Spend a moment answering these questions:
1) What do you want from your practice?
3) What difference will this make?
4) Why don't you just < ... > instead?
(put in something that is quicker, easier, more convenient etc.)
Once you're satisfied that you've been honest and thoughtful, set yourself a suitable practice target to stick with for a minimum of one month and see if the results fit alongside your answers.
If they don't, go back and rethink, or ask your teacher for guidance.
Yoga can be brilliantly effective at many things. It is helpful to know what you want from your efforts and apply the tools appropriately.
If your not sure you have a goal, and just enjoy the practice, that is absolutely fine, no grand goals required, but it can be helpful to have clarity on your aims and means.
Sometimes our the ego tells us our efforts are worth it but it can be a competitive exercise that we are pursuing without realising it. Our goals could well be met with less practice or another activity or more breath focus and meditation and less asana.
I know people who practice to get their back stronger but then avoid the safe back-strengthening exercises preferring to rest the area. Appropriate sometimes but at some point, you need to gain more stability in the back, and maintain it so that the problem doesn't re-emerge.
Let me know how you get on.
What does it mean to be 'good' at yoga?
That you can do many of the poses or techniques?
Perhaps that you have athletic prowess or a graceful and flexible body?
Maybe your face remains serene under duress?
That you get to your mat regularly no matter what?
Or maybe you have mental focus like a laser beam and an impressive breath?
The quality of your yoga practice can be viewed through the pursuits that you are able to master along the way
it can be viewed through the lens of the quality of care and attention that you bring to your practice.
Try bringing in more care and attention.
Sun salutations not required.
A common question, often when you are getting going with it. What's my response? Well it depends on your aims and needs and what other life commitments you already have. Regular is good, but more is not always better.
I practice yoga every morning, before the day gets going. Before the kids are awake and when the house is still relatively quiet. I get up and take to my mat or whatever space is available if I'm not at home. I take asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breathwork) and then sit in meditation. This is my foundation, and it feels essential with teenagers in the house. It's not a chore, I love it and miss it if I don't do it.
Is a weekly yoga practice enough
A weekly practice provides a regular, intimate contact with yourself, your health and wellbeing. Spending time with a close connection to your body, your breath, your mind, Moving your body in ways that support your physical and mental health, breathing well and allowing space for the mind to quieten.
Is daily yoga practice a good idea?
I encourage my students to take practice in between classes. I provide short practice handouts based on what we do in class, and offer advice to support them in developing their own home practice. This doesn't work for everyone, but even 10 minutes a day can be a brilliant addition to your day.
A daily practice is different to a weekly class. The daily practice is more intimate - you are there connecting with your body, breath and mind more often so the relationship with yourself becomes more refined. Your understanding of your body each day will develop, along with the understanding of your breath and mind and the thought patterns you begin to notice. I have a course that is set up to help you develop a regular home practice if this sounds appealing to you: Home practice course >
Is there such a thing as too much yoga practice?
I've certainly come across keen yoga practitioners who do a lot of yoga practice, sometimes several hours a day. Anything can be taken to extremes so of course that is true with yoga practice as well. Equally there are those who have a modest daily practice who find it invaluable. How much do you actually need to gain the benefits you seek. And how much is your ego telling you more is better or being competitive with yourself or others?
How will I know what suits me?
It might not be the quantity of the yoga techniques that is being practiced but perhaps what has been chosen to practice. A yoga teacher is a great resource to help you find a suitable practice. Ensure that the teacher you choose is experienced and isn't just about fitness and getting stronger and more flexible. There is more to yoga and more to life.
Anything is better than nothing, but too much might not be as helpful as you think...
You'll likely be familiar with how important breathing is to the practice of yoga.
It's a remarkably effective and direct way to leave behind your whirling mind, once you've become comfortable with it.
If you've not yet discovered the benefits of breath focus, you may wonder what all the fuss is about and decide that the usual everyday breathing we do all day long is sufficient.
Breath focus, or pranayama in Sanskrit, is a profound and accessible tool that can offer a way into a direct experience of yourself, your mind, body and breath. A bridge out of being lost in thought, lost in worries, day dreaming etc. You move beyond thinking about the breath and become able to simply experience the breath with full awareness. At first maybe just for micro-moments, but over time in more sustained ways.
If you've ever tried this, you might be thinking, easier said than done. But like many things that are worthwhile, it might take a bit of practice to get the hang of it.
12 count hand mudra
A technique we've been using in my yoga classes this term which can be hugely helpful, is the 12-count hand mudra. A brilliant device for accessing the breath awareness more fully. A simple hand gesture that once it is familiar enough is a great addition to your yoga toolkit.
Using the left hand turned up, the back of the hand resting on your thigh, you use the thumb to count round the 12 inner creases of each finger (inside the knuckles).
