Finding a home practice that sustains you

Yoga Alliance says that only 5% of yoga students practice at home. I encourage you to try to be part of that 5%, even if it is for just 10 minutes a day, or ‘most’ days. Indeed, I am a big believer in 10 minutes ‘most’ days.

And this is not an encouragement that is limited to ‘advanced’ yogis, whatever that means. I began my practice ’10 minutes most days’ many years ago before taking a single class. It happened on my dining room floor, with my kids running all around and me feeling like I had no clue what I was doing. It has paid off in spades.

Why try a home practice?

With home practice, you will develop a better sense of what yoga means to you and what it can do for you. You will become a more focused and discerning student in class. And in time, you will become empowered to find your own path.

During these times when we are confined to home so much, a home practice adds balance and perspective to your day. Even if you cannot get outside, just breathing robustly is refreshing and energizing.

While classes are incredibly valuable, they are by their nature ‘not yours’ (they are the teachers’ and we learn from them). I find a good balance personally to take a class or two a week to introduce me to different ways of approaching practice. Then I play with those ideas at home. It gives me a chance to see what suits me.

If you want to see ‘progress’ in your yoga practice – something that can be pretty problematic but that I admit I get wrapped up in occasionally – home practice is what will move you forward. You can focus on cleaning up parts of your practice that feel weak or inconsistent in class. For me, this is almost always upper body work, my weakest link.

How do you create a home practice?

It is a little like reading: It may take you a while to find a few authors you like, but once you do, you need no help creating a steady reading habit. So think of the classes you attend or videos you use as a stroll through the stacks of a library. Notice what you like. Notice what turns you off. Something will connect with you. Start there.

Here are some of my home practice ideas:

  1. Begin in child’s pose and ask yourself what you need from practice that day. During a very stressful period in my life, I spent six months after work each night with my legs up the wall. That was my home practice. And it was good.
  2. Explore meditation and breath practices. These are inherently interior and can be done almost anywhere and almost any time. No one will be the wiser if you slip them in between meetings or during a coffee break. And they will help you manage whatever headaches come your way.
  3. Choose a pose that you are interested in exploring and think of all the ways you can build toward it and recover from it. Sometimes, I pull a pose out of a hat to focus on. It can be ‘simple’ or ‘advanced’ – it does not really matter. Every yoga pose has value. Once in a while, that pose becomes the focus for my week or triggers interest in something else that becomes a focus. These poses can also become great topics to discuss with a favorite teacher.
  4. Make a challenge out of sequencing from one pose to the next. This is a fine art and there is always more to learn. Explore what helps you create a moving meditation.
  5. Choose to practice at different times of the day. Your energy level and openness vary a great deal over the course of the day. Explore how that changes your practice. I experienced a lower back injury at one point and found that doing a practice in the morning no longer worked for me. My back needed the gentle movement of all my regular activities before it could do yoga. So I switched to practicing before dinner and found that worked very well for a long time. Be flexible with yourself.
  6. Read the great yoga library and allow yourself to be inspired. The literature is packed with revealing stories and philosophy that will drive your home practice deeper. There is simply an endless list of things to learn.
  7. Attend a self-practice class if you can find one. These are a joy. Every student does their own thing and the teacher moves from student to student to provide adjustments and guidance for whatever they are working on. In addition to having this focused attention while you are immersed in your own practice, you can take a peek at other students in their practice. Ideas will spark for you.
  8. Take private or on-on-one classes with an instructor. If you indicate that establishing a home practice is your goal, they will help you find some tools and ideas to get started and to grow with.

I have a little structure to my home practice. If my energy allows, I always fit in some meditation, some standing postures, some balance postures and one or two inversions. And at one practice each week, I like to focus on long holds to open things up. My long hold days are a reset, kind of like doing the laundry at the end of the week. Other than that, my practice is very open-ended.

Many people find it useful to set aside a space for practice in their homes. It helps separate it from the rest of their activities and also makes sure yoga props stay organized. You do not need much space, just about 30 square feet where you can have a quiet mind. And you do not need many props. For many years my space was a piece of open floor between the dining room table and the living room couch. Props went on a bookshelf in the living room, and that was that.

Home practice has been very fruitful over the years – both for my development as a yogi and for my self-care. I am sure you will find a practice that serves you well. Start small with something that feels just right and let your needs teach you how to practice. They are excellent guides.

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