By: Rhea Tomlinson (BMR-PT, BA)
Certified in Acupuncture & Dry Needling
RYT 200 hour
You want to start a daily yoga practice, but you are not sure where to start? Read this blog for tips on how to start your practice today!
Your daily yoga practice can include, but is not limited to:
- Postures (asana)
- Breath work (pranayama)
- Self-study (the conscious mind)
- Various levels of meditation (from conscious mind, to unconscious mind, to bliss body)
This practice can be as long as you want from ten minutes to an hour. It does not have to be a lengthy practice to be effective.
You can create your own sequences (as long as you have safe technique), go to a class, or follow YouTube videos.
There are many forms of breathing you can choose from, such as alternate nostril breathing, intercostal breathing, and kapalabhati/fire breathing. You can learn these from a qualified yoga instructor (which is highly recommended), or you can explore videos online and see what resonates with you. Breath work, when done effectively, has been shown to be highly effective for various issues in the current literature; decreasing anxiety, improving sleep, regulating blood pressure and swelling in the body, improving pelvic floor function, diaphragm and core muscle function and much more. Breath work can be an efficient way to ground you and may get you closer to your wellness goals faster than physical postures on their own.
Self-Study (conscious mind)
This can be reading or reflecting on anything that connects us to the higher self; reading yoga sutras, journaling, reflecting on the Yamas and Nyamas which are basically rules on how to conduct yourself as a good person, being both nonviolent and truthful.
Alternatively, you can familiarize yourself and follow Patanjali’s 8 fold path; Yamas (ethical disciplines), Niyamas (rules of conduct), Asanas (postures), Pranayamas (breath work), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi (bliss).
The 8 fold path basically sets out rules to conduct ourselves and live a meaningful life. It directs us to better understand our own nature and in turn understand others and the universe that connects us all.
This can be seed sounds of the universe such as the most commonly known sound “OM”. Each individual chakra has its own unique see sound; LAM, VAM, RAM, YAM, HAM, OM & OM (more to come on chakras and how stimulating each chakra can benefit you in future blog posts). You may chant a phrase or word (mantra) that resonates with you, or you can chant traditional Sanskrit (classic Hindi language). Traditionally and conventionally chanting is performed to become closer to “God” in various religions. Chanting has also been shown to have soothing benefits, which may help to decrease mental and emotional imbalances.
Meditation (conscious or unconscious mind or bliss body)
This practice can take five minutes to hours, and does not need to be a long practice to be effective. I recommend starting with five to ten minutes and lengthening your meditations from there as you become more comfortable. You can meditate on so many different things; the breath, the thoughts, the body, a mantra or affirmation, or a yoga nidra (sleep meditation). Meditation needs to be performed in your most comfortable position so you can concentrate. Such as a seated position on the floor, in a chair, or lying down on the floor. Pillows and props such as meditation bolsters are often used to improve comfort. Try to stay awake and present throughout the entire meditation. For many people, meditation is the most challenging aspect of yoga as most people have difficulty staying still or slowing down the busy “monkey” mind. That is normal, do not get discouraged! Meditation is often the fastest way to ground you and reduce our suffering over any of the other practices. Suffering can be seen physical, mental, emotional or spiritual (or multiple) issues that an individual is dealing with in their lives. Often if our mental or emotional state is out of balance, all other states will in turn be out of balance (i.e. depression may lead to physical pain symptoms such as lower back pain). Hence why working on our meditations can help to effect and balance all areas of our health and wellness (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual). Mindfulness/meditation studies have proven to be particularly beneficial for chronic pain symptoms, but has been shown to improve various kinds of pain and suffering in ones life (anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, acute pain symptoms, etc).
Things to Consider with your daily practice
- The purpose of daily sahdhana (spiritual practice), no matter how you do it or which practices you choose, is to create a regular connection with ourselves and to see our strengths and faults. Its purpose is to better understand ourselves to in turn better understand others.
- Let go of the idea you have to be “good” at the yoga practices. There is no perfect practice. Everyone (even your teacher) is learning everyday.
- Stay humble. Even the most enlightened yogi is still a student.
- Yoga sahdhna is not a religious practice, but you are welcome to incorporate your own religion whether that be Buddhist, Hindi, Christianity, etc into your meditative practices.
- After the practice thank yourself and the universe by saying “Namaste” “I bow to you”. To maintain the spiritual connection.
- These practices will help minimize our suffering. Even the happiest people have pain and suffering in their lives however big or small. Daily spiritual practice helps us deal with our suffering more efficiently.
- Start by incorporating one or all of these practices. Set aside time 5-7 days a week for your practice that consistently fits within your schedule.
- Your daily practice should be 4 – 6 weeks minimum commitment to be effective. You practice may be the same each day or it can change entirely every day.You can write down your reflections or sit down at the end and reflect on your practice.
My personal daily practice:
- Chanting OM x 3 to open the practice
- Breath work 5-10 minutes (alternatenostril breathing & slow kapalabhati)
- Postures; warm up with Sun salutations 5-10 and series of poses 20-45 min which alternate each practice depending on my mood and needs
- Meditation 10 min always changes; mantra (with prayer beads repeating 108 times, breath focus, thought focus, heart opening, chakra), sometimes led with a recording, sometimes self-led
- Self-study: reflecting for 2-3 days on a new yoga sutra
Reflecting on my weekly, monthly and annual personal goals (more on goal setting in future blog posts)
- Yoga Nidra mid-day or before bed (3x/wk) 10-45min led with a online recording
- Chanting OM x 1 to close the practice
If you have any questions in regard to this blog, please reach out to our amazing Zen team on our contacts page!
Written by owner/physiotherapist/yoga instructor Rhea Tomlinson. Rhea went to Goa, India to train in classical Ashtanga yoga in February 2015. Since returning, she has been teaching a variety of restorative and beginner flow classes in clinic and in private/corporate settings, as well as integrating yoga into her client’s physiotherapy home programming.
Her goal is to modify practices for each client to suite their unique needs, or injuries. Rhea’s began her studies in the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Foundations program (based in NYC) in January 2017.
She is currently working towards her 800 hour Yoga Therapist designation. Being a physiotherapist, Rhea plans to blend her trainings in a unique way to suite each client’s needs so they can reach wellness.