- Place the thumb on the first crease of your first finger, and take a breath (inhale and exhale).
- Then on the next breath, moving the thumb to the middle crease on the first finger.
- With 12 creases to count on your fingers, you move round in a spiral shape among the creases. With 12 movements of your thumb, 12 breaths, you finally reach the middle of your ring finger (as long as you didn't forget to move your thumb and remembered to only touch each finger crease once).
Simple but effective
It is similar to counting on beads, and serves the same purpose. It helps you move away from your thoughts, and for a moment leave behind your conceptual mind (counting after all is conceptual).
The counting has been migrated to the hand so the mind is free to experience the breath more directly and fully. You are able to count without thinking about counting. This technique, once it is practiced enough for it to be comfortable and easy, allows you to move out of thinking and come more fully into directly experiencing the breath and the sensations in your hands. From here, you can experience each breath and moment in a new way.
It is a simple idea. As a technique it doesn't have the glitter of a complex body shape or flow of movements, but in its simplicity lies its power.
So ... a challenge for you
- Week 1: Use the mudra everyday to learn it and become comfortable with it
- Week 2: Then se it every day with more subtlety and more proficiency and notice the difference.
Simply take 12 quiet breaths, counting on your hand. Notice what you experience when you do it, how it leaves you, and if this has any bearing on the rest of your day.
Enjoy and feel free to get in touch with questions.
Online yoga has firmly established itself in our lives. It offers brilliant benefits and enables more people than ever to discover yoga practice.
Yoga is so good, that even a a few asanas (postures) can quickly improve how you feel - as can other straightforward exercise forms. Anything is generally better than nothing, no matter what it is. The body likes to move.
So having an in-person yoga teacher isn't a pre-requisite to get started. 'Yoga with Adrienne' and those like her have a valuable and worthwhile place in a yoga practitioners tool kit.
Is in-person yoga different?
I teach a handful of people who I've never met in person, just via the screen. I know most of my online students from before we all went online, but a few have joined me along the way. Some of these have since met me for 121s or come to my studio for class from time to time so that I can get to know them and their practice further.
This is immensely helpful. Seeing them in-person helps the guidance be more tailored to them, and also helps me then picture what they are likely to be doing when they appear in their little box on the screen. I can anticipate the habits they are likely to accumulate if I see them from time to time.
If I haven't seen you in two years, I have very little to go on except where you were 2 years ago, and what you have fed back to me along the way. When I see you practice in your little box, I'm able to see if you have got the right end of the stick, I can pick up on a few cues, and so can trust that the basic benefits will be coming your way.
Then there are people I see regularly in-person. We chat, I see them practice and see the response in them, I see how they breathe, and hear the quality of their breath, which can be the most revealing part of someone's yoga practice and helps me provide more nuanced guidance. I can see where they benefit and where they struggle, notice their expressions or tension signs during practice, and help them practice with increasing skill.
Deepening a yoga pose
Yoga practice isn't just about accessing a posture, going 'further' in a pose, or developing physical prowess. The health benefits and physical development are rather wonderful and compelling side effects.
Often we aim to do 'more' with a pose or with the breath than is necessary. We continually 'try' and 'strive' in our practice. We want to go further, deeper, stronger, and so on. If we aren't trying, then what is the point?
Trying too hard
This accumulative 'trying' is perpetuated from the rest of our life, and seems to be an expectation of all our pursuits. If we aren't 'getting anywhere' then why bother? We 'try' all day long, pushing, striving, grasping, wanting in sometimes very subtle ways.
Our yoga practice doesn't have to be that. It can be a counter point to how we habitually find ourselves in the rest our life. It can become a place of skillfully noticing our habits and attitudes and then finding ways of 'letting go', of shedding and removing blocks, tensions, excess efforts. These are commonly blind spots that you can't see on your own, or at least it will likely take you much longer.
Yoga is as much about 'doing' something as it is about 'un-doing'. Offering ways of moving, breathing and sitting which are beyond a place of struggle and striving. Helping to find a place of greater freedom which might not be realised when you are seemingly getting along fine on their own with their screen as the guide. Finding qualities of space and freedom in your yoga practice can be revelatory.
Here's the thing with yoga... you can take practice for years and enjoy the immediate benefits of it helping you feel great. It provides so much - bringing us a comfort in our body, breath and mind so quickly. It provides so much strength, health and suppleness over time too. This is its power but also its sticking point. As we then might overlook its greatest potential. The developmental discipline, subtlety and insightful power of intimate yoga (in a space that doesn't involve a screen).
It awaits discovery for those who are curious.
Is every morning a beautiful morning?
It's grey, cold, drizzling in your face, and your getting wet. You didn't sleep well, you stubbed your toe, and you've got a job today that last time you did it, was tricky to say the least.
