One of my main goals as a yoga teacher is to reveal to my students that they have everything they need, seek and desire within themselves – including the intelligence to practice yoga on their own. This might sound like business self-sabotage, but it isn’t. In my experience as both student and teacher, I will always come back to classes, workshops and retreats for clarification, inspiration and support. I am not interested in holding my students hostage in my classes. Rather, I want them to discover their inner teacher and build confidence in their innate intelligence to move and listen to their bodies.
The most common question I get from students is an exasperated, “How can I start a home yoga practice?” Which is then followed up with frustrating examples of their failed attempts and dead ends.
Here are some tips and suggestions I’ve compiled over the years from my own struggles with home practice and from my students’ experiences. I hope that you find inspiration to commit time to your practice and self-care!
1. Sacred Space: Even if it is just the corner of your bedroom, create a space that is for practice only. Decorate the space with things that inspire your self-care. Maybe you have flowers, a candle, a meaningful picture or knickknack, or an intricate altar. Whatever it is, make it special. Even if you do not have space to create a full-time practice space, roll up your mat when you are not using it so it doesn’t become the dog or cat’s spot when you’re not home. Leave your rolled up mat near the practice space and keep a candle or incense by it for ambiance. When you create a special place you are excited about, you are more likely to spend time there.
2. Get Real: it is easy to set a grand expectation that you will be on your mat for 90 minutes. But get real with yourself - If you have a hard time carving out space in your hectic schedule to even fold laundry, you likely will not create the space for a 90-minute practice. Let your ideas of what a practice should look like go and embrace the reality of whatever your practice is – even if it lasts for 10 minutes.
3. Timing is Everything: your practice doesn’t have to be in the morning only, especially if you are a miserable morning person. You can practice anytime. But setting a consistent time is really important – maybe it is before dinner or before bed time. Don’t listen to anyone telling you not to practice at certain times – question and explore rigid rules for yourself. If you find out that practicing before bed time gets your body too riled up for sleep, shift the time, but you might find you are softer, more passive and ready for a deep slumber. Experiment and find out what is right for you. You might find you are ready to shift the time to early mornings once you’ve found a consistent practice at another time. Maybe not. Find the time that encourages consistency.
4. Dedication & Commitment: Once you’ve set a realistic goal, for example, “at least 10 minutes of home practice 5 times a week,” stick with it. No matter what. It takes at least 20 days to start a new habit. Whatever tool makes you feel accountable for this commitment, use it. Maybe a check mark on your calendar or a daily post on social media keeps you honest. Find what tricks will keep you dedicated and stick with them! And remember to be kind with yourself; If you miss a few days but find your groove again, don’t beat yourself up.
5. Rhythm: Often when I feel stuck, I need to inspire my internal rhythm with a little external sound! Find some funky music that gets your body moving. Dance if you feel movement coarse through you! Wiggle and shake. Move to the beat. You might discover some days the rhythm of your breath is more than enough, but give yourself permission to get a bit wild.
6. Effort: Some days, your practice is intense with loads of sun salutations and arm balances. Other days, your practice might be rolling around on your back and chilling in child’s pose for the entire time. That is okay. Let your mind’s constraints of what practice looks like go. Listen to your body. Find your inner teacher. Be receptive to what you need in the moment.
7. Guided vs. Self-Practice: To use online classes or not is a personal preference. Students share with me that they like to be guided by my audio recordings of class or use other online yoga classes to inspire them. I think that is awesome! Once you get into the routine of being at home rather than in a group setting you might not need the guided classes every time. I often use online classes when I feel particularly unmotivated or uninspired. Sometimes, I just follow along for 10 minutes before my inner teacher takes over. Other times I follow step by step. I might follow my own self-practice for months and then find myself craving a guided class for a few days or weeks. BE FREE. Let go of what you think home practice should be and use any tools to get you on your mat, moving and connected.
8. Be Creative: Your home practice doesn’t have to be a masterfully crafted sequence or a regimented series of asana. Of course it can be exactly that, too! However, give yourself the creative freedom to do whatever feels good. If that involves doing some really wacky interesting movements you’ve never done before, do them! Incorporate pranayama and meditation if you want! Experiment with different ideas and practices. Let your body guide you! Have fun!
Ultimately, the biggest challenge is carving out the time for a consistent practice. If your home practice is an important aspect of your self-care, dedicate yourself to it. Remember that your mind’s constraints serve no purpose on your mat. Set yourself free to create your own practice!
I want to hear from you! What struggles do you encounter in your home practice? What tips or tricks help you to stay dedicated?