YOGA BASICS: Starting a Sustainable 'Home Practice'
What is a home practice? What are the benefits of a personal yoga practice?
Yoga is an expression of the 'now' and this presence or awareness can be practiced at any moment. One of the most impactful yoga practices is a 'home practice' which infuses yogic principles and lifestyle into every-day life. A 'home practice' is the ultimate door to perception. It will help you create the paradigm shift that happens when we make space to go deep within ourselves. An effective and transformative home practice requires commitment, patience and generosity to yourself. It allows you to become the observer of your own condition when you are alone on your mat. In Indian philosophy, you become "the seer of the self" which allows you to tap into and respond to how you feel so that you can address your immediate needs. If you are exhausted, move slowly. If you need some energy, try a dynamic postural practice, or heating breath exercises, or work to calm persistent mind chatter by observing 10 minutes of morning or evening meditation.
The aim of a home practice is to explore whats going on in your mind and your body, check for tension, overcome mental doubts and criticisms, and remain focused on your intention in the face of sensory distractions.
Take it little by little, and day by day. Your home practice is an expression of who you are at that moment. From pranayama (breath exercises), to seated meditation, do whatever is right and most beneficial for the moment. Your home practice is a personal practice. No expectations. No judgements. Just move and explore.
TIPS TO GET STARTED WITH A HOME YOGA PRACTICE
1. START SMALL
Start with what you have, where you are, and who you are right now. You do not have to look a certain way or be super flexible to start practicing yoga. Just start with what you know or what you have learned from class. It can be as simple as taking 10 deep breaths first thing in the morning before getting out of bed, and then cycling through a set of stretching postures to start your day.
2. CREATE SPACE
All you need is a quiet space with enough room to move your body freely. A clutter-free corner in your bedroom, living room or office will work! Yoga can be practiced wherever, whenever. However, having a quiet, comfortable, dedicated space where you won't be interrupted or distracted during your practice will help lure you to your mat. Aside from making physical space, we must also make mental space. We should approach our practice without judgement or criticism, and instead be open, receptive, and willing to experiment creatively. When we create mental space, our thoughts slow down and we can move more freely.
3. SET THE MOOD
For me, it's all about the ambience. Practicing in a comfortable and safe environment will allow the mind and body to relax enough to tune into the present. Once you've created the space for your home practice, set the space for positive and uplifting vibes: candles, a good playlist, incense, essential oils, or an altar are some elements that can make any space sacred in an instant.
4. MAKE TIME
Carving time out of your busy day is going to be one of the hardest obstacles to establishing a home practice. Experiment with different days of the week and times of day. Decide on a time when you will commit to showing up for yourself and stick to it! Taking even 10-15 minutes for mindful movement can refocus your energy, give you a sense of grounding, inspire your day and uplift your mood.
5. SET AN INTENTION
An intention can help keep you on track, especially if you are working on a specific goal or emphasis. Keeping your intention at the top of your mind will help you use time constructively by keeping you FOCUSED on what matters most! Your intention can be to simply observe your actions + reactions or to listen to whats happening in the body + mind. You can also move through your practice meditating on an affirmation.
6. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Keep it simple and build slowly. Use props and pillows to your advantage. Work your way up and gradually add on variations or increase your practice time. Start with 4-5 poses to slowly create a home practice: choose from a variety of sun salutations, standing, balances (standing + arm), inversions, back bends, twists, and forward bends. Your home practice does not need to look like a studio class and does not need to be perfect. Without the guidance of a teacher, you must rely on listening to your own body (envisioning it from the inside out) to achieve safe alignment. By listening to your breath and body for some time, flowing into postures will soon become intuitive. Again, Just start with what you know, but make it a point to educate yourself on the basics to stay safe. Rule #1: trust and listen to your body. Only you know what it is trying to tell you.
7. BE CONSISTENT
Consistency is key and regular practice will lead to increased strength, flexibility, and awareness. Try as best as you can to practice at the same time each day whether it be first thing in the morning, before lunch, once you are home from work or school, or before bed. This will help transform a home practice routine into a daily ritual. Focus on consistency first and then build up quality. Devote yourself to your cause: practice self-discipline and self-love. Transformation is the only constant. 'Practice and all is coming'