Home Practice

Have you established a home practice yet? No? Let me tell you why this is a great idea and what helps to set it up. It’s so much more than just move and stretch your muscles! Commitment to a home practice – ideally 6 days a week (I know…!)  is a commitment to self-discipline and part of a transformation into a healthy body and mind. It will be the start of something great, it will change you. And yes, the difficult part is showing up on the mat. The easy part is, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing and how long, as long as you’re practicing. Even this will change over time!

First things first – why it’s so damn good for you

  • You will develop a personal discipline, which won’t stop at your mat, but support you in all parts of your life
  • You will create a healthy habit, which might make you more aware of health in general
  • It will allow you to tune and play your own instrument: the body
  • It will soothe your soul, feed your spirit and make you a more efficient practitioner in the world
  • You will learn and appreciate to be alone

Bring it on – how you will succeed

  • Set a fix time that suits your daily schedule. Even if morning first thing is most efficient and recommended, it has to fit into your life so you can stick to it. Of course it can be different during the week and on the weekends! Whatever works for you.
  • Create an inspiring surrounding – if you have a spare room, decorate it to feel good there. If not, no problem at all, make it nice wherever you enroll your mat. Maybe a nice view out, you might want to light a candle, turn music on, diffuse essential oils, whatever it is that makes it inspiring for you, will make it easier.
  • Be committed to show up, no matter how long. Start easy. Define how many times a week and go from there. Even if everything inside tells you no no no, not today! Roll out your mat and practice.
  • There might be days you just sit down to breathe for 5 minutes. Alternatively, a 10 minutes meditation, maybe a 60 minutes asana practice. That’s great, job done.

Take it easy, but stick to your commitment! It is a huge step, but so worth it…. Go for it yogi! Remember, you don’t have to start at 100%, a step by step approach will help to slowly get used to it. Whenever you don’t manage to stick to your commitment, notice how this feels. Laugh and call it a day, you’re not supposed to be wonderwoman or superman 🙂

Is there a perfect mat?

Some of my students asked me to recommend a mat and after lots of bad buys, I know what I’m talking about. Having said that, I can of course only refer to those I tested and what’s even more important, I can only talk about MY needs. I have slightly clammy palms and that’s why I slip on most mats. Which is quite dangerous, I definitely need a mat with grip. Next to classical mats, I also tried these rags you put on top of a mat and the traditional Indian cotton rags, which I love, but nope, I was slipping.

Honestly I only know one mat, which is really 100% non slippery for me: Lululemon. Their mats are reversible, one side has this major grip that stops everything, no matter how much you sweat. No, I’m not paid for saying that! I use mine since many years now and they are still perfect for me. Same for the travel mat, I go nowhere without.

But hey, there are many mats I never tried, so if you are still looking for the perfekt match, this guide might be a helpful resource: https://www.reviews.com/best-yoga-mat/

If you are wondering if you even need a mat, check this post, I already wrote about it: https://tuneinyoga.com/2017/03/31/do-we-need-a-mat-to-practice/

As I found my perfect mat, I strongly believe there’s a perfect one for everybody, it just might not be the same! You will have to test yourself, even if  there are very useful guides and recommendations, finally they can only offer a preselection. It’s all up to you, your requirements and habits. Your mat is your home, make it a place you love to be!

Practice mindful

 „If you practice yoga to get better at practicing asana, you will quit.“

Of course we all want to get better and master certain postures. But Yogis, this happens automatically, you just need to show up, practice and do your best. Yoga is much more – I had a quite good teaching today.

I woke up this morning with a terrible headache. I could hardly get up and as it’s weekend, I allowed myself to stay a bit longer in bed. I had my lemon water, but the stabbing pain was still there. I practiced with the hope it might help. It was tough, not just due to the pain, but my full body was stiff and constantly asking for Shavasana.

All of a sudden I recognized that I mixed up the sequence, wrong order of what I’m used to practice each day. I stopped, that was crazy. And I had to laugh, I was distracted by thoughts and forgot where I was in the sequence. The more I practice mindfulness, the more I recognize what it means NOT to be in the present moment. I clearly wasn’t when I practiced and this affected my flow. Nothing major of course, but it made clear how easily it could lead to injuries when allowing the mind to wander.

I continued my practice with a better focus and my medicine was close – no, not Shavsana, but headstand. My bad headache was much better after turning upside down.

My practice today teached me about the importance of mindfulness. Practicing asanas was nothing but the means to an end. What happened today to me on the mat is happening off the mat exactly the same. Think about it. How often are your thoughts wandering and you’re not paying attention? Particularly when doing things you are used to, things that reached a state of routine or even automatism?

Commit to what you’re doing, fully and mindfully. And take your learnings from the mat off the mat.

The place to be

No no no, this isn’t a review of a stunning beach spot…! Sorry, come out of your dream yogi, back to life, back to the yoga blog.

Back to your mat. Your mat knows more about you than anyone else. Your mat knows all about your highs and downs, your success, your happiness, all your yippee yeah’s. Your mat knows all about your fears, your worries, your sadness, your failures.

Yes, your mat is well experienced in absorbing your tears. Your mat is your partner in crime, keeping your secrets, knowing all details about your progress.

Your mat is your friend. Pushing you to your limits, catch you when falling. Listening. Stop you when slipping.

Your mat is your dance floor, your bolster, your everything. Let’s honor our mats! Yogis, keep them clean, nourish them, love them!

