• sjstollery

The Benefits of Personal Practice

Updated: Jan 4, 2019

After morning Sadhana at Ramana's Garden, Rishikesh, India

My experience with the practice of yoga began many years ago, when I first moved to the UK in 2002. I began by attending a weekly class at a rented space in Cambridge, taught by the amazing Louise Palmer Masterson (who went on to found CamYoga, a chain of excellent yoga studios in Cambridge and surrounding villages). I mostly enjoyed the exercise and the similarities that yoga shared with dance as that had been my favourite physical-creative outlet growing up. But it was technical and required a level of dedication and passion to progress I didn’t feel at the time. I dabbled with different classes and teachers over the next few years, liking the idea of yoga more than the practice itself. Looking back, I realise I didn’t really understand the essence of yoga at all. At the time, it was simply another form of physical exercise.

A few years later, a very dear friend told me about Kundalini Yoga & Meditation – she said it was different to the Hatha yoga I had been practicing and it had changed her life. I was intrigued and found a teacher in Cambridge. After my first class I knew that a seed had been sewn – I had no idea what would grow out of it, I just knew that Kundalini Yoga was part of my future somehow. But Kundalini Yoga classes were very hard to find, the class in Cambridge a challenge for me to get to and yet I felt drawn to learn more about the practice.

And so it was in October 2014, I decided to train to become a Kundalini Yoga & Meditation teacher. Up to this point I had followed the odd DVD and sporadically meditated here and there but it wasn’t until I took on the training I began to practice regularly at home; a requirement of the course. Some of the things that had stopped me practicing at home before I started training were:

  • The belief that I didn’t have enough experience or know enough about yoga

  • Feeling like I didn’t know what to practice, when or how – what did practicing on my own actually look like?

  • The belief that I needed a teacher watching over me, making sure I was doing it all correctly all the time

  • The belief that my practice should resemble a full 90 min yoga class – which I did not have time for

Very soon after I began practicing at home, things changed. All the things that changed are too many to list here and the subject of another post but what I will say now is that what changed the most was my perception of yoga. Instead of being an exercise I fancied the idea of, it became like a best friend; it became a relationship. It became a source of comfort (and sometimes discomfort!), a container for insights to come to the surface about myself that changed my behaviour (for the better). Most importantly it became a tool – THE tool – for managing my wellbeing. I came to realise yoga is not something you do on a mat for 30 min a day, it is a deeper, enriched and ever-evolving relationship with yourself that truly begins the minute you commit to spending time with yourself.

It’s that simple and as soon as we make it more than that we risk creating the limitations that stop us from practicing on our own. Attending a class is still vital for progression, providing community and expanding our knowledge base. But the real gold, at least for me, comes through the constancy, silence and stillness that often happens at 10.42 pm on a Sunday night in my own living room.

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