Before, during, and after your yoga teacher training you probably heard the phrase “you need a personal yoga practice.” Yoga teacher trainers typically drill this phrase into the heads of trainees because they know why it’s so important, and we’ll get to that momentarily.
The Struggle of Your Personal Yoga Practice
If you’re anything like me, having a personal yoga practice has always been a struggle. During, and even after my training, I tried setting parameters about what my personal practice had to look like: I had to be at home, my practice had to be at least an hour, I needed to feel a certain way after practicing, etc. etc. I got so frustrated with myself that I rewrote the “rules” and decided that for me, my personal practice needed to be in an actual yoga class. So, I started trying out different classes every week. At first, it worked! I was growing in my practice and I got the opportunity to try new poses, sequences, and transitions in each new class.
Everything with my practice was fine and dandy, until I started teaching a weekly class. After leading a few classes, I found that I was limited in what I was able to teach because I wasn’t exploring poses and movement on my own terms. I was allowing other teachers to guide my personal yoga practice and I was simply following their cues. I would do the poses and sequences in these classes and simply forget them afterwards. I felt great, but I wasn’t actually doing anything to deepen my teaching skills and learn more about anatomy and alignment (my niche). I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t do something about my process I would be doing myself, and my students, a disservice.
Why Your Personal Yoga Practice is Important
The reason yoga teacher trainers drill the personal practice concept into trainees is because it is within this personal practice that we find growth and dig deeper into poses, not only for ourselves, but for our students. If we have a consistent personal practice we can discover different muscles in our bodies, really think about how poses connect with one another, and start to be more creative about how we sequence classes. Sidenote: I personally don’t teach what I don’t practice because I think it can lead to injured students, especially if I’m not able to tell them which parts of their bodies to engage, or how they can safely transition in and out of a particular pose.)
As for my personal yoga practice, it still isn’t what I would like it to be, but it’s a start. I get on my mat for at least a half hour three times a week and just move how my body wants to move that day. Sometimes it’s vigorous, and sometimes it’s restorative, but from being consistent with my practice I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my teaching.
If you’re a teacher, or even a practitioner, what does your personal yoga practice look like? And if you don’t have a personal practice yet, what is stopping you from starting?