In a time where we are pulled in all different directions , we have lost alot of our discipline to be still in our own company and practice stillness in solitude. Taking time out to cultivate a self practice can help to instill a deeper connection with ourselves. Inspired by the wisdom from Patanjali’s yoga sutras, we speak with renowned Yoga teacher Claire Missingham about the value of cultivating a self practice to impart stillness and awareness in our lives. In particular, we discuss how having a self practice serves the process of self-inquiry (Svādhyāya स्वाध्याय)), a code of conduct in Patanjali’s sutras. By being more connected with our sense of self, we refine our ability to listen to our body and connect with others.
What is your daily self-practice routine?
I get up everyday at 4.30. My practice this morning consisted of 20 minutes of quiet gentle asana and then savasana where I just listen to my body. My practice this morning was just listening, no tech, no music, just listening. I heard a cat walk across the roof of the yoga studio, I heard the birds singing, I could hear in the way, way distance the first train of the morning which is 5.20am, and then I meditated for 20 minutes. I then wrote in my journal, planned my day and then the day’s started. But tomorrow, I may do 90 minutes of backbends. Basically, I practice everyday . What I’ve learnt over 20 years of practice is that practice means something very different every day. You have to go with the flow of what’s going on in your life.
How do you feel self practice serves our greater yoga practice?
It serves Swadhyaya which is the action of self study, one of the limbs of yoga. Self-study really is the place where you realise there’s always something more to be learned in yoga. The beauty is that when you commit to Swadhyaya, you learn how to look after yourself and everything that sustains you on a daily basis. It is a form of self-care and nourishment. You learn about your spiritual life and on a deeper level, you begin to learn what your true beliefs, and what your true ethics are.
How do you effectively cultivate a self practice?
It starts with discipline. You have to have a routine. I think routine and rituals are very healthy. You have to prepare for the next day the day before so you create your intention for the next day. There has to be a consistency with what you’re learning. You’re more likely to accomplish your task when you combine discipline with preparation. Whether it’s setting your alarm, preparing your clothes and your yoga mat, you’re less likely to say you can’t be bothered to go . Once you commit to something you will feel so good you committed to it. Most people will go ‘thank goodness I showed up on my mat’. You have to trust that you’re going to get to a better place afterwards.
What else can we incorporate into our self practice to strengthen it?
I recommend daily reading of the yoga scriptures and books. Also learning about complementary areas of your life, such as what you eat, nutrition, herbs and essential oils. Learning how to cook and nourish yourself is also a form of yoga sadhana. Journalling,writing and prayer also form my meditation practice. Having a sacred space with which to practice is important as well. Even if you have a very small space in your house, or even one corner of your room, have a puja or just a tiny table with three of things that are very spiritual or meaningful for you. These are areas of wellbeing that enhance our connection with our spiritual self.
What can we learn from yoga?
The thing yoga teaches us is how to act, react or cease impulses, whether they’re positive or negative. A lot of what yoga is teaches us is how to restrain the continual turnings of the mind. It’s like a lifestyle guide for the right now. It teaches us how to be disciplined with ourselves and see things as they really are. To live with non- comparison and not place our self worth on the opinions of others. It helps us find a balance within ourselves, and that’s what I try to get across in all my work.
Claire Missingham is a London based Vinyasa Flow teacher who leads inspirational yoga classes both in London and worldwide. Her teaching emphasis is on postural alignment, yogic philosophy and the integration of yoga principles into daily life, and she is passionate about promoting health, vitality and wellbeing through yoga. The Claire Missingham Teacher Training school has over 100 200 hour graduates of the highest calibre in Europe, and an advanced 300 hour programme is launching in 2014. You can practice with Claire at Triyoga in London every Friday, and at the workshops she presents worldwide. Check www.claireyoga.com and the Events tab of this page for more details. Her classes can also be found on online yoga platform Yoga Glo.