At the start of lockdown, I began the Morning Dailies. These 30 minute daily yoga practices were to enable anyone to have access to regular yoga practice and to provide the opportunity for daily contact. Some people came every day and continue to do so, others once or twice a week. The majority of the time, people have been in their homes but we have had away visits from Preston and Bournemouth.
I know recorded yoga classes are useful but I find them limited. If I go to a class, I want to be able to ask the teacher about the practice. As the lessons are live, I can respond to the class and adapt the practice where appropriate, just as I would if we were in a non-virtual space together. There has also been the opportunity for everyone to share sadness or joy both COVID and non-COVID related. We have met every weekday except bank holidays since 24 March. As of today, that’s 145 thirty minute lessons!
My first answer to the question, What are the Morning Dailies?
As the space developed so did the intention. In response to conversations and questions, it seemed natural to bring a sustained focus to the practice. Each week, the practice remains more or less the same. As with the weekly term yoga, this allows familiarity to develop and the experience to inform, develop and on occasion ‘for something profound to be revealed’ (a sentiment passed to me from my teachers).
The start of lockdown was a shock for us all but also a unifying experience even in isolation. The initial practices focused on opening the heart to encourage acceptance but I also hoped everyone would be able to acknowledge how they felt beneath the resignation without feeling overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed.
We had a practice including chanting; perhaps a little ambitious first thing in the morning and with everyone muted! We played with twists. We considered devotional practice with the hands. In June, we started a journey to explore cobra or bhujangasana. There were many questions. The most common ones: Where am I meant to be moving from? How do I stop my back pinching? What do I do with my shoulders?
We focused on supporting the body with the individual effects of the inhale and exhale. We brought attention to lengthening the spine while opening the chest and shoulders. Shoulder and arm movements were introduced keeping the priority on lengthening the spine. We visualised the breath moving from root to crown and crown to root. Cobra developed into variations of locust or salabasana. This highlighted how the movement of arms and legs impacts on the back and the neck; we also brought attention to the hips. Eventually we made it to the bow or dharanasana and some comedy moments using a belt …
Through August, I am teaching practices to release the neck and shoulders. Did you know that the position of your head affects how you hold your pelvis? Did you know that jaw tension affects the whole of the back, first feeding into the neck and shoulders? Tension in the upper body affects the action of the breath which creates movement and shape change in the body – did you know that inflexibility in the upper spine can affect the quality of your breath which has an impact on the whole body?
I love teaching these shorter regular practices. I have benefitted from the connection and shared care. I have the yoga bug; I am privileged to have a life where I can roll out my mat at the start of each day. On the days I don’t, it is down to me not outside influences. In an ideal world, everyone would roll out their mat daily. For different reasons, this is not feasible for everyone … work, family, health, general busyness. For yoga to be most effective, a consistent approach is needed. If this cannot be daily, it is helpful to at least aim for regularity. In a busy world where the mind wanders off and multi-tasks, regularity is the key to returning to centre, focus and awareness. This is the path to maintaining an uncompromised immune system. Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) can be influenced by the way we breathe. Mindful breathing can encourage the ANS to turn off our stress responses which can become chronic if unchecked (sympathetic nervous system). This allows the focus to be on repairing the body and activating the immune system to respond appropriately to our internal and external environment (parasympathetic nervous system). I accept that health is not this simplistic but we can do so much for ourselves to make it simpler. An answer to a strong and adaptable immune system is to live a life that is sustainable, balanced and healthy. This needs to be done in an environment where we take responsibility for ourselves, each other and the natural world.
It won’t surprise you that I feel the starting place for all of this is a regular practice. A moment each day (or most days) where we are fully engaged and focused; where we tune in and are honest about how we are on all levels. A moment to connect and realise that we are part of the world and nature and have a central part to play. We may not be in a place where we can actively change in that moment but mindlessly falling forward will not facilitate change either.
What practice you choose is up to you. But you have to do it not just think about doing it. This was not the motivation for creating these classes but it is the sustaining principle. So, What are the Morning Dailies?
Yoga Sutras Chapter 1.14: sa tu dirghakala nairantarya satkara adara asevito drdhabhumih
It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed.There will always be a tendency to start practice with enthusiasm and energy, and a desire for sudden results. But the continuing pressures of everyday life and the enormous resistance of the mind encourages us to succumb to human weaknesses. All this is understandable, we all have these tendencies. This sutra emphasises the need to approach practice soberly with a positive, self-disciplined attitude and with a long-term view toward eventual success (‘The Heart of Yoga’: Developing a Personal Practice, TKV Desikachar)
This was going to be a light-hearted writing about the Morning Dailies. How you approach these classes is entirely up to you. The starting point for accessing yoga is often the need to stretch the body, to find a bit more flexibility or strength. The Morning Dailies provide that. How you engage with these classes is up to you.
Thanks for reading. For more information you can write to me using this link: contact. Or you can book online …