I love teaching Yoga more than anything in the world, but I must admit, having a teacher’s schedule has left me little time to TAKE the classes I used to. In the beginning, I was incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t study with the teachers I wanted to, and found myself practicing less and less. After speaking with a few experienced teachers and friends about my conundrum, every single one of them landed on the same conclusion: the key to long-term success as a teacher is a real home practice.
This doesn’t just apply to teachers. A home practice can be a great option for students who are busy, too shy to take a class, bouncing back from an injury, etc.
However, sustaining a home practice can be a bit tricky. Personally, I’ve struggled with remaining disciplined at home. With the dog barking, the cell phone ringing, and the ever-present temptation of “Long Island Medium” marathons (you know you watch it), it can be hard to stay focused. There are elements of a class that just can’t be replicated at home-you don’t get yummy assists, a sweet dharma talk, a state of the art heating system, or a massage at the end.
But, with time and effort, I’ve finally committed myself to a solid 30 minutes per day (at least) of home Yoga, and would love to share some of what has been successful for me:
1. Carve out the time.
It’s so important to plan out when this is going to go down. Depending on your schedule and your habits, choose a time that works for you. Many Yogis practice first thing in the morning, but this doesn’t have to be. Some days, my wacky schedule often leaves me with a chunk of time smack dab in the middle of the day, so I use that. Other times, especially when I’m busy all day, I like to practice right before bed. It doesn’t matter when it happens, but pencil it in.
Once I know what time of the day I’m going to be on my mat, I’ll formulate some loose kind of a plan. I obviously don’t plan a class for myself, but I do typically have some kind of goal in mind. Maybe I’m working on a particular crazy arm balance that I would never, ever try anywhere outside of my bedroom, so my efforts will be towards warming up for and attempting that pose (Thank God I live on the first floor, if anyone lived below me, they would have called the cops by now complaining of constant loud thumping noises that sound a lot like a human head). Some days, I just want to open my hips up a little bit before I go to bed, so my practice involves a few lunges, a pigeon pose, and a solid savasana. Many times, I just want to move a little bit and let my body tell me what it wants to do. You don’t have to be meticulous, you don’t even have to write it down, but if you have a plan in mind, you’re more likely to stick to it.
3. Create a space.
This has been huge for me. Create yourself a space that you actually want to be in. I purposely don’t have a television in my bedroom because I want that area of my home to be serene. I also use a corner of my room to practice in. All you need is a little bit of open space and a mat. Surround yourself with things that inspire you. I do have a puja, or altar in my house that’s full of things that are meaningful to ME: photos of friends and family, things I’ve picked up on my travels, gifts from friends, etc. I’ll dim the insanely bright hospital light that my landlord inexplicably installed before I moved in and light a few of my favorite candles. I play music (whatever I’m feeling that day) and put the phone on Airplane mode so it doesn’t distract me. If I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll light an incense. The point is, set the scene. Make it a space you want to spend time in, it will make all the difference in the world.
4. Get some schwag.
You don’t need a lot of fancy stuff (half the Yoga gear out there is garbage anyway) but you will want to invest in a few key items. First and foremost, you’ll need a good mat. I could go on about mats (another time) but choose one that suits your needs. I need a mat with major grip. I sweat, ok? And there is nothing more frustrating than slip-sliding all over a crappy Yoga mat (Hello, Teresa Caputo). Some people like thick mats that offer more cushion for the joints. Some like mats with pretty little lotus flowers on them. Choose one that works and invest in it. I would also recommend purchasing at least 2 good quality Yoga blocks. Blocks can be used to both modify and deepen poses. The same can be said for a strap. They have tons of uses and can make your practice much more comfortable. The last thing is a blanket. Want to know a secret? I can’t stand those itchy Mexican Yoga blankets. I actually searched google for “not Mexican Yoga blanket” and ended up with something pretty cool. You can really use any blanket, I like them for propping the hips up in sitting especially, but also like to cover myself in savasana from time to time. (Wow, I just came up with ideas for 2 blog posts – uses for props and great Yoga products – in the time it took to write this paragraph…stay tuned!)
Another item that could be helpful is videotape. To be honest, I would encourage creating your own practice and discovering what feels good in your own body, but some days, thinking that hard is a strain. There are some good DVDs on the market, but even better is YogaGlo. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t resort to YogaGlo sometimes. This site has full classes from many, many well-known teachers with great instruction and demonstration. If this is what’s going to get you moving, by all means, do it!
5. Go for it!
Guess what? You’re in the privacy of your own home. Go nuts. Try things you normally wouldn’t. Don’t be afraid to fall down and don’t be any less excited when you stick that pose you’ve been lusting after. Always wanted to try naked Yoga? Here’s your chance. Want to spend an inordinate amount of time in happy baby pose? Be my guest. Want to videotape yourself attempting the same pose 46 times before you get a 15 second clip that’s worth uploading on the internet? Join the club. 30 minutes in child’s pose sound good to you? Me too. The point is, this is your chance to call the shots. Do what feels good to you, which could be different on any given day.
In the end, you just want to start something that you can maintain. Take it slow at first. Even 5 minutes on your mat a day is better than nothing at all. Know that even experienced teachers have a hard time disciplining themselves enough for a consistent home practice. If you miss a few days, so what? Get back at it. It all takes time, that’s why we call it a practice, isn’t it? Enjoy!