Yoga at home
I have been teaching Yoga for 15 years and one of the main goals I have for my students is for them to practice Yoga at home, I supply all the necessary information for anyone to develop a home Yoga practice, that can be handouts, audio files or CDs. There are 2 reasons for this, one is to help people improve their state of health (too often when we hear of long waiting times for A&E people on trollies we don’t mention our responsibility for our own health) and secondly to create a better more positive atmosphere in our community, research has shown that if a given amount of people is meditating in a certain area that the crime rates drop in that area, so if more of us were practicing Yoga at home we would create a better environment for us all.
For myself as a Yoga disciple home practice is essential, it would be hypocritical of me to be encouraging students to practice Yoga more than the evening class they attend if I wasn’t putting it into practice for myself. Traditionally we have 5 sadhanas (practices) these are
- Morning mantra
- Morning posture
- Afternoon Yoga Nidra
- Evening meditation
- Spiritual diary-mental bath
Each sadhana has specific benefits, the morning mantras consist of 3 mantras, the Mahamritjunjaya mantra (for physical healing), the Gayatri mantra (for mental clarity) and the Durga mantra (for solving life’s problems), each day begins with these 3 mantras immediately upon awakening before anything else.
The next sadhana is posture this is vital to maintain good physical health and it irons out any stress related problems such as bad backs, sore shoulders or any other stress related problems, one of my students told me that when he practiced this in the morning it was the equivalent of going to see his chiropractor. There is no doubt that regular posture practice helps to keep the body fit and healthy. The postures recommended for morning are Tadasana (palm tree), Tiryaka Tadasana (swaying Palm tree), Kati chakrasana (waist rotation) and 5 rounds of Sun Salutation, all these in combination ensure that all the muscle groups are stretched and worked. In total this sadhana takes up to 20 minutes to complete and it is recommended to lie for relaxation for up to 10 minutes after the stretching and count 27 deep breaths and to relax fully. This can be followed by breathing practices and a short meditation. I guarantee you that if you were to try this practice at least once you will feel amazing.
The next sadhana is when you get home from your work, this is important from the point of view that if you have had a shitty day that you don’t bring it into the home and throw it about, the practice is Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) .Yoga Nidra has amazing therapeutic qualities and anyone who has ever done it will tell you how lovely it is. Yoga Nidra is a really excellent technique for keeping stress levels down and it also helps with recovering good sleeping patterns. This can be done using a CD or you will find lots of Yoga Nidra on YouTube if you choose to use Yoga Nidra please find one that suits you or ask advice.
Evening meditation is next, there has been so much research done on the benefits of regular meditation that it would take a whole different articles to spell it out here but needless to say that meditation has a multitude of benefits here are some…
Muscles and joints relax: Although one usually thinks of the physical practices of yoga as being the ones that help to relax the muscles and joints of the body, the meditation practices help to do this as well. Many people have come into a Satyananda yoga nidra class physically tense and agitated, and found that at the end of only half an hour the physical tensions have disappeared. This, even though (and maybe because) the person was not told to relax physically during the practice.
Stress relief – the autonomic–endocrine axis: Meditation practices relieve stress. They have been scientifically proven to move the functioning of the body from the stress response of the sympathetic nervous system and endocrine glands – ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, to the relaxed parasympathetic nervous system – ‘rest and digest’ mechanism. In this way we become much more relaxed physically and mentally, thereby opening the horizons of our life and preventing so many of the illnesses that are caused by stress.
Body armour: Conflicts in the unconscious mind can cause tightening of certain related muscle groups in the body, affecting our posture and facial expression. It’s almost as if the body is symbolically protecting itself against possible threats from the cause of the mental conflict. Perceptive people can actually ‘read’ a person’s mental pain by the posture and facial expression. Wilhelm Reich called these tight areas ‘body armour’ and noted that when the cause in the unconscious mind is allowed to surface and is resolved, the tightening goes away. The meditation practices can do just this.
Physical illness: Much scientific research over the years has proved the benefits of meditation in helping relieve physical illness, and returning the person to health. This includes cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory diseases. Of course, meditation is designed to help us evolve to our highest potentials, and is really about wellness rather than illness. However, the same factors that are stopping us from realizing our full potentials are also causing stress and imbalances in our lives, and as a result cause most illness and disability. So meditation can help in therapy, and these illnesses are usually the most difficult to treat medically. (yogamag.net)
After your evening meditation just before bed it is time for the spiritual diary or you can call it the daily diary or whatever you want, this is a simple list of questions that we ask ourselves about our day gone past, it is a tool for self-development and self-improvement and helps us to shine a light on aspects of our lives that we would like to change or adjust so that our daily lives become more harmonious.
And finally the mental bath, this is a truly brilliant simple short mental practice, in the mental bath we sit quietly and recall the day in half-hours’ sections e.g. if we are going to bed at 11 we sit quietly and move back to 10.30 and recall what we were doing at that time, we recall how we felt or anything that helps us to recall that particular time from there we go back to 10pm and onto 9.30pm and so on right back to the time we woke up. It is an excellent means of dealing with the day’s stress and worries and ensures a good night’s sleep.
I would be crazy to expect any new student of Yoga to take all this on and even experienced students would find implementing these sadhanas a hard task, indeed it has taken me 15 years to develop the strength to incorporate these 5 sadhanas into my life but I know and I feel the many benefits of doing so.
What is recommended is to start with one practice and develop that so that it becomes a normal part of your day, choose whichever one you feel might be best for you and when that is established then choose another, what you are not to do is to try all of them fail at it and beat yourself up about it. If you have any questions about any of this, I am available to help you.