Starting a Home Practice

The most common question I hear from yoga students is how to create a home practice. I hear comments like “I’d love to do yoga at home, but I can’t find the time.” Or, “I do yoga a couple of days and then I stop, and don’t pick it back up.” I can go to classes once in awhile, but never know how to practice at home.” Sound familiar? It does to me, because I’ve said these things over the years. But there are ways to create a successful home practice.

The first question to ask yourself is what is the purpose of my practice, that its, what’s my practice for, why do I do it? Knowing this is useful, because when inspiration for your practice begins to wane, you can remind yourself about the flexibility and strength your gaining, or how much more at ease you’ve become. You can remind yourself of how good you feel after you practice, how connected you feel to your inner wisdom. In all my years of yoga, I’ve never said, nor heard anyone else say, “Darn, I sure do wish I hadn’t done yoga this morning, my day would have been better without it!”

It helps to reframe practice time as an opportunity to be present with oneself, exactly as we find ourselves. Rather than approaching the mat as a period of self -improvement, consider it a time of self reflection. Think of practice time as your sacred, safe time to explore all aspects of your remarkable being.

Often we resist a home practice because we aren’t sure if we are doing yoga “right”, or we not sure what postures to include and when to do them in our flow.

It’s important to know the fundaments of asana practice. Fortunately, we live in an age when getting information is easy. I love websites like Yoga Journal and Yoga Basics. They both offer lots if tip for safe practice of asana. Books, CDs and DVDs can also be an aid. I will have a CD Getting Started: Yoga for Beginners in the Fall.

Most yoga teachers and yoga studios offer private instruction. A one-on-one session with a teacher is useful in helping us know if we are practicing safely and skillfully, and may offer us ideas on what postures to practice at home.  Attending classes from time to time can go along way in helping you master fundamental and keep you inspired. Immersion retreats in yoga are also a help. My friend and fellow teacher Michelle Dalbec lead a 5-day immersion program called Yoga for the Absolute Beginner, at Kripalu.

Decide how long you want to practice. This can be tricky, because I think all of us would like to believe we have time to practice 90 minutes everyday. But the reality is that is not the case for many people. The good news is, we don’t need the 90 minute practice if its not available to us. What’s more important than length is focus and consistency. Bringing yourself fully to the mat consistently is better than a practice of a couple hours occasionally.

Next, write down your flow, or know it before you hit the mat. There are different ways to create a flow, and some elements to include: Pranayamas, such as yogic 3 part breath. Spinal movements–lateral, extension/flexion, twist. Bring the body to different relationships to gravity, do postures standing, seated on the floor, lying on the belly and the back.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up after awhile. Practice can become stale if we don’t make room for new postures and sequences. Always leave time for relaxation. Savasana, the rest posture at the end of practice could be thought of as the hardest one, because it requires nothing. All we do is lay on the floor and relax. Nothing to do.

If lying on your side or stomach would feel more easefull do that. What’s important is that you take time to integrate your practice.

Remember, your practice is about you. There’s no hurry, nothing to prove to yourself. Create a relationship with yourself that’s full of compassion and curiosity.

Cristie Newhart