”Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” - Jason Crandell
When I started yoga, the idea of an at-home practice was far from my mind. I was new to yoga, and the thought of being my own instructor was an overwhelming one. At the time, I was committed to two classes a week at my studio and felt content. However, after a couple months (when the weather got colder and the desire to leave my house got smaller), I started to dabble with home practice youtube videos and getting a feel for moving with no instruction at all. Still, for me, it didn't compare to the atmosphere of my studio. I also found it hard to make my daily routine, tiny apartment and silly dog work with me. Fast forward to when I started my 200 hr. teacher training this past August, and it was no surprise that one of the most important elements was maintaining a home practice. So, I went home and started to mold a practice that would coincide well with my schedule and other aspects of my life. Now, I am so in love with my home practice that I can't go a day without it! I look forward to the time I have dedicated each day towards exploring my own mind, body and soul and I've experienced so much growth in these places. Below are a few tips that helped me along the journey of developing my home yoga practice, and a few that you may find helpful if you're struggling to connect with your own.
Your practice space doesn't have to be huge, and you don't need an entire room dedicated to yoga. However, the space you designate to your practice should be comfortable with good energy. I live in a tiny, one bedroom apartment. I barely have space for my shoes, let alone a yoga mat! This was a challenge for me when I started my home practice- BUT with just a little rearranging, I built myself a "yoga corner." This is just a small corner of my living room, under a window where I leave my mat and meditation pillow. I usually sit here for meditation and then shift my mat out to make space for my asana practice. Do a quick scan of your house and find a place to make your own! Once you have it, decorate the space with a couple things that bring you happiness. In my corner, I have a a plant, my incense burner, and some pictures of my family.
2. Make the conscious effort
Another challenge I faced building my practice at home was fitting it into my schedule each day. I was working full time with another part time job, training my dog, volunteering at my yoga studio, plus did not want to sacrifice the class time I spent there! It seemed impossible to squeeze in one more thing. BUT. Everybody needs some me-time, right?! I'll bet you've had days at work that make you excited to go home, throw on a movie and enjoy a glass of wine (and that's great, too!). But the next time you have this urge, try investing that time into your home yoga practice. And if there's one thing I've learned in my twenties, it's that we are much more inclined to follow through with plans that are pencilled into our calenders. SO, my advice is to take out those planners and pick 2 or 3 days a week that you can commit to your practice. It could be an hour in the morning, a half hour at lunch or even right before bed, as long as you follow through and make it a habit!
3. Invest in props
I think I've made the most progress in yoga generally through my home practice. Purchasing a few blocks, a strap and a bolster was the best decision I could've made for my asana practice, and the beautiful thing about it is that I can spend all the time I want practicing one pose, and taking notice of what helps get me there. For example, my crow pose required two blocks for my forehead to rest on for quite some time. My home practice gave me the flexibility to play with removing one block, and then eventually both blocks at my own pace. Flowing through a guided class, you may feel the pressure to keep up with the instructor instead of hanging out in a place or pose that might need some extra attention, or just feels good. The one downside to practicing alone is that you don't have somebody who's able to come around and adjust your alignment or move you deeper into a pose. So, having a strap handy for forward folds, and a block for triangle pose has been wonderful. It doesn't hurt to fit in a little restorative pose using a bolster, either.
4. Let go of expectations
I felt insecure the first few times I practiced yoga at home, which is silly considering I was the only one there! It's not like I was trying to impress anybody, however it was hard to focus on my breath and remember the flows and poses from class. My mind kept wandering as I overthought ways to transition from tree to down dog, to forward fold, etc. This is important- the purpose of your practice is not to LOOK good and organized, but to FEEL good and nourishing. Once I accepted this fact into my home practice, it became much easier to flow where my body needs to go. Some days you'll arrive on your mat with the intention of working on strength and arm balances, but find that your body needs more of a calm practice. Some days it'll be vice versa. The point of your home practice is not to mimic the moves of your class instructor, it's to find what feels good for you! So let go of those expectations and honor your body. Start your home practice with some experimenting to discover your own style and flow and then keep it true to you!
5. If you fall off the bandwagon, just hop back on!
Practice can be challenging when faced with the distractions of your home life. We can be interrupted by kids, to-do lists, wandering minds, family members, pets, etc. My dog gets so happy and playful when I start flowing around on my mat and I won't lie- sometimes, I give in and my practice becomes more of a wrestling match with a big headed goofball. We're only human! Distractions happen, but the beautiful thing about practicing yoga (and being human) is that we always have the capability to begin again. Helpful tip: let the people you live with know when you'll be practicing so that they can be mindful of your space, maybe even keeping kids and pets occupied. I know how hard it is to hold bridge pose with a dog army crawling through the tunnel.
Bonus- Don't cheat! Your home practice should be kept fun, but take it seriously. Just because you don't have an instructor keeping an eye on you doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Check in with your breath and alignment as opposed to just going through the motions. Impress yourself! If a pose is hard, hang out there for 3 more breaths. Don't get lazy. It can be tempting to cut practice short when someone is cooking pancakes in the kitchen next to you (I've been there). Stay motivated. But above all, remember there's no pressure here, friends. So play! Try an arm balance, because why not? Take 20 breaths in child's pose, cause it feels damn good. Find your niche and help yourself flourish. Grow like a wildflower.
The hardest part is simply arriving on your mat. What are you waiting for?