A Personal Yoga Practice is King – Here’s Why!
Most people come to the mat in the hopes of achieving a goal in one form or another. Whether that’s to touch your toes or nailing that handstand, there is something external that’s driving your practice – at least in the beginning.
Yet we often leave our growth entirely in the hands of our teachers. How are you supposed to work towards your goal if you're not dictating the plan?
When you're just starting out, relying on your teacher is best. After all, it's important to get the right guidance. But once you have the fundamentals down, there's no reason why you can't start your own practice too. It's amazing what you can achieve when you practice on your own agenda.
It's not just for striving for your goals either. Self practice, or Sadhana, is a process for personal growth in all areas, and you'll find that your good work on the mat will often spread into the rest of your life. That's why cultivating a consistent personal practice is so powerful. You’ll reach your physical goals so much faster with a personal practice, but when you do, you may discover so much more.
What Sadhana Can do For You
If you’ve been going to classes for a while, you might be wondering what a personal practice has to offer you. You might ask: what could you possibly teach yourself, that a capable teacher can’t do better?
It’s a good question, and the draw of yoga classes is a clear one. Between the smell of incense, the soothing tones of your teacher, and the electricity of a group moving in harmony – the spiritual energy is palpable. But the real magic lies in a personal yoga practice.
Classes are great for learning the postures and methods, but for true development, you need the freedom to explore your own path. After all, yoga is an inward journey, is your class helping or hindering you with that?
As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois once said: “Yoga is an internal practice. The rest is just circus.”
Sadhana is so much more than merely practicing on your own, it’s a personal program for self-growth.
As your practice matures and develops past the beginner stages, you reach the point where you need to take responsibility for your own spiritual and personal growth. It’s part of embracing yoga as a lifestyle, rather than just an activity you do with your friends. True transformation comes from a committed practice, with intention and perseverance.
Personally, I love to think of it as a program. I have way more motivation to keep to a practice if i have something to work towards. Now, not everyone likes to set goals for their yoga practice, and that’s absolutely fine. Setting intentions can be just as powerful. I happen to do both. Working towards physical goals in my practice keeps me engaged, but practicing with the intention of becoming the best version of myself each day – that keeps me coming back.
So if you’re still interested in why you should build your own spiritual (and technically physical) program – read on.
Align Yourself with Your Goals
Sadhana is your personal practice, what do you want to get from it?
It could be a physical goal like being able to touch your toes, or maybe it’s an emotional one, like letting go of a past trauma. You can choose which aspect of yourself to work on, based on how you’d like to grow as a person.
Sadhguru, visionary yogi and mystic, tells us that “Sadhana is just a tool. The very word sadhana means a tool. It’s a tool to see that all the potential that a human being carries within himself, are fully exploited. That’s the reason for sadhana”.
With this in mind, the possibilities of your self-practice are endless.
You may already know exactly what you want to achieve, or you may need to dive a little deeper to discover what you really need. Being alone allows us to connect with the breath, at our own pace, not that of a class. Through our connection to our breath, and the stillness we find in a personal practice, we can connect with ourselves on a deeper level.
In theory this sounds great, but in practice, what might this feel like?
It's not necessarily some titanic shift (it's still just you in there), but as the stress and worries of your life subside, you may find clarity in your thoughts. We can use this time to identify the sticking points in our lives, and consider the best ways to move past them.
Once you've identified your needs and desires, you can set your intentions accordingly – and your practice will come to reflect that.
Make Your Practice Work for You
Each time you step onto the mat is a new adventure – led entirely by you.
You have the power to tailor your practice to your mood, your energy levels and your goals or intentions. It’s hard to understate just how powerful this can be. Practicing in line with your intentions and goals – rather than the general needs of a class – has the potential to massively accelerate your progression.
Create a plan that serves you best, by practicing asanas that you benefit most from. Whether that’s addressing your weaknesses (hello hamstrings), or indulging in long restorative poses after a tough workout, it's up to you.
Though taking responsibility for your practice means motivating yourself through the hard stuff too. It can be tempting to follow only what feels good (I’ve definitely considered staying in Child's Pose forever), but there is growth to be found in discomfort, and a balance to be struck.
That’s why sadhana – just like a personal training program – needs a drive and commitment to execute. It’s liberating to have the freedom to do whatever you want on the mat, but you must also cultivate the discipline to do what you need, in addition to what you want.
As You Grow, so Must Your Sadhana
When you get better at anything, your goals and needs evolve. The same is true of Sadhana.
Your flexibility may reach limits, but your personal growth never will.
This comes hand-in-hand with an increased awareness of yourself. As you grow, so does your awareness, and in-turn, your ability to assess yourself accurately strengthens. Creating a positive reinforcement loop that identifies paths for growth, then drives them.
This manifests in your physical practice in ways that allow you more creative freedom. As your practice matures, and your confidence increases, you can begin to offload some of the more rigid patterns of movement. You can start to tap into what your body really wants in the moment, and run with it.
As you progress in your sadhana, your spiritual goals will evolve too. Your relationship with your practice may become something very different to what you started with. Many people fall in love with the process as they come to embody their intentions.
Take Your Good Work off the Mat
The ultimate goal of all the physical and spiritual work in your practice, is to bring it into your everyday life.
We live in a constantly changing world, and if we’re not growing then we’re stagnating. The small commitment of coming back to the mat each day, cultivates a growth mindset that expands far beyond the mat. The more we practice, the more we open-up – physically and spiritually.
Each day is a new opportunity for growth, now is the time to start your practice!