Stillness

Is there a difference between stillness and meditation? Is it the same? Is it finickiness? Honestly, I don’t care, for me, there’s a difference, as I don’t have the same expectations when talking about stillness vs meditation. A different approach.

This is how I start my practice, and even if I don’t practice, I rarely miss this moment, my moment of stillness, my moment of deep connection, my moment of emptiness. It’s a readjustment for me, kinnda back to neutral.

This is how I practice stillness:

On my mat, going into childs pose, with my knees mat distance, big toes together. Allowing my hips to open, my ribcage to settle between my legs, my chest sinking down onto the mat. Couple of deep breaths, slow down, opening, letting go. Feeling pureness, just me, nothing else. All that comes to my mind is an animalistic sound, „ahhhhhhhhhh“….. a moment where it’s easy to eliminate any thoughts. It’s also a moment of honesty, I can just be myself and experience what’s going on with me. No matter what.

A perfect preparation to teach a class. A perfect way to start my practice, it feels neutralizing, I easily forget about the day, don’t care what’s on the schedule, just this moment, my practice. It’s magic.

Do we need a mat to practice?

No, we don’t. And sometimes I even prefer to practice without. So is it just good Marketing that we’re purchasing them and even need more than one? Nope, a mat has a lot of benefits (please do yourself a favor an get a proper one – yes they are expensive but worth it, depending on your requirements).

The most important reason is to protect us from injury. Wow, a mat ca do this? Absolutely, let me give you an example: I’ve got slightly sweaty hands and those who share this with me know what I’m talking about. Slipping on a mat can be quite dangerous, plus it keeps my mind busy to take care about a proper and safe stand instead of releasing in a posture.

Of course it’s also a welcome support for the knees and all those parts touching the ground. Honestly I also don’t want to know what’s going on there on the floor, such things as when it has been cleaned last time…. Just get my mat down and everything is fine. Well, don’t forget to clean your mat regularly!

There’s another aspect not to be underestimated: ‘my mat is my home’. A symbolical representation of the place, which makes your mind, body, heart and soul healthy and also in union. Where ever you place your mat, you’re home. It’s your safe place. A synonym for your practice. Untouchable for others, disrespectful to walk on a mat that is not yours. Even when I teach, I try to not touch the mats of my students, which is unfortunately not always possible when doing adjustments, however, I respect this as a very personal place.

Regardless of all the pros using a mat, go without from time to time. We should not be attached to it, as attachment is rather about holding and clinging, while we try to practice the art of letting go in yoga. It’s all a matter of a healthy balance – appreciate your mat, without becoming hooked on it.

Learnings from the mat

Let Go

What happens on the mat stays on the mat? Nope. We practice asanas, but we also practice acceptance, we practice letting go. We practice with our body, but we also practice to go internal. As body and mind work together, all physical work has a mental effect too. Like this moment, when all of a sudden or mind gets empty, we’re getting soft while keeping full stability within an asana and with this, all tension releases. It’s working the same way off the mat.

Love

When you practice yoga, it’s about you. There’s no competition. Is your neighbors’ acrobatics and surreal flexibility sparkling onto your mat? Well, that’s not about you. Look at it if you can’t resist, be happy about the show and go back to yourself. It doesn’t say anything about you. Avoid mirrors. Go internal and feel your body. Let yourself be guided by the voice of the teacher and by the aligning hands. Go internal and learn. It’s about you. It’s about accepting yourself with all your strengths, with all your limitations that moment. It’s called love.

Independence off the mat

On the mat you learn to be yourself. Off the mat it’s about integrating these learnings. Do you know this feeling of happiness compared with a huge uncertainness, when you’ve got something new? New within, new outside, it doesn’t matter. Instead of wearing it with a proud smile, all of a sudden we turn into a shy something. The self confident woman ask herself, did I do this right? But what the hell is right? Who is judging? Whatever is new that moment belongs to you. Is part of you, mirrors what that moment is inside of you. No matter if we’re talking about a blood-red lipstick or a new haircut. No matter if it’s about a new pair of fancy leggings or a new tattoo. Even changes that are internal count. They make us strong and same time sometimes uncertain and vulnerable when we show them first time.

Love and let go

Remember what you’re learning on the mat. It’s about you. Free yourself from dependency. Why is it so important what others think? Of course you’re flattered when your surrounding is sending kudos. Wow, you’re looking amazing! You look so happy! Awesome how you’re shining! We don’t want to hear things like, oh, that’s flashy… can you remove that?

Love and let go

Why so thin-skinned? Yeah, it’s all about harmony, isn’t it? It’s so much easier to go with the flow. Inconspicuous. Accepted. Belong to a group. This is where you feed your self confidence from. Get rid of it! It’s a false conclusion, as it only shows how your vis-à-vis operates. It’s not about you!

Maybe your friend is jealous. Maybe simply overstrained. Maybe it’s just not her or his taste. Maybe you developed into a certain direction, which is a different journey. Endless options. And finally the opinion or even judgement about your new whatever, is telling you something about that person, not about you. The more you provoke, the more you learn about that person.

Of course, there are others. Those that are on a similar path. Recently someone told me, your tattoos are so YOU. I loved that. It was not about like or dislike, this person looked at ME, without judging.

My conclusion: do what you want. Be YOU. It’s your story, your journey, your life. If it feels good, it is good. Trust yourself. Aim true. Connect with yourself, connect with your breath, as you do it on the mat. If any uncertainty arises: Love and let go. On the mat, off the mat.