As a full-fledged retiree, I’ve had the luxury over the past two years of taking yoga classes whenever I want, at any time of day.
Sounds amazing, right?
It should be…and yet, I’ve become a little erratic in my asana practice. Struggling with finding the right public class to take, looking for something that calls to me. At first I thought that the sheer number of available choices was what was making it difficult for me to choose; then I began to realize that maybe the perfect public class just doesn’t exist.
Maybe I need to look to a home practice to help me find what my body is seeking.
I’ve always struggled with my home practice – procrastinating rather than just putting my mat down and moving. Now that I have “all the time in the world”, it feels even more difficult. Why effort at home when I can have someone else lead me, with the energy of my yoga community to help fuel the practice? Plus I’m a true believer that there is something to be learned from every class. I always walk away with some nugget of insight or new information.
But my body has consistently sent me an important message for awhile, and the time has finally come to listen. A home practice can be – and will be – the gift my body has been asking for.
So, how should I go about trying to embrace a home practice? The geek in me decided to do some research as well as some soul-searching.I listened to yoga podcasts, sought out articles that gave me ideas, and talked to teachers I trust.
Here’s what I learned on my long journey to hOMe:
Create a Quiet Space: Allow yourself to create a small area in your home (or your office) that is quiet and somewhat contained – it just needs to be large enough to put down your mat (or imaginary mat). This simple act will make it that much easier to stop avoiding your home practice. For me, it’s my front hallway. It’s away from devices and TVs and has some walls to help support me in inverting and balancing. It doesn’t need to be pretty or a sanctuary, it just needs to offer you the space to practice.
Keep Your Practice Manageable: A home practice definitely does not need to replicate a full 60 to 90 minute yoga class. Just sitting quietly with eyes closed for 5-10 minutes without distraction can be your home practice. Or perhaps it looks and feels like a few rounds of your favorite sun salutations, an inversion to flip your perspective, and a satisfying savasana. Only you can determine for yourself, how much you need to practice on a given day.
Find a Time that Works for You: Find a time that is least disruptive to your daily routine and commit to a practice. It doesn’t need to be conventional; Jason Crandell practices in front of the TV as he’s watching sports events. For me, when I was commuting, if the train was especially quiet during the leg of my commute that was going against the flow of traffic, I would do some nefarious seated yoga in my train seat.
Practice Your Favorite Poses: This is one I also gleaned from Jason Crandell in one of his wife’s (Andrea Ferretti’s) Yogaland podcasts. We’re always told that we need to practice the poses we hate because these are the ones we need to work on. But focusing on what you naturally want to avoid will maybe just result in even more aversion to a home practice. Think back on what brought you to yoga and what keeps you doing yoga. Find the poses that you love and incorporate these into your home practice when you find it difficult to roll out your mat. If you’re an analytical yogi, pick a few poses you love and then design a short sequence that will include each of the poses in a way that your body will relish. Or when you find yourself loving a sequence in a public class, try to jot down what you can when you get a chance, and try to replicate it in your home practice.
Find Balance: Look at your home practice as a way to balance out what you’re doing in public classes or in the rest of your busy life. If you feel stagnant or bored with what’s going on is your life, do a more energetic practice at home. Or, conversely, if all you do is Power Vinyasa in your public classes or you’re going 90 miles an hour in your job every day, maybe a restorative or meditative practice is what you need at home.
Work Toward Difficult Poses: Your home practice is your opportunity to focus on those poses you want to progress in, but that aren’t offered often enough in public classes. You can do drills to strengthen your core for balancing or inversions, or heart-openers to move into deeper backbends, or torso-lengthening poses to find deeper twists. You don’t even have to practice the actual end poses if you find them intimidating to do on your own, just think about the component actions that will bring you closer to those poses and work on that.
Cut Yourself a Break: Ease into a home practice slowly. Start small with a short practice and work up to what constitutes a full practice for you. And, some days, maybe, you need to be outdoors or out with your friends and loved ones rather than being on your mat. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a home practice. Just don’t give up on your home practice just because you missed a day or two. As I’ve often said, it’s only yoga.
Full disclosure, my home practice is still sporadic but I no longer consider it as a last resort option for days when I can’t get to a public class. It’s a time for me to truly reflect on what I need on a particular day, however simple or complicated that may be. Sometimes, I feel the urge to do a tree pose in the kitchen as I’m preparing dinner, or even an uttitha hasta padangusthasana (one leg extended with toe hold — and yes, I do wash my hands. I’ve conditioned my husband to expect to see some strange things in the kitchen). And, I still rely on those shower stall walls to inspire some shoulder openers in the morning.
BKS Iyengar has been quoted so often as saying “Practice, and all is coming.” I would paraphrase and say “Find a Home Practice and all is coming!”
May Louie first took yoga in college to fulfill a Phys-Ed requirement and immediately fell in love. She, unfortunately, did not continue with her practice but reconnected with it when she retired from her corporate job in 2002 and has since become a serious yoga enthusiast. After her second retirement last year, she completed her 200-hour RYT certification, studying with Dina Crosta, Ellen Mosko, and Jamie Segal Hanley, with a focus on alignment based flow.
Never Miss a Post!
The Top Three Reasons for Joining NJYC
The greatest teachers, studios, classes and communities are in the Garden State.
You are ready to inspire and be inspired.
You believe in living a life you love, supported by a practice that makes you feel amazing