standing there and see what happens. Another way to go is to use a yoga video or audio practice to guide through a practice. It helps to start with something that you know, or is your level of experience, and that interests you.
I have been practicing yoga for 30 years, and still have a hard time doing the first step every day. I really love Shiva Rea’s audio CDs such as Yoga Sanctuary. which has different tracks for practicing a flow of yoga poses. There are days when I feel less energetic, so I go for more restful yoga tracks such as those on the Lunar Yoga CD. On more energetic days, I will do Solar Yoga, the other CD in this set. I may be interested in backbends, in forward bends or maybe a vinyasa sequence. I can pick and choose the tracks, and I like to end with some a guided relaxation at the end. Since I have several of Shiva Rea’s CDs. Drops of Nectar, more of a guided meditation and relaxation. Yoga Chant has some backbends I love when I am in the mood, and Yoga Sanctuary gives me vinyasa similar to what my yoga class offers. I find it valuable to listen to a guided practice to give me structure at home.
Even though I am have guidance from a teacher talking me through, I have to remember to listen to my own body doing the pose. I have to respect my limitations at the same time as push myself so I am bringing intention, awareness, and focus to the posture. Yoga is sometimes an effortless effort, the balance point of doing and not-doing.
How to be a good yoga teacher to yourself? Practice. Practice daily, even if it is a short practice. You should come away from a yoga practice with a feeling of having learned something with your awareness and body as a teacher. Sometimes it will be about the body, and other times it will be about life or your own life. You are likely to reap the benefits of yoga the more regular you practice. Two benefits that I love are feeling better in my body and feeling more calm in my mind.
I have less pain when I do more yoga. I feel calmer throughout the day. Ultimately, yoga isn’t just doing poses. Yoga is something that permeates your life, and it does so in a way that brings wholeness and connection to the rest of what you do and who you are.