Adapting your Yoga practice to lockdown
Most of us are finding that our lives have changed dramatically over the last few weeks. We are all trying to find a new rhythm and make use of this time in a positive way. You may well find at some point over the next few weeks that your relationship with your Yoga practice changes:
You may find that your practice has become a bit stale due to a longer than usual gap between lessons and you need some extra challenge, some progression. You may be finding that the time you use to practice is no longer working for you and another time of day would be better. You may find that you haven’t been able to practice at all.
Don’t worry, I am here on Skype / WhatsApp for a short review session and if that isn’t practical I offer some ideas here for you to try to get yourself moving again:
1. I’m fed up with the same practice!
If you’ve had your practice for a few weeks already and now no prospect of a face to face lesson for the foreseeable future you may be finding it less effective and you may be losing motivation. This is normal! A Personal practice does have a limited shelf life and needs to grow with you. Here are two suggestions for developing your practice that you can experiment with yourself, providing you have no specific issues that need extra support:
I. The Breath. Use a ticking clock or a metronome (you can get an app on your phone) and use it to figure out your breath length, both inhale and exhale. Take some time at the start of your practice to make sure you have found a comfortable rhythm and are using the sound the breath makes in the throat (Ujjayi breath) to monitor the continuity within each breath. This active breath should be longer than your natural breath but not so forceful that you cannot keep it up. The exhalation needs to be at least as long as the inhalation.
Check in with this during your practice: more energetic postures will tend to shorten it, simpler postures will allow it to be longer. Can you reduce the variation in the breath length throughout your practice? How quickly can you return to a rhythm in the transitions between postures? Can you work towards a longer breath e.g. from 4.4 to 4.6 or 6.6, or from 6.8 to 8.8? Remember that mastery of any Āsana is through mastery of the breath within the Āsana.
II. The Postures. If you can afford the time to make your practice longer you could increase the number of repetitions of each posture. For instance you could jump from 4’s to 6’s. I wouldn’t recommend doing this for your whole practice in one go, instead start with the most challenging postures, the peak of your practice. Then add in the preparatory postures, then if all is well include the descent / release stage of the practice.
This will make your practice up to half as long again, so spend at least a week at each stage and see what the effect is. This way you can always drop back to the previous stage if it has been too much too soon. Linked in with this is that the longer practice may require you to consider another time of day. See the next point…..
2. I was practicing in the morning but an afternoon or evening practice would work better right now (or vice versa).
If you want to switch the time of day you may want to switch around sections of your practice to link more effectively from what you were doing before and what you will be doing after your practice. As a guide, first thing in the morning the body needs more time to warm up and at the end of a morning practice you need to be ready to face the day; but for an afternoon or evening practice the body and mind have already been active for several hours and the practice needs to not leave you feeling wired and unable to sleep.
So, you may need to start more slowly in a morning practice and conversely need more time to wind down for an evening practice. This is something we can easily sort out in a short video call but if you want to take the initiative then have a play and see what happens!
3. I’m not practicing at all. Help!
If your practice seems impossible right now don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Talk to the people you live with and enlist their help in finding and protecting a time for you. Even just 10 minutes initially can be enough to get you started again. If you do just one thing then choose simple arm raising/lowering with the breath. Then move on to practicing a few lying postures in sequence: you can use the lying part of your full practice or some simple Pratikryasana such as leg raising (single leg or both legs from knees in to the chest), two foot support, Apanasana.
Build up slowly to your full practice, if you have been having lessons for a while you could try reverting to your very first practice and spend a few days on each version until you get back to your most current practice. Don’t be in a rush. This is Vinyasa Krama – an intelligent choice of steps to get you from one place to another. It is at the heart of the viniyoga of Yoga.
The key with all of these is not to change too much too quickly. I’m providing lots of options here and it can be tempting to go crazy! We want to make one change at a time, see how it settles over a couple of weeks then make another change. This way you can always roll back if anything isn’t working. Remember I am here! You can call me and we can meet virtually on Skype of WhatsApp and keep your practice relevant and appropriate to the new rhythms we are all trying to find.