Practical Suggestions for Developing a Daily Practice
By Martha Marcom
A regular, six-day-a-week practice lies at the heart of the ashtanga vinyasa
system. Even the most devoted yoga practitioners, though, sometimes have
difficulty finding the requisite time to complete a full practice. Most of
us could use some practical techniques for developing and maintaining a
daily personal practice.
In his third teaching visit to Columbus last August, ashtanga teacher Larry
Schultz offered just that. He gave us the tools to envision and bring into
reality a daily practice. And because consistent practice lies at the core
of all systems of spiritual growth, Larry's ideas are applicable to any
style of yoga.
Larry Schultz is the founder of It's Yoga, an ashtanga school in San
Francisco, which specializes in teaching beginners. During a three-year
period of traveling with and teaching yoga to The Grateful Dead, Larry
responded to Bob Weir's request for a practice manual and authored a
complete, concise and practical guide to the primary series called Ashtanga
Yoga as Taught by Shri K Pattabhi Jois.
Larry has adopted a straightforward approach to the practice of yoga.
Although he encourages his students to create ample space and time for a
daily yoga practice, he also urges us to do whatever we can each day and to
experiment with ways of practicing that work for us. Practice is a means of
insight into your progress, he tells us, as well as the obstacles to your
Because a daily practice of the full series can be too much for some people,
Larry has devised a number of practical suggestions for helping to make a
modified daily practice feasible for most people. He offers what he calls
the Minimum Daily Requirement, or MDR, as a useful departure point for any
daily practice. Every day, he says, we should at least commit to doing the
In honor of MO-YO's 108 Sun Salutations, Larry has generously shared with us
his MDR. The MDR is comprised of five rounds of the surya namaskar A and five rounds of the surya namaskar "B", as taught in the ashtanga tradition.
And Larry offers modifications even to that. For many, the difficulty with
these sun salutations arises with chaturanga dandasana (the four-limbed
stick pose), and moving from there into the upward facing dog pose. Larry
suggests that the easiest way to modify the MDR is simply to omit these
Another way to modify this challenging flow is to replace chaturanga
dandasana with a straight-armed plank pose, and the upward facing dog pose
with cobra pose. Or, if you have a style of surya namaskar you like to
practice, simply make that your own personalized MDR!
Daily practice of the MDR creates and maintains high levels of strength,
flexibility, health and well being. Once learned, this whole practice can be
completed in 20 minutes. This could be your complete practice for the day,
or you could follow the MDR with other hatha yoga postures, a relaxation
session or meditation. If you're trying to develop a serious ashtanga
practice, the MDR offers an occasional substitute for a larger practice. The
MDR becomes your benchmark and gives you the opportunity to have a daily
practice every day, regardless of how much time, energy or motivation you
Larry offered us another practical suggestion that can help us incorporate
the study of yoga philosophy into our daily routine. He recommends that
every day we put on a CD and commit to studying some aspect of yoga
philosophy for the length of the music or chant playing. This is especially
important given that svadhyaya, or the study of sacred literature, is cited
as one of several important niyamas, or personal disciplines, fundamental to
any yoga practice. Like the MDR plan, this is simple, clear and feasible,
given our busy lives.
Incorporating one or both of Larry's suggested practices into your day can
transform you. I am most grateful to Larry for the clarity he has offered in
providing two simple and well-defined methods to help us get it done. If you
are a teacher, consider Larry's definition of teaching - "developing a
personal practice to share."
Larry Schult'z website: http://www.itsyoga.net/us/