Yoga at home is probably one of the most wonderful gifts you can give yourself every day. Even if only for a few minutes, it gives us a chance to check in with our bodies, minds and intuition for as long (or as briefly!) as we want and it really deepens and sustains our practice between classes.
Better still, we can do it on our own schedule, we don’t have to drive anywhere and… especially if you don’t live in the city and/or have a job or family to take care of… many days it feels like our only option besides going without.
Getting started is much easier than you’d think – you don’t have to feel like you’re already an expert. My personal practice started as a nervous exploration of things I’d picked up in class and eventually led me off to teacher training. Once you start breathing and stretching in your own time, I promise you’ll be amazed at how good you feel and what you discover about yourself.
Creating your own practice is a personal process of trial and error, but below are some lessons I’ve learned that will hopefully make things a little easier so getting on the mat at home becomes a regular occurrence and not just a nice idea!
Okay so nesting has been on my hormone-addled mind a lot recently but progesterone aside, it’s really nice to have a designated space to practice in. Even if it involves a little furniture rearranging, you only need to find enough floor to be able to lie down and – ideally – spread your arms wide. You don’t even really need a mat if you don’t have one. You’re already enough and have enough to start.
If you do have a mat, roll it out. If you have space, consider leaving it out. Even neatly rolled up, if it’s out it’ll act as a reminder of what you’re missing. This doesn’t tend to happen so much if it’s stashed in the boot room, coat cupboard or back of your car.
Don’t be afraid to make your space a bit special. Although some days we’re good to just unroll our mats and crack on, it’s often nice (and not too taxing) to turn our practice into an occasion by lighting a few candles or some incense, hitting play on some mood-boosting music or rubbing some of aramoatherapy oil into our pulse points.
I don’t like scheduling things beyond strict necessity. It’s a bit grown-up and restrictive for my tastes. But it is annoyingly effective! Just like work deadlines, family commitments and ‘normal’ yoga class – if it isn’t in our diary, our home practice often isn’t happening.
Self-care and yoga are usually the last thing we dedicate our time to and the first things to get brushed aside when we get busiest… unhelpfully, when we need them most. This, quite literally, is not good for us.
Whether it’s earmarking a full hour of peace to do a deep flow or putting on yoga clothes when you wake up so you find time for a few sun salutations before you leave the house… some kind of plan tends to (read: always) work better than ‘I’ll probably do some yoga later.’
- Airplane mode
Devices have it for a reason – and I don’t think anybody flies enough for it to actually involve airline travel. It’s refreshing to hang up your virtual ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign for a little while.
Use a real-life clock if you have to keep your eye on the time, or set an alarm if you know you have to be somewhere – ideally one that allows for a few minutes of relaxing in Savasana before you up sticks. Once you start time-checking your non-aeroplaned mobile, it’s a quick and slipperly slope into checking your texts or e-mails. This does not make for a peaceful practice you’ll want to return to.
- No pressure, no limits
Before my pregnancy, I had a fairly strict idea of what my home practice looked like – as much of the Ashtanga primary and/or second series as I had time for or a deep 45-minute yin session. Probably with a side of hand-standing. Although this discipline was great for my physical practice, the idea of actually doing it didn’t always make my heart (or achey muscules) sing and I’d sometimes find an excuse not to bother. If you run, you’ll be familiar with this feeling. It’s usually easier to lace up for a 3-mile jog than an 11-mile race-pacer.
Now I’m a lot more flexible with my practice (figuratively, if not literally) and pick my style each day. Sometimes I switch halfway. I know whatever I choose, it’ll make me feel better.
It’s much easier to go to our mat with the intention of doing even 7 minutes of sun salutations than a full hour of edge-of-our-limit contortion. Practicing this way, we often exceed our expectations. Chase feelings of ease and openness, not poses, time frames or you the intensity you think you think you need to burn off that night’s dinner.
- Meditation Counts
Some days we don’t want to move. Or we know moving would be good for us but are under no illusions about actually extricating ourselves from the sofa. That’s okay. Because meditation is yoga, but sat still. Or even lying down. Ideally not on the sofa or in bed, but when needs must… it’s all good. Just try not to fall asleep.
Meditation practices actually make up 3 of the 8 traditional limbs of yoga. Our physical practice is just 1. This was perhaps a hint from the ancients at their relative importance and potential to change our life! Like solo-yoga, getting started with meditation is easier than we want to believe. Just pick a meditation you’ve enjoyed from class, light a candle and flame-gaze or try THIS easy technique… find a few quiet minutes and off you go.
- Get inspired
It’s completely normal to feel a little confused or bemused as to exactly what you should be (or are) doing on your mat sometimes. There’s lots of books and internet to browse for ideas, and don’t forget to make the most of free trials to online class subscription sites such as YogaGlo and Gaiam.tv
I’m always happy to help with ideas for home practice and what you’re already working on in your own time – just send me an e-mail, comment below or catch me after class. Please reach out! Many people also find occasional private sessions can really give them some clarity and confidence, and they don’t have to be a weekly commitment. I have so much love for this traditional way of teaching and learning yoga, especially as we can choose asana and exercises best suited for you as an individual and sketch up a home practice sequence that will really stick.
P.S. If you want to learn more about meditation, but aren’t ready to go it alone – make sure you’re on the e-mail list for details coming very soon about new meditation classes starting in May and a 21-day online program (which you really can do in your own time, wherever you are) that’s very excitingly in the pipeline!