Should my Yoga practice be the same every day? | Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga | Photography by Audrey Derell
Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga | Photography by Audrey Derell

We recommend that you find out what your practice is, traditionally that is with the guidance of a teacher who understands you and cares for you and wants your personal empowerment more than they want you in their Yoga group.

The idea is that you carefully follow that practice that you negotiate together. And when you are doing the practice it is a sacrament. In the Māori culture of my home country Aotearoa/New Zealand, they have word which is Taonga — it means sacred object or treasure. Your vinyasa is like that, it is sacred to you.

And your beloved teacher gave it to you.

Every day you do your practice within the context of your love-relationship with your friend, who is your teacher. A teacher is not someone you are getting knowledge from but someone whom you love, where there is actual affection between you. And so you do your practice and enjoy it because of that relationship.

Years ago in India, my teacher TKV Desikachar would say that you have to be very lucky in order to find a good teacher. Teachers who are willing to enter into actual friendship are extremely rare. But they do exist.

Most basically, the recommendation from the Yoga tradition is that everyone knows what their practice is and to just do it on a daily basis.

The pleasure of the practice is in the column of breath that moves from above to below; the pleasure of practice is in the union of opposites that reveals the source of opposites to the mind — the hridaya heart, from where the nurturing flow of life blooms as the whole body, is felt like a lotus flower unfurling from the chest.

Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

The Pleasure of the Breath

Know that the pleasure of practice is in the moving and breathing, and not in the variety of asana that you might attain or be distracted by. Even when you do move on to say more challenging asana, it is never at the expense of the breath — the column of giving and receiving is always the central feature.

In the meantime, you can experiment with placing longer breath ratios into the asana that you are doing as you get stronger. Your inhale, your exhale, and the retentions after inhale and exhale, can become longer and more challenging. You will find, even after just a few days or a few weeks, that your breath and body becomes much stronger and there is much greater capability in your system.

In general, your vinyasa can follow the traditional sequence in this order: standing, kneeling, lying down, inversions at the mid-point, then backbends on the abdominals, then twists, and seated forward bends, in that order. Your inversion is either headstand, shoulderstand, or legs on a chair — for most people headstand is too dangerous. Your asana practice is followed by savasana and then pranayama.

Now, that is quite a long practice, perhaps twenty-five minutes or more. Some of us may be doing less and that is fine — especially to begin with it is quite sufficient to do ten or fifteen minutes of standing, kneeling, lying down, maybe some forward bends, and then rest, and that’s it.

With your teacher, discuss when the best time for you to get your practice into your daily routine is. Ideally, morning practice is best because it sets up the conditions of Yoga for the whole day. During the day and in the evening are equally valid depending on your schedule. The magic of Yoga is felt when you practice daily. A short time every day is better than a longer time two or three times a week.

The tempo of your practice is steady and non-dramatic. It is your sober participation in the simple fact that your ordinary body, including your mind, is the power of the cosmos. And it is extraordinary how this body is functioning. It is beauty itself. The one thing you can depend upon is the beauty of existence. And you are that. No matter where you are in the world, you are the beauty.

We practice within the mood of “I am that.” And there is no demand for anything to happen, for anything to change, for any state to be attained. Yoga is not spiritual consumerism. But through your steady engagement of that which you are (the nurturing flow of life that spirals from the heart) then the gifts (the siddhis) of Yoga will be given spontaneously.

Dharana, for example, the ability to have the mind focus in a single direction with a clear intention, arises. You stop thinking about six things, six different people, and you can go to the one you want to be with.

And then the merge with that object of perception starts to occur. You become at one with the body, at one with the sun, at one with the life that is living the body. This is Dhyana, or meditation.

And then samadhi, the unquestionable oneness of reality comes. But it only comes through steady, actual, natural, and non-obsessive application of the practice.

Desikachar used to say, “When there are no issues around practice, then Yoga begins.” My line is that you should commit to doing your daily asana and pranayama just like you are unquestionably committed to brushing your teeth every day. Or to taking a shower. You don’t even need to think about. Wake up, brush your teeth, have a cup of tea, take a shower, and do your Yoga. And then let the day unfold from there. Let the intimacy with your body and breath set the tone for the entire day.

Then you are a Yogi.

Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga | Photograph by Audrey Derell
Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga | Photograph by Audrey Derell

*Learn the principles of Yoga as a whole-body spiritual discipline of pure pleasure and join monthly online calls with Mark Whitwell to find the practice that is right for you with the 8-week by-donation online immersion into personal practice.

Mark Whitwell

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Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell

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Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.