What is a yoga practice?

Does the thought of practicing yoga make you feel anxious?

What image comes to mind when you think of yoga?

Is it getting up and down off the floor? Is it advanced poses like handstands or the splits? Is it having fancy leggings and an expensive mat? Is it being able to touch your toes? These are just some of the reasons why people don’t practice or start yoga (yes, lots of people have said these to me, mostly as soon as I say I’m a yoga teacher).

If you’re new to yoga, or even if you’re not you might think of this practice as purely physical – sun salutations and flowy movements or holding balances etc. This is an image of yoga that we’re shown on a daily basis however at times, especially during anxiety, this can be off putting; it can feel limiting if getting up and down from the floor is not accessible for you, or if you don’t have the space in your home (since we’re all staying at home now) to move around, or perhaps you don’t have a yoga mat. There are so many things that can feel totally anxiety provoking on top of the shared anxiety we have as a society right now.

However, yoga can be just as much about working on the mind as it is the body. Yoga can be just about the breath, yoga can be listening to a guided meditation, yoga can be mindfully walking, yoga can be stroking your cat/dog or whatever pet you have (you’ve heard of puppy yoga, right?). Yoga can be practiced sitting on a chair/lying in bed with minimal movement.

If the thought of taking part in a group class, taking the time to do yoga, having to make space for yoga, having to move when you can’t or don’t feel able to move, or the idea of yoga in general fills you with anxiety, here’s an exercise you can do to ease that anxiety about yoga today.

Have a think about what would feel good for you and not about what it should/shouldn’t look like (having to touch your toes to practice yoga is a myth btw!).

How would you like to practice yoga today?

I’d love to know what a tailored yoga session would feel and look like for you? Would it be a 5 minute practice, would it be sitting down, would it be standing, would it be with your eyes closed, would it be jumping around, would it be walking silently, would it be laughing out loud (laughing yoga is actually a thing), would it be listening to your favourite song and moving intuitively, would it be focusing on your breath, would it be singing, would it be sitting/walking/moving surrounded by nature. The possibilities are endless.

Write down a few things that would feel good for you to do? One of the best ways to overcome anxiety, is routine, so, block out some time in your days and decided to commit to doing the things you’ve written down. Even if it’s breathing for a few mins, it can be anything.

The next step is practicing being present for your chosen feel good thing. When we are present, we are practicing yoga.

What does it mean to be present?

Being present means to be in the moment – not thinking about the past or future. Really experiencing the here and now. It takes a little dedicated practice but the benefits are profound – you become more focused, more able to connect with other people, to listen and to learn, to feel, to know yourself and others, your intuition gets switched on and you learn to intuitively move, eat, drink, and be in a way that is authentic and in harmony with your mind and body.

Being present helps you feel calmer, it helps you see different perspectives, make different decisions and feel more grounded or to feel more uplifted.

How to bring that into what you have decided to do for your yoga practice?

Notice all the tiny details of what you’re doing, be curious about how it affects your senses – how it looks, smells, feels, sounds, or even tastes.

Your mind will want to take you back into a past experience or a future worry and that’s ok – it’s totally natural – when that happens practice bringing your mind back to what you are doing in the moment.

Are you moving your arms or stretching the sides of your body, are you circling your wrists while lying down, are you observing each step as you walk, are you listening intently to all the lyrics of a song, are you noticing your breath as it rises and falls in your body, are you sitting quietly etc? Whatever you’re doing try to be fully there and bring awareness to the finer details and how it feels.

Remember, this is a practice. There’s no being good or bad at something. It’s just you practicing. Allow it to be light hearted and maybe even fun, allow yourself to laugh if you wobble or fall, it’s ok. I wobble and fall ALL the time. If you get distracted that’s ok too, every distraction is an opportunity to strengthen your focus muscle.

Please let me know how you get on – what you’re chosen thing is and how you’re feeling when you practice your chosen thing.

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