Thursday, 9 August 2018

Successfully Maintaining Your Yoga Practice

The Energy of Creation

Here we are in August - slap bang in the middle of the summer. 

There's a vibrancy that comes with the summer months - radiance. Fire energy is rapid at this time of year and passions are easily ignited, together with the enthusiasm and the high we experience when we know that anything is possible. It is the perfect time of year to "get things done".

The energy at this time of year can be one of creation. Starting new projects can be fairly easy to do, especially when fire energy is abundant - a new job, a new relationship, a new routine. On the other hand, it can also be fairly easy to end something when we feel we have bitten off more than we can chew. The challenge comes in maintaining what we have created. 

Over the years people have asked me what they should do in order to have a successful yoga practice at home. My answer is always the same - keep it simple. You don't need to replicate what we do in class in your practice every day at home. If you set yourself a goal of doing a 75 minute practice every day at dawn, you're setting yourself a big challenge to maintain.

Creating, Maintaining & Destroying 

In yoga philosophy there are three main deities - Bhrama (the creator), Vishnu (the maintainer) and Shiva (the destroyer). Vishnu is the protector and the one who keeps order. Out of these three deities, Vishnu is said to have the hardest job.

The deities are representations of different parts of ourselves. These deities are reflections of the parts of ourselves that create, maintain and destroy.

An example of this can be when we look at gardening. You might decide one day that you want to create a beautiful garden. You go to the garden centre and purchase a myriad of stunning plants. Every colour you can find. You plant these in the garden and it looks beautiful. What a wonderful creation. The challenge arrives when the weeds start to grow and some of the plants start to wilt. Are they planted in the right area of the garden? Was the soil well prepared? What is the correct feed for each plant? 

It takes patience and dedication to maintain the beauty that was created. You may decide that the maintenance is too time consuming and too hard so you stop maintaining or you dig it all up and destroy it. The creation and the destruction of the garden were much easier than the maintenance. This can be applied in so many areas of our lives, especially when it comes to your yoga practice.

Everyone is unique. There are no two people who are exactly the same. Therefore every yoga practice needs to be unique and you may find that your practice changes throughout the year, even throughout the week! Be flexible with yourself and set yourself realistic goals.

I was once told a story about a lady whose yoga practice goal was to unroll her mat each morning and simply stand on it. If she did that then she had stuck to her practice. Of course, she never just stood on the mat, she practiced some yoga but there was no pressure as to how many sun salutations or asanas or energy block release sequences she did. She just simply had to connect the soles of her feet with her mat. Keeping it simple, keeping it kind.


In yoga and ayurveda there is something called ahimsa, which in simple terms means non-violence. This is not only a command not to hurt or kill but embraces a wider meaning i.e. learning to love life and yourself. If you do not hurt yourself you will not hurt others.

Ahimsa should always be acknowledged in your asana practice. Never push your body to the point of pain or discomfort as this is inflicting violence upon yourself. Try not to pass negative judgment to yourself or others as this is against ahimsa. I would even say, that to put an expectation of a demanding yoga practice on yourself is against ahimsa. Be kind, be gentle. Yes we want to increase strength and flexibility in the body and mind, but we want to achieve this in a kind way. One of my lovely students, Kath, introduced me to the term "kindfulness" and I think this is a beautiful way to translate part of the meaning of ahimsa.

My yoga journey started at the age of 11 and so I have had years of being off and on my yoga path. I've tried different routines, practices and disciplines. I can honestly say that keeping it simple and being kind to myself are the keys I've found to successful maintenance.

In order to create a successful yoga practice, which is more likely to be maintained, follow these steps:-

1. Ask yourself - what kind of practice do I enjoy? i.e. a relaxing practice or energising flow? Then ask yourself, what kind of practice do I need?* These two answers may be different and in that case try to do a mixture of both.

2. How many days of the week can you REALISTICALLY do your practice at home? You may want to be someone who practices every day but if you do not currently have a regular practice then you may find it to be too much of a change - eventually burning out. A good starting point is 3 days a week. You can always build on this.

3. How much time can you REALISTICALLY spare in those days? Many people think they need to have a daily 90 minute practice. This is not the case. Do what you can. Yoga is a life long practice,  take your time. An ideal time would be between 15 and 30 minutes but if you only have 5 minutes, then just do 5.

4. Where will you do your practice? Most people do not have a dedicated yoga room but that doesn't matter. As Richard said in the film Eat Pray Love – “The meditation room is within.”  All you need is space long enough and wide enough for your mat and somewhere you will not be disturbed.

5. If you live with someone/some people tell them when you will be doing your practice and ask them to give you some space for that time. Get them to work with you and support you in your maintenance of your practice. Maybe even ask them to join you.

6. Don't beat yourself up if you can't stick to it. Do ask yourself why you couldn't stick to it and then adapt it and try again. It may take a few tries with the duration, style and frequency but don't give up. 

The Yoga Sutras (1.14) teach us that in order to secure our practice we need to maintain it for a long time, with dedication and from the heart. Let go of attachment to a goal and immerse yourself in the journey.

Yoga is an ongoing and continuous practice. Keep going. If you do, I guarantee you will feel the profound benefits and not only will you benefit but those around you will too.

If you would like some help in creating your own yoga practice I offer consultations to assist you in building your successful home practice. Email for more information.

* In my Yoga & Ayurveda workshops and consultations we delve into your unique constitution, which is wonderful for providing an insight into what you really need in your practice. For more information please visit

Om shanti,

Jenny x

by Jenny Dowling - Jenny is passionate about yoga and yoga health. Her love of yoga began at the age of 11 when she was introduced to it  by her mother. When Jenny isn't teaching or recording classes for her online yoga members, she is busy looking after her little family (daughter, fiancĂ© and Finnish Lapphund), walking in the nearby moorland or trying out new delicious Ayurvedic and vegan recipes. Connect with Jenny on Facebook or  Instagram.