Posted by Thais Luciani

By Guest Blogger: Laura Large

You might be forgiven for thinking that to be a ‘real’ yogi your practice should look like all the images on social media …. That every practice should be an absolute oasis of blissful mindfulness, in a wonderfully serene space (preferably with essential oil lamps & mood lighting)... Oh, & obviously, every pose should be in its deepest expression & totally insta ready, just in case a camera happens to wander by… But, you’d be wrong. I can guarantee that no-one’s daily practice actually looks like that.

Photo: @ivanhoe_ami Yogi: @alexisavillegas Featured Print: Guarana

‘Real’ yoga is messy… Deliciously & gloriously messy… It’s an exploration, it’s imperfect, & it changes every single day… Some days, it means eagerly stepping onto your mat full of energy & passion for the practice, & some days it can mean dragging yourself there bodily… But, knowing you’ll feel better for it. And, that’s kind of where the ‘real’ yoga comes in… Going with the flow, rolling with the changes, and not being attached to your practice today, looking like the practice you had yesterday, or the practice you want tomorrow. To me, real yoga is taking each moment on the mat exactly as it is, & just being with it. It’s learning to be ok with coming face to face with your inner world in the most ‘up close & personal’ way. Stretching, moving, getting stronger, & more flexible is all awesome stuff, but if you’re thinking about what to have for tea, then you’re missing the core essence of what yoga is all about.

Every emotion under the sun can come up during your practice, so don’t feel like you’re doing something ‘wrong’ if you suddenly lose your inner zen, get mad, or want to cry… It really is ok! The thing is, your time on the mat is like a microcosm of your daily life. The stuff that comes up, and the emotions you struggle with during your practice, are most likely the same things that come up when life gets challenging. And this is where having some sort of daily practice can come in really useful… It becomes part of your routine, a ‘date’ to spend time with yourself, and, as the physical part becomes ‘hardwired’, a moving meditation… You get to ‘peel the layers’ away that you’ve built up around yourself, and really get to explore what’s going on inside. I would find myself getting irrationally angry, or frustrated (and sometimes still do!)... But, by using my time on the mat to accept the feeling, and let it go, I’ve been increasingly able to do the same thing when life throws up it’s normal, day to day, frustrations.

Photo: @ivanhoe_ami Yogi: @alexisavillegas Featured Print: Guarana

I practice Ashtanga yoga, 6 days a week (a rest day is important too!) which is a set series of movements…Yet, even though I’m doing the same postures every day, every practice is always different... Some days, there’s a TV on in the background, my body feels made of lead, as uncoordinated as a baby giraffe, and there are a million and one interruptions… Sometimes there’s blissful quiet, just the sound of my own breathing, and everything feels fluid and full of ease… But, as long as your focus is on ‘what is, right now’ without judgment, and with acceptance, then it’s all ‘real’ yoga. Contrary to what your subconscious might tell you, as long as you approach it with the right mindset, there is no wrong way to do yoga… I used to have this vague feeling in the back of mind that at any moment the Yoga Police could show up, knock on my door, and shout at me if I was doing it ‘wrong’... Seeing as that didn’t happen, it began to dawn on me that as long as I was doing what was right for my body, at that moment, and at that time, then there was no way I could do it ‘wrong’. Getting on your mat to stretch for 10 minutes, and focusing on your breathing, is yoga... Flowing for an hour and challenging yourself with advanced postures, whilst listening to your breathing, is yoga too. Your practice is your practice, and it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s to be ‘real’ yoga, or for you to be a ‘real’ yogi. ‘Real’ yoga, no matter what it looks like, starts with an intention and grows into something that’s unique, that’s beautiful, and that’s yours.

Tips to get the most out of your practice

  1. No expectations - Don’t set yourself up to think you’ve failed! Every practice is valuable. Accept it for what it is each and every time, without putting pressure on yourself for it to look a certain way.
  2. Listen to your body - Some days you might want a hot and heavy practice, but you step on to your mat and your body just isn’t playing ball. That’s ok! Part of yoga is listening to what your body is telling you, not trying to impose your will on it.
  3. Take it back to the breath - One of the best tips I’ve ever had is to put everything in the breath… Any emotions that come up, any thoughts that threaten to go around and around… Take what you don’t need, stick it in your breath, and let it go.
  4. Stay in the present moment - Focus on where you are right here, right now. A pose might be coming up that brings up fear? Don’t spend half your practice thinking about it! Zero your attention to the sensations in your body, and your breath now…. That pose you don’t like won’t be half as bad! Promise!
  5. Make it feel special - Your practice is your time. Whether it’s having an altar set up, wearing a colorful pair of leggings, or playing your favorite music, do something that makes your practice feel like a treat and something that’s special to you.

About the Author

Laura Large is an Ashtanga Yoga Practitioner and Teacher, based in the UK, with a real love and passion for the practice. She also runs a Wellbeing centre where she works as a licensed Acupuncturist. Outside of her daily Ashtanga Vinyasa practice she loves playing creatively with poses and exploring hybrid postures and different variations - Arm balances are a real favorite! You can find her on Instagram where she hosts yoga challenges and shares tips and tutorials at @omniyogagirl