Self Practice-  in praise of commitment.

Burra Show grounds

You would think, going to a popular yoga class with a great teacher, that the class would be full of yoga teachers every day, right?  But the reality is, most yoga teachers, and certainly all the dedicated ones, are yoga practitioners first… and being a devoted yoga practitioner means that you have a self or home practice, probably daily, often early or first thing in the morning. You can usually tell the teachers who don’t have a committed practice.

In saying this, self or home practice is in no way limited to yoga instructors- a home practice can be fit into almost any career or vocation. And anyone with a home practice can attest to the benefits it offers.

So what is it that sets home practice apart from going to class?

When you roll out your mat- at home or in a self practice space, it’s your practice… so you can decide what you want to focus on- the breath, a certain asana and the poses that open you up for it, movement of energy, commitment to a set sequence, mindful movement. You name it, it’s your practice!

There’s a whole lot less ego in the room- especially if you are alone. You find your mind stays on the mat and it’s far easier to maintain your focus when there’s not some mad bendy guy or super strong woman floating along on the mat next to you, so you won’t find yourself comparing your practice/body/strength/ new lycra pants to theirs and they in turn won’t compare themselves to you. Similarly, your ego won’t be tickled by the presence of a newbie in class- especially if you are also the teacher type. 🙂 Alone at home, or in a dark corner of a good, self practice space, it’s only your own ego you have to worry about. After a while, if you keep your focus steady on the breath or something else constant, even that should shut up for a bit.

In your own practice, you can explore certain poses at length, staying longer than a few breaths or doing the poses that might help you find depth or strength in the pose.

Along the same lines, you can explore some of the different aspects of yoga within a asana if you choose to hold it longer- the breath (pranayama), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (single pointed concentration), dhyana (meditation), or some of the kleshas (obstacles to yoga) such as attachment or aversion that arise in your favourite or most loathed asanas.

As self practice evolves over time, you really get to know your individual body/mind/self, and in time are far more able to accept that being.

Being faithful to something that’s not always easy- as self practice can sometimes be difficult to maintain-  gives you the sense that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

Here are some reasons that may encourage you to start a self practice regimen:

  • you can take it anywhere- all you need is a mat- in fact you might not even need that, a flat space is enough. ( The image above is from a campground / old show-grounds on the way to The Outback in South Australia- a perfect place for a morning practice while the kids played football, before a long day on the road )
  • you can choose a time that suits you- whatever your day involves
  • you can change that time to suit your schedule when something comes up – a sleepless night or day off for example
  • you can adapt the routine or emphasis of your practice to suit your changing needs- going to a strong yoga class when you have period pain might not be a great idea, or a yin class when you are full of excess energy or motivation
  • similarly, you can choose what kind of practice to do for the time of the day available for you- doing a strong, sweaty class with inversions and arm balances in the evening might not suit your constitution if you find it hard to sleep. Or a Yin or Restorative class in the morning might make you too relaxed and you find you can’t get anything done for the rest of the day 🙂
  • your Savasana can be as long as it is meant to be ( there’s some formula about 5 minutes of rest per 30 mins of asana- something sadly very rare in a class setting)

 

Self practice is the perfect adjunct to GOING to class, and I’m not suggesting you never practice in a group, led setting again. Regular classes are an awesome thing. A good yoga teacher will teach you something new every single time you go to class ( assuming you are attentive) – and every teacher will gift you with something different. Self practice is time to consolidate what you learn in class and have your body learn what your mind has taken in ( your practice of your theory), and to learn things for yourself.

Together, self practice and led practice make for authentic yoga.  It’s a beautiful thing. 

One more very useful thing about self practice is that you can wear your favourite pants with the hole in the crotch and no one is around who cares. 😉 

 

Yogi food: Pumpkin Buckwheat Almond Bread….. a recipe!

A nourishing, protein rich, yeast-free, gluten-free breakfast or lunch bread.

This is my first recipe post on yogaguerilla’s blog.
I think I’ll be doing more as healthy, nourishing food is a major interest of mine.

