These days when I step onto my mat it’s like coming home, I feel a sense of calm, but it hasn’t always been this way…. I remember all too clearly staring at my toes, writing my do to list and using my practice time to do – well almost anything but practice. I loved yoga and going to class and knew that having a self-practice was the next step, but I kept just hitting a brick wall.
I met with so many obstacles like “Why?” Why should I practice at home? I love going to class and practicing with everyone and it’s so easy, I can just switch off and let someone else lead me. “Where and When?” I don’t have the right space or the time and most of all “What” would I practice? These were the questions I asked myself as I made my excuses.
I’m so glad I persevered because it’s transformed my relationship with yoga and with myself. It’s taught me to listen to my body, enabling me to let go of unhealthy habits, accept my limitations and safely push them, and as a result I’m calmer and more joyful.
Here are some tips that I found helped me overcome inertia and will hopefully help you to spend less time examining your toes!
The Why? Where? When and most importantly the What?!
Why have a self practice?
Learning yoga with a professional teacher is a must to begin with, but once you have a good foundation there are certain things a home practice can give you, that a studio can’t.
In your own practice, you choose the menu by tuning in and listening to exactly what your body needs at that time. You can focus on your strengths and weaknesses – perhaps you’ve identified you have a weak core or tight shoulders, tailor your practice, to your body. A home practice helps you to develop an inner awareness that’s hard to achieve with someone else telling you what to do.
It will travel with you anywhere, giving you freedom; you won’t have to be reliant on getting to class or having an internet hook up. My practice kept me sane as I travelled South America on my own, it kept me open, yet grounded. In time your practice will help you negotiate life’s ups and downs with more ease.
Where should I practice?
It’s helpful to establish your own space, it doesn’t have to be huge, it only needs to be as big as your mat! You could light candles, burn oils, put a picture of a guru, anything to designate the space as yours. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes, (pyjamas are even acceptable at home!) turn off your phone, set a timer, listen to music if that’s your thing. Create a space that invites you in and in time your mat will become your sanctuary.
When and for how long should I practice?
Be realistic in setting goals, if you’re not a morning person you don’t need to be up at four am, schedule a time that works for you and stick to it. It needn’t be a 90 min practice, start small, perhaps 15 minutes a day and build from there. You’ll be amazed at the difference just 15 minutes of yoga a day can make to your life.
What should I practice?
If you are a student of Astanga yoga, or another yoga discipline that has a set series then sequencing is less of an issue, but you can still benefit from focusing on specific poses or aspects of asana in your home practice.
There are many different ways to sequence and as you get more experienced you can play around with what works for you, but in the beginning keep it simple. It’s helpful to group the asanas and then choose a few from each group in the order that follows.
As you do each asana think about what the pose is doing for you, ask yourself – where am I opening? What