Five Easy Steps to Create a Life-long Yoga Practice
The idea of a home practice can sound simultaneously enticing and daunting.
Practicing at home has many appeal factors. First of all, it’s free (no more drop in fees or monthly memberships). Secondly, you can roll out your mat any time of day or night (goodbye class schedules that never seem just right). Finally, a home practice can be completely customized so that you can do all of your favorite asanas as much as you like (good riddance chair pose!).
At the same time, the thought of creating and cultivating a home practice can seem utterly overwhelming if not nearly impossible. Dozens of nagging questions can plague the home yogi. Where will I practice? How will I build a sequence? Will I be disciplined enough? What about all the distractions? What will my spouse think when I am doing downdog in the living room or om-ing in the bathroom?
The truth is, a home practice is one of the best ways to create a long-term, sustainable yoga practice. Home practice gives you the opportunity to address your own needs every time you take your place on your mat. You are not dependant on weather, traffic or scheduling issues to get your yoga and meditation practice in.
Here are some simple steps to help you get started:
1. Schedule it.
Start by writing it down in your planner like any other appointment or event. Most people say practicing in the early morning is the easiest. Not only is it an auspicious time, it is also less likely there will be distractions if everyone else is sleeping. This is not always the case. For example, if you have dogs that think that as soon as you get out of bed, it’s time for their walk, then you’ll need to look at your schedule and see where a practice will best fit. Practicing in the morning does have other benefits: it sets the tone for your day and there is less possibility of you creating reasons for not doing it later. Either way: carve out some time and write it down.
2. Create a sacred space.
Some of us live in tiny apartments. Some of us have a spare room just waiting to be transformed. This isn’t about building a studio in your house. It’s about creating a designated space for practice. Depending on your situation, your space may consist of rolling your mat out in between a table and bed. Consider putting a small vase, candle, framed photo or quote near your designated practice space to set the mood. Maybe you’ve got room to build a small altar. You don’t have to be fancy. Check out Meghan Currie’s lovely time lapse video of her home practice below. She doesn’t even use a mat! You can see her keyboard. You can see her books. Remember, you don’t need a Dancing Shiva statue to create a sacred space.
3. Start simple.
Begin with a minute or two to collect yourself. Scan the body and notice any areas that feel like they need your attention. Take several cat/cows and then proceed with your favorite poses. If you make a list of your favorite poses and begin your practice with that, taking 10-15 minutes to cycle through them, chances are you will look forward to your practice, rather than seeing it as a chore. End with a few minutes of savasana and maybe another three to five minutes of just sitting, clearing your mind and setting an intention for your day. Now, we’ve just proposed a practice that will take you less than 30 minutes. It will gradually build from there as you start to feel your way into more poses.
4. Lean on resources for ideas.
Everyone needs a little push now and then to get going. There are so many great books, videos, streaming classes and applications that can help you create routines or to give you inspiration You can practice with Elena Brower any day by watching recorded classes on sites like YogaGlo.com. You can listen to Erich Schiffmann’s opening lectures and meditations on your iphone through his Meditate with Erich app. Yoga teacher Melina Meza created two books called the Art of Sequencing with class ideas based on different themes ranging from anatomical focus to the changing of the season. Open to any page and go from there. It’s just a starting point.
5. Keep a journal.
Whether you are a teacher and your home practice is the source from where your own classes/sequences are being created, or a student, establishing a consistent home practice, jotting down a few notes is helpful for keeping track of what you are doing. Write down how you feel after practice. If more ideas or thoughts come to you, great! This is a perfect time for reflection (no one is waiting for you to roll up your mat for the next class).
Your home practice will grow and evolve. Remember to start simple and make it something you will look forward to doing. Eventually practicing at home will become a habit—like brushing your teeth and your day won’t be the same without it.