For the past many years, I have tried almost every possible workout video, gym and yoga class or exercise routine there is, all in search of a practice that would offer me the desired results, would be exciting and engaging enough to do over a long period of time and I could take anywhere with me. Quickly, I realized that what was lacking in the general exercise and yoga domain was the emphasis on a highly personalized routine – a routine that was initiated and designed by me, for me.
When we let someone else take control, a trainer, a friend or a yoga teacher, we often follow their instructions on how to move our bodies without being fully present. This practice leaves very little creative engagement on our end – a process often destined for a failure. In any creative endeavour, if you do not engage from the beginning and are not part of the project’s conception, chances are that you will loose interest very quickly and would never call the project your own.
The key is for you to initiate and design a routine of your own. We all have taken enough classes to have an understanding and knowledge of different poses and exercises, plus there are plenty of videos and instructions available online.
I began my practice by committing to five minutes every day. Yes, five minutes! Those five short minutes slowly but gradually increased to seven, ten, fifteen, twenty … before I knew it I was doing my little practice for 40 to 60 minutes every day. Yet, each day I promised myself that after five minutes I was free to go. The interesting thing is that once you allow yourself that freedom, the choice to walk away, you seldom do.
At first, I began by trying out different yoga movements and gradually I designed my own routine of standing, forward and back bending poses. You can easily label my practice as yoga, however, every other day I also add in a plank hold, lunges and I also incorporate some Pilates. I add and eliminate movements all the time as I have learned to listen – my practice became an on-going exploration and understanding of my body's capabilities and current limitations.
Today, my morning practice has become an irreplaceable part of my life routine – I can easily skip and go without it but my days will feel incomplete and not quite as happy as I know they could be.
HERE ARE MY TIPS ON HOW TO BEGIN A SIMPLE PRACTICE:
1. FIVE MINUTES. Commit to a daily practice of five minutes. You can set an alarm so that when the time is up you know you have the choice to walk away. I promise you that within days you will voluntarily add more time – your body and mind will start to crave your chosen movements and poses.
2. DESIGN YOUR PRACTICE. If you just want to stretch every day, then get up, get on your matt and do what your body is asking you to - stretch and bend however you like. If you would like to build a yoga practice then write down your goals and look up some videos or online tutorials on how to execute them. Remember, when you practice on your own you don’t want to do anything crazy and hurt yourself … start small. I rarely do any poses or exercise that I detest – if I do, I know that I will not return to the matt the next day. I noticed that over time, as I gained more flexibility and muscles mass, the exercise that I thought I would never let into my routine somehow get easier and more pleasant.
3. DO NOT BUY PROPS. I have found that buying the latest exercise or yoga prop hinders my desire to use that exact object for longer than a week. Begin your routine and if few weeks down the road you feel that you can really use a certain prop, then go and buy it – the purchase will be driven by a genuine need for that object. I have reduced my routine props to just three – a yoga matt, a block and an exercise band. There is plenty of weight on my body to use for certain exercises so I never feel like I need any other props, weights or machines.
4. PLAN AHEAD. In order to accommodate this new routine, you need to plan ahead and alter your daily schedule. You may have to wake up earlier or go to bed earlier – I usually go to bed earlier and wake up before everyone else in the house so I can do my practice uninterrupted. Prepare your routine space and matt the night before and place exercise your clothes next to your bed. Since I travel a lot, I always carry my matt with me on the plane – it is great conversational piece and I have never had any problems taking it on board. I even bring it places where I know there would be matts and props as there is something about my matt that goes hand-in-hand with my own practice.
5. BE KIND. If you wake up and absolutely dread the thought of following your routine, then don’t do it – however, you need to learn to distinguish between your body’s need for a break and your brain telling you not to exercise. I usually take a day, sometimes two, off every week – once I have taken a break, I usually cannot wait to get back on the matt.