How do I figure out what postures to do
in a personal practice?
BY MAGAZINE COO MARGO MAIER-MOUL
Of the various solutions I’ve run across and tried — dvds, sequences in books, magazines and the internet, transcribing a favorite class, streaming video on the web — they all share a common advantage: I don’t have to decide what postures to do.
They also share a common disadvantage: I don’t get to decide what postures to do.
What makes it yoga?
Following a dvd or written sequence works well if I’m in the let-someone-else-decide mood. But what do I do if I want to decide for myself? I wonder and worry about structuring a whole sequence, getting the right mix of standing and seated postures, how long to hold the poses.
Is there enough balance included? Where is the twist supposed to be? Is it OK to do this pose before that pose or is it supposed to be the other way, is it worth only doing 15 minutes? Should I warm up before doing a sun salutation, which postures are “best,” if I want to do a backbend isn’t there something I’m supposed to do to prepare? And on and on. I had countless unanswered questions.
Letting go of what should
My eventual solution to developing a home practice was in not answering any of those questions and instead doing something very simple: I give myself permission to do whatever posture occurs to me, and then I do the next thing I think of, and then the next, and I’m done when it occurs to me to be done.
I do my very best not to judge whether what I’m doing is “enough” or “real” or “correct.”
Freedom to be with what is
Some days my practice is a few sun salutations while I wait for water to boil and tea to steep (5-10 minutes). Some days I just warm up (15-30 minutes). Other days the whole structure is: warm up, standing stuff, floor stuff (60-90 minutes).
What’s satisfying about my practice is that it’s mine. In a typical warmup, sometimes cat-cow comes before stretching out my legs & hips, sometimes after (sometimes not at all). When I find myself wondering which one should come first, my experience is more cerebral and less satisfying. What’s best for me is spontaneously doing the one I feel like doing, without wasting any time on “should” or “right.”
It isn’t always inspired flow
Ideally, the feeling of what comes next is both relaxed and spontaneous, but it doesn’t always happen that way. In the beginning, there were open books or notes used for reference when inspiration seemed to run dry.
Sometimes there are lengthy pauses between postures. Occasionally I start a posture and then abruptly change my mind. It isn’t always inspired “flow.” But it is a practice that is born from whatever it is I’m feeling that day, in that moment.
I gave myself permission to have my very own very personal practice. I made it mine by doing exactly and only what I want, for however long feels right.
No judging, just yoga.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.