Yogi food

Yogi food

I made this bread this morning before the heat of the day, and it baked while we were doing our practice. It was a perfect breakfast, delicious topped with yellow butter, high in protein and pleasantly filling. Eating your vegetables for breakfast is a wonderful thing. I had some for lunch, toasted, and it toasts beautifully, too.

I am not sure how long this would last on the counter, especially when it is hot like today, so perhaps pop it in the fridge after a day, if there is any left.
I am in no way a gluten free yogi, as I make my own rye based sourdough, wholegrain bread several times a week for my family. We tolerate gluten containing grains prepared properly (ie- fermented). However, several times a year I choose to take a few days to a week off from gluten (and often dairy) to give my system a break.

Be sure to use free range, pastured eggs. Anything else is just not fair on the chickens. No excuses. I have 6 out of my 8 chickens laying currently, so using up excess eggs is always a good thing.

Pumpkin is a good source of beta carotene, antioxidants, omega 3 (anti-inflammatory) and grounding, natural sweetness. Sweet potato would also work here, or a mix of the two.

Almonds are full of protein, plus omegas, vitamin E, calcium and fibre. In Ayurvedic medicine, almonds are said to promote ojas (essential life energy), and nourish the nervous system.

Eggs have recently become my best friend- a great source of protein, fats and vitamins and a quick easy filler, bringing you down to earth after a strong practice. I was vegan for years but find adding eggs and a little cultured dairy to my diet brings a much needed balance and nourishment when working the body so intently.

Buckwheat brings a rich supply of flavonoids- rutin being the key one- providing a lipid lowering effect, protecting against heart disease and blood clots. Buckwheat is a good source of manganese, copper and magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels and muscles, improving blood flow and nutrient delivery- that’s just what we yogi’s need after practice- and lowering blood pressure.

Ingredients:

450 g ( 3 cups) grated raw pumpkin ( I blitzed mine in the thermomix which left a few bigger chunks, they cooked through easily )

4 whole large free-range eggs (or 5 bantam eggs if you have smaller feathered friends )

1/2 tsp sea salt/ himalayan pink salt

1/4 cup (60 ml) cold pressed macadamia nut oil (olive oil works too, but coconut oil would be too dense and make for a constricted batter and a bread that is only good whilst warm. Cultured butter- melted and cooled- would also be delicious)

2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder- make sure it is fresh.

1 cup/100 gm almond meal- with or without skins ( I use whole activated -soaked and dried- almonds, ground to a flour in my thermomix )

1 cup/100 gm buckwheat flour

1/2 cup sorghum flour- or is you don’t have that, perhaps brown rice flour or another gluten free option.

1/2 cup true arrowroot- or perhaps sub’ in up to a tablespoon of coconut flour if you have a bag of it and are wondering how to use it ( ie- sparingly )

Note: You can experiment with the grain flours, to make up 200 gm/ 2 cups. Or use more almond meal, less grain flours if you like. I threw in some teff grain here ( 1/8 cup ) for the additional iron. If I had any chia on hand I would have used a bit of that, too. The batter should be thick but still move easily when you tip the bowl.
2 teaspoons molasses or rice syrup ( I did one of each) or not, if you are reducing sugars. The pumpkin provides sweetness as it is.
Seeds- sesame, sunflower, flax or pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 180 C , or 150 to 160 C if fan forced.
Mix the pumpkin, eggs, salt and oil in a bowl.
 Add the almond meal, grain flours and baking powder to bowl, and mix with a spoon so that no powder remains. 
Scrunch up a piece of baking/parchment paper and smooth out, and use it to line a large loaf tin.
 Dollop the mixture evenly into tin. Sprinkle the top with your chosen seeds.
Bake for approximately 1 hour if fan forced, up to 30 minutes longer if not. Test to see that no stickiness is left on a skewer. Ovens are so variable, so check after 1 hour and keep checking every 15 minutes if not cooked through.
 Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the tin for 15 minutes before pulling out in the baking paper and putting on a rack to cool.
Slice with a serrated knife.

Eat warm, cool or toasted. Tastes great with nut butter, soft butter, ghee, goats cheese or avocado. I’m thinking it would be nice with cinnamon or even ginger for a sweeter bread in winter,
Please share with your gluten free and yogi friends- and if you try it, let me know what you think.