Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to get ourselves to a yoga class on a regular basis. The mind will provide plenty of excuses: I can’t afford it this month, I’m not good enough. I don’t have clean yoga clothes. It’s too far. It’s raining. I don’t have time. It will be too crowded. I have a headache. I’m sad. I’d rather go for drink . . . Many of these excuses are valid. Yoga classes can be expensive, and sometimes we have social engagements or work deadlines that mean we can’t spare the time, and sometimes we just really don’t have clean yoga pants.
I used all of these excuses in my early years of yoga, yet I also knew that yoga made me feel healthier and calmer when I did go. So to counteract these excuses and truly begin my journey of yoga exploration, I introduced a home practice to my life—and it changed my world.
There are so many benefits to a home practice. First, it’s simply more tailored to you and your needs. It also gives you a chance to slow your practice down so you can get to know each posture intimately. It builds confidence, allowing us a safe space to explore those physical and emotional challenges that arise. And perhaps the biggest benefit of all—you can take a home practice with you wherever you go: to the beach, on a rooftop, and even in a hotel room. Basically, the whole world becomes your yoga studio. And you now have a tool you can use on those more stressful trips like work events or family reunions.
Here are a few tips for starting your own home yoga practice:
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Create a Welcoming Space
It doesn’t have to be full of light and smell like Nag Champa. Creating a space in your living environment where you can stretch out means that you’re eliminating the excuse—I’ve nowhere to practice. But it is helpful to make that space welcoming, so it increases your willingness to practice. This could be as simple as making sure your space is clean or pinning an inspiring quote nearby.
Design Your Practice
Ask yourself what you want to work on for the next month (revisiting it at the end of the timeframe). Is it opening the hips (pigeon pose), strengthening the arms or thighs, backbends, or inversions? Are your goals emotional? Are you working on self-esteem (first and third chakra postures), forgiveness (fourth chakra postures), or creativity (fifth chakra postures)? Based on your answers, make sure your designed practice includes postures that speak to these goals.
Plan a Short and Long Sequence
Time is not always on our side, so if we prepare both a short and long practice, then we’ll know we’re not simply cramming our one hour sequence into 20-minutes when we’re tight on time. Pick just three to five postures for a shorter practice and eight to twelve for longer practices.
Don’t Skip Warm-Ups, Breathwork, Meditation or Savasana
While we may be anxious to get started on our sequence of asanas, (or sometimes to end them), a much more balanced (and safe) yoga practice includes beginning with a centering, pranayama (breathwork), and warm-ups to loosen the joints. It also ends with a meditation and at least a three-minute savasana (corpse pose).
Recognize that There is More to Yoga than Asana
There are days when you may not have time for even your shortest sequence, but it doesn’t mean you can’t practice yoga. How about ten minutes of pranayama on the subway ride? Or maybe do a 10-minute meditation at the school gates? There are other ways to practice yoga too. Yoga’s first two limbs are the yamas and niyamas that include the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), aparigraha (letting go) and svadhyaya (spiritual study) for example. Even in the midst of a busy day, or when the body is tired, we can always practice one of these. Eating only vegetarian food for a day can be a practice of ahimsa. Reading or listening to spiritual teachings could be svadhyaya.
Continue Going to Class
We can all slip into a comfort zone, so it’s good to, on occasion, participate in a yoga class that expands your practice. A class with a trained teacher can also ensure you are practicing safely and correctly. Plus, you’ll be practicing aparigraha by letting go of any excuses that keep you from going!
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