It's sunny, blue skies, birds are singing. Your well, you've got the day off, and you've just won the lottery.
Which do you prefer?
It depends on your frame of mind
Both mornings could be great, or both mornings could be dreadful, depending on the state of your mind. If our mind is clear and present who is to say that cold drizzle and a painful toe have any bearing on how your day unfolds or is experienced. You might even discover a song in your heart.
Yoga helps us look past our judgements
It is worth noting and querying our initial mental judgements on our day. Whether the day is going well or not.
Yoga practice helps us to find a more equanimous viewpoint. Moving into our body steadily, breathing slowly and mindfully, settling the thoughts - taken on a regular basis this can help us to react less to our immediate judgements and work with them more skillfully. It helps us take each day as it comes, and meet it with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. And with the right framing, each moment could be a treasure to be discovered.
Don't rely on the sunshine, your mood, or any other factors to decide how your day goes. If we were only happy when the day was going well, we (and those around us) are in for a bumpy ride. Find ways that help you reset your view and see what you might be missing. Noticing the beauty and joy, even in the face of drizzle and toe-pain, is definitely a skill worth cultivating. Rest assured, you'll need to deal with both at some point, especially if you live in Bristol.
Are you good at yoga?
Are you doing yoga wrong?
Is there a body position you struggle against?
Is there a breath technique which feels hard?
Who made up the rules of yoga anyway?
Rules are made up by people
Rules are made up by people. They are guidelines that probably helped someone (or many people) to gain more from their yoga practice, and so they keep being repeated and enforced in the hope that they will help you too.
They are often from a book and you don't really know if the person who wrote the book would stick to that rule if they knew what happened with you when you tried to follow it. Or the rule might simply be from a bossy person who likes to tell people what to do.
I do this to my kids quite often, enforce rules and boundaries, sometimes I'll seem bossy. And this has its place. Sometimes they just need to know where to start, and what to do, and how to do it. It is a good place to begin for them, and they like rules ... at first.
But at some point there is a conversation about the rule, when they are ready or when they feel like that rule isn't a great idea, and the rule may well be due for an update as a result of the discussion. Or they may just need to understand what underpins the rule helps it make more sense to them.
When to break the rules
Rules are there to be helpful. But rules are also there to be broken / updated / changed when they aren't working.
If you come up against a rule in yoga, use it as a springboard for your own enquiry into what it does for you, or what it doesn't do for you. This doesn't give you free reign to do what you like, discipline is a powerful tool in yoga and one that I have high regard for.
This is where teachers are really helpful. Someone more experienced at understanding this rule than you, with whom you can discuss it. Explore why the rule would be a helpful one for you to work with (or not). What might the rule offer that your not seeing from your viewpoint.
Be prepared for an outcome either way, or if the teacher doesn't know why the rule is there, and isn't able to explore it with you, then find someone more experienced who is.
Perhaps the rule is generally a good idea, or perhaps the insight you gain from the conversation and enquiry is perhaps more beneficial than the rule itself.
Some approaches to yoga teach the same sequence of postures and techniques that you learn, practice, develop, progress and refine over many years (e.g. Ashtanga Vinyasa).
Some yoga teachers change what is taught in every class (e.g. Vinyasa Flow can get very creative). There are benefits and pitfalls to each and of course it doesn't need to be one or the other ...
I teach a midline in my group classes, but with a definite pointer towards repetition and familiarity of postures, breathwork and technique. Hopefully leading you towards daily practice, repeating your personal home practice each day without variation unless there is a specific reason to adapt it.
Group yoga classes
My group classes follow a term of more or less the same practice - that is several weeks of the same class. There is some development of the poses over time, exploring variations or subtleties within the poses as they become increasingly familiar. Repetition in this way helps you move beyond the excitement of 'what are we going to do today?' to allow you to become more deeply involved in what and indeed how to practice and enable you to refine what you are doing and perhaps discover more subtlety and more spaciousness in the practice. Rather than inviting in exploration of what is new and exciting, removing the novelty to leave space for other aspects to emerge.
Pros and cons
Varying what is taught every couple of months supports you to encounter new postures, techniques and ways of practicing, learn how to do them in ways that suit you, and perhaps even discover that they are valuable to you and perhaps include in your own home practice.
Creative practice can be exhilarating and entertaining. Trying new things, exploring your body and breath, capturing your attention in new ways. This is particularly important for younger people who need the variety to keep them engaged and to keep them coming back to the practice. It can be satisfying in a way that is hugely important when you are embarking on your journey and need external motivation to keep going.
I practice almost the same thing every morning. However as with all elements in viniyoga, it is about picking the right tool for the job and teaching what is beneficial and appropriate to the person wanting to practice yoga.
What do you think?
Founded YogaSpace in 2009
More about Clara >