Back in the days when I lived and worked in yoga retreats, I was always ready for yoga. I lived in a very meditative, peaceful space where I was always immersed in yoga. Every day I’d wake up, drink a cup of hot water and lemon, and wander over to the yoga shala for meditation before yoga asana. I never felt the need to “prepare” for yoga because my lifestyle did it for me.
(If you've never attended a yoga retreat or are looking forward to planning your next, try these 3 Yoga Retreats to Refresh Your Soul and Renew Your Sense of Adventure.)
Fast forward a few years to a life where I juggle yoga teaching with other work and family commitments, living in the middle of a city. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. It’s so interesting, vibrant and stimulating. But honestly, if I manage to get myself to a yoga class, it’s already a victory, never mind finding myself there already in a “yogic” headspace.
If your life right now resembles more like mine today rather than the dreamy retreat lifestyle, read on and follow these five steps to make sure that you arrive on your yoga mat ready to practice.
5 Steps to Prepare for a Yoga Session
Well, firstly, planning is your friend. Feel reassured that you don’t need loads of time to get ready for yoga, but a bit of thinking ahead can make the difference between a smooth or stressful transition from life into yoga.
Nourish Your Body
Attend to the basics first. Have you eaten? Eating is not generally advised for one or two hours before you start yoga, but you don’t want to be fainting through your first Sun Salutation. Therefore, if it has been a long time since your last meal or you’re prone to low blood sugar, a light snack of some fruit or coconut water is infinitely preferable to passing out.
(For information on what a Sun Salutation is, read Wake Up and Salute the Sun.)
Plan Your Route
Secondly, plan your journey. This is easy enough if you’re practicing at home, but if you have any amount of distance to cover in order to get to yoga, check how long it should take to get there, and if possible, allow yourself double the amount of time. This means that unexpected traffic or last minute interruptions shouldn’t throw off your yoga plans altogether or stress you out on the way. And if you do arrive early, enjoy the opportunity to take a few precious mindful minutes before the class begins.
Change your clothes before class. If, like me, you spend most of your life in yoga leggings, it can be tempting to keep the same clothes you’ve been wearing all day on. But actually, the very act of putting on fresh, clean, comfortable clothes for yoga sends a clear message to your brain that this is different and you’re transitioning into a new stage of your day.
Set Up Your Space
Once you arrive at your class, get your mat set up, and as you move to sit on it, slow yourself right down. Start to tune into the way you are moving, bringing yourself into a mode of paying attention. Take some longer, deeper breaths, roll your shoulders and close your eyes. Allow yourself time to arrive, and adjust from “doing” into “being.”
Savor the Silence
Silence is key here. How often do we actually get the chance to be quiet and still, turning our thoughts inward? Give yourself this opportunity to clear space for what is to unfold.
Let this silence be the punctuation at the beginning and end of your yoga practice. After class, rather than dashing off to chat to your yoga friend, asking your teacher a question or calling your partner to tell them you’re coming home, rest a little longer in the silence. Allow all that you have done to quietly assimilate.
Arguably this is even more important than preparing yourself for yoga. How are you supporting yourself to absorb all the benefits of the practice afterward? Transition out of the practice with as much peace as you can.
(You can also try Taking Silence Breaks Throughout Your Day.)
Prepare to Feel the Peace
Prepare yourself thoroughly for yoga, and support yourself in the transition out of it and I promise you’ll feel the difference for a long time afterward -- hopefully until your next session!