The importance of intention and approach, or the “why” and “how”.
While I may not be an expert or a yoga teacher (yet), we all have something we can learn from each other. I think it’s only fair to share the wisdom that supported me and my practice.
When I made the conscious decision to step back into my yoga and meditation practice, there was a multitude of reasons besides them being much-loved hobbies of mine. They had both provided a sanctuary for me when I needed them and a place of abundant knowledge.
Reasons my practice suffered:
- My old approach was stale and unhelpful.
- I was trying too hard.
- I wasn’t clear on my intentions.
- I was trying too many techniques I was excited about (mainly in my meditation), resulting in being overwhelmed and discouraged.
- I was “doing”, as opposed to “practising”.
Needing a new approach, I decided to build from the ground up again with the support of the foundations I had been building over the past year and a bit.
Step number 1: Drop all preconceptions
If it’s only one thing you take away from this article, it should be the wise words of Adriene Mishler, “forget what you think you know about yoga” and meditation. Whether you are a beginner or advanced, getting caught up in what you “think” yoga and meditation is “supposed to be” or what it’s “supposed to look like” will set you up for disappointment and frustration and a false sense of the deeper concepts. Forget what you “think” you know and approach your practice with an open mind. This is when you truly start to learn not only the benefits but often something deeper about yourself and your own experience.
Step number 2: The “Why” – setting your intentions.
For me, I needed to get clear on what my intentions were. Why was I doing this? What was my purpose? This is always personal to the individual. In my case, my intentions, or the “why” were:
- To connect with my breath and my body. Why? Because I felt so disconnected from the essence of who I am and my experience through the disconnection of my mind, body, and breath.
- To learn something new every day from my practice. Why? Because I wanted to expand my understanding about myself and my practice and move out of this stagnancey in which I was stuck.
- To be completely and utterly honest with me, my needs, and whatever I’m experiencing. Why? Because I was resisting my truth. I was making lame excuses for myself. I was just not being true to who I am in my everyday life and I could feel the damage accumulating through my lack of honesty with myself.
These were the three most important aspects to me and my situation. I needed to get back in touch with my core values.
Step 3: The “How”: My approach to materialising on the “why”
I needed to strip everything right back and make the beginning of this process as simple and as straightforward as possible for myself while also allowing for flexibility. This way, I could build up my practice, add, or change to suit my needs when and if necessary. Life is every changing and sometimes you gotta roll with the punches.
For my yoga practice, I retook a 30-day journey I had completed earlier this year: Breath, a 30-day yoga journey conducted by Yoga With Adriene(free on youtube)(other teachers and programs are available). I chose this out of pure familiarity and trust from having completed it before and thoroughly enjoying it. This also supported my need for keeping things simple and straightforward, allowing myself to use familiarity as a base to branch off into new things. I also really identified with the theme which coincided with my intention No. 1: connection to breathe.
For my meditation practice, (keeping in mind that this is probably more on the intermediate level ability) I took a self-guided approach.
Note: if you are new to meditation and are not sure where to start, I will provide a post with what I’ve used to support my progress.
I built on the technique of observation paired with a breathing exercise I was familiar with, specifically alternate-nostril breathing. I chose this breathing exercise because of it’s calming affect on the nervous system, its stimulation of the left and right sides of the brain, and it requires you to focus on the task. Oh, and a bonus: it’s also a traditional pranayama technique. Using the InsightTimer, I began doing a 10-minute meditation split into 3 sections.
- I’d begin by spending 1 minute settling into my seat, observing my current state before moving on to the breathing exercise.
- Then, I’d begin the alternate-nostril breathing exercise for 3-5 minutes (depending on the day and how I felt, being honest about what I needed and what felt doable).
- Then I’d spend 7 or 5 minutes (respectively of the time spent on the breathing exercise) just sitting and observing my state of being post breathing exercise.
While this isn’t a be-all and end-all approach, it is one which worked for me. At the heart of my approach was the intention to adapt to my needs and to allow space for growth. My meditation and yoga practice has been growing steadily since I started this approach and I currently supplement my meditation with the Balance app due to its 365-day free trial. Not only has my practice grown at a rate that I feel proud of, but I also feel more connected with both my practice and myself. I’m better more open to techniques I’ve struggles with in the past and my visualisation practice is getting so much stronger. And, most of all, I’m finding more and more safety when returning to the breath.
Unfortunately, I am currently on a short break from practising due to illness and I genuinely miss it!
But, from me to you, try something different or try something with new approach and always be true to who you are. Give in to your uniqueness.
P.S. What’s funny is that I was led to this approach through my scattered and irregular practice beforehand on an evening when I sat down to meditate and focus on my breath. During this session, it occurred to me that my meditation was one of THE places to practice and observe the power of different breathing techniques and their effects on the body and the mind. Seems obvious but was genuinely a little breakthrough for me.