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  • Writer's pictureAtsuko

Establishing Your Yoga Sanctuary: The Importance of Personal Practice

Most of the classes I teach are general-level physical yoga with a mixture of styles, but when I practise at home, I always practise Ashtanga Yoga.

For those who are not familiar, Ashtanga Yoga is a strong form of Hatha Yoga, where we always follow the same sequence. If you do the full session, it takes about two hours. It is said there are six series progressively getting harder, but I only know up to the third series, so it may just be a myth!

When I initially learned Ashtanga Yoga, it was taught quite rigidly, and deviation from the sequence was frowned upon. However, now the culture has changed. Most Ashtanga teachers and students approach it with much more flexibility.

You might think I must always be full of energy to do Ashtanga, but most of the time, I do a shorter practice of one hour or even less. There are also days when I take it easy, skip energy-intensive poses, and focus more on breathing and relaxation. On other days, I may do the usual sequence but more slowly, with a different focus and intention.

I believe one of the biggest benefits of Ashtanga Yoga is the sequence. The postures are put in a certain order so that one posture prepares for another. Eventually, you learn the sequence by heart, which leads to self-practice.

Whether you practise Ashtanga Yoga or any other style of yoga, I want to emphasise that yoga is a skill to learn. When you attend a class, please try to ‘learn’ the postures. Not only the shapes but the ways to get in and out of them. Learn to go through the mental checklist of the cues yourself (breathing cues and also physical cues such as pulling the knees, relaxing the neck, etc.).

We all know it is beneficial to practise yoga regularly, ideally daily, but nobody can attend yoga classes every day! Of course, now we have online videos to practise along with, but it is still best if you can also practise without them.

We teachers want you to take the tools of yoga home and use them as they suit you. We want you to learn and familiarise yourself enough so that you can be flexible with it and modify it to your own needs and situations.

Yes, yoga is about being present. It is about enjoying each moment. But it is also about discipline and commitment. Eventually, you need to establish your own practice.

Making yoga a part of your life is like creating a safe refuge where you can always turn to, no matter what is going on in your life. And it is going to be a long, happy, and dependable relationship.

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yoga self practice crow pose

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