How to Build, Develop & Maintain a Home Yoga Practice
There are so many benefits to starting a home yoga practice, it’s almost a no-brainer. Here are a few reasons why I started practicing yoga at home:
Single yoga classes nowadays average between $16 and $25, not to mention the gas it takes to get there, parking, the coconut water we buy on a whim to re-hydrate after class and the lunch we grab at Whole Foods afterwards because we’re starving for… yoga can get pretty pricey. Especially for a regular practitioner. And it’s all so unnecessary. The truth is, we can practice in our underwear right in the middle of the living room and then eat left overs last night just as easily.
We develop a much stronger awareness of ourselves
When our practice is always led in a group environment we never get the chance to find out where we might lead ourselves. What is right for you today or in the moment may shift from practice to practice and your practice should allow for that. A yoga teacher will find that impossible when handling a group of 20+.
It’s kind of like trying to be an artist, but only painting stuff your art teacher assigns you. Although there is always a place for expert instruction, at a certain point you learn more if you allow yourself room for exploration and mistakes at your own pace.
Practicing becomes more integrated into daily life
When you establish a space and time for yoga it becomes a familiar, routine activity that doesn’t require any fancy set up or prep. Just roll out the mat and go without much planning. A home yoga practice in other words helps bridge the separation between life and yoga as it becomes smaller and smaller, until they begin to seem like one and the same thing– which really, what yoga was meant to be.
So how do we do it?
Where and when to practice:
Designate a place in your home as your practice area. It is entirely irrelevant if you live in a studio apartment or 20,000 square foot mansion, all you need is somewhere big enough to roll out your mat.I try and keep this area as neat and clean as possible, so when it’s time to practice, I don’t spend an hour vacuuming, throwing out junk mail and putting away laundry. I also keep my mat and props right there, within easy reach.
Make sure it is a place with optimal (for you) light and temperature, and if necessary, have a fan or a space heater on hand. If you live with someone else, it’s great to find a spot where you can shut the door (unless they are a devoted yogi as well), and if you can’t manage that, pick a time to practice when you’re likely to be alone for the duration.
If you have room and are so inclined, decorate your space with pictures, statues, candles, and anything else that will get you in the mood. Even a small Buddha statue can go a long way toward making us feel like we are in the presence of something greater.
Before settling in, turn off all phones, computers, beepers, buzzers, screaming children and televisions. I try to get as far off the grid as I would in an actual yoga studio. We wouldn’t be caught dead checking our cell phone there, nor should we entertain the thought here.
*Note for yogi moms - if you don’t have the funds for a sitter, find a fellow broke yogi mom and agree to babysit for each other for an hour or two every other day. Someday, your kids will thank you.
Set a consistent schedule
I often write it down. We should honor this schedule as we would honor the class schedule at a studio. Chances are, we wouldn’t drift in fifteen minutes late to a led class—nor should we do it if we’re on our own.
We’ve got our space, now what should we actually do in it?
The answer to this question will largely depend on your experience with yoga.True beginners have a few options. I recommend taking at least one led class per week and then practice at least once a week on your own until you feel comfortable doing more on your own.
Practice using a video-led class a few times per week and then practice on your own at least once a week until you feel comfortable doing more on your own. I’ve created a couple premium yoga videos which can be found here that is specifically designed for this. You can find it here. From there, start building a library of yoga classes you can do at home.
You can also sign up for one private yoga session per week or month with me and explain any goals or specific issues you'd like to address as you develop a home practice. I’d be honored to help you on your journey. Investing in private sessions are great ways to progress your practice in a short amount of time. Private sessions with my favorite teachers has saved me countless amounts of time, energy and money from having to make mistakes and figuring out what works best for me. They are well worth it if you can afford them. Also, once a month at $95 a class breaks down to just under $25 per week which is a great investment.
For intermediate/advanced practioners
1) Decide how much time you want to devote to practice today
30 minutes is fine. An hour or 75-min is ideal. I glance at the clock when I start and just move. Eventually I get into a flow where I lose a sense of time and before I know it, 75-min is up!
2) Get still
Find stillness in any position; seated, standing, laying down or in child’s pose. No need to make things harder than it may seem. Just keep your attentive focus on finding your breath to stay present.
3) Start to move
Sun salutations are always a good place get our practice rolling, but we can do anything we want. Remember to link your breath to your movements. You are in complete control of your experience.
4) Walk the middle path
We should challenge ourselves, but never over-do it. Always use medium effort. Try to remember to include some version, however simple, of twists, back bends, inversions, standing poses, balances, and seated poses. Don’t worry if you forget something. There is always next time. Use my premium yoga videos as a comprehensive guide.
Do not skimp on savasana. I spend at least five minutes here.I tell myself to gently close my eyes and let my palms fall open. I relax my face, my chest, my belly, my arms, my hands, my knees and my feet. I allow my body to become heavy and sink into the floor.
6) Give thanks
When finished, I slowly come to seated and place my palms together, remaining until I can clearly visualize the word “gratitude” in my mind.As your home practice develops, you’ll begin to know and trust yourselvelf in profound ways. You’ll know cause you’ll find laugh at yourself even when you fall, you’ll notice yourself giving a little nudge when you forget to breath or realize you are resisting a pose. Eventually you’ll learn to treasure this time as the time you are at your most authentic and empowered.
There is always, as I said, a place for skilled instruction. A home practice does not have to replace a studio practice. But to become a truly well rounded, grounded, high functioning yogi, I believe some amount of home practice is essential.
More importantly, though, it is a chance to take an adventure into the wilderness of our soul, to turn the stones inside ourselves over and see what’s hiding underneath, to find our place, our rhythm, our primal spirit, and to feel great and abundant gratitude for this sole life of ours.
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