Last week I wrote about setting up a space for a home yoga practice. This week I'll provide some tips on how to create your home practice. The below rules apply to someone who is also practicing in a yoga class setting or with a private teacher. If you've never practiced yoga before or if you have bene off your mat for awhile I recommend checking out some classes or private sessions before you start your personal home practice. 1) Choose a time. In last weeks post I wrote about the importance of practicing in the same space, as much as possible. Today I add to that, as much as possible try to set a time for your practice. Whether it is first thing in the morning, when you get home from work, setting a time will help you keep your practice regular and also help you figure out what kind of practice to have. It also helps you establish yoga as a ritual, which can help ensure your practice becomes regular.
2) What to practice- This is one of the tricky things of starting a home practice, deciding what to practice. Here are a few rules of thumb: a) The first rule of thumb would be to work on what you like. If you groan every time a teacher puts you into pigeon pose practicing it on your own may not be the best move, because without the teacher there you are less likely to hold the pose at all. You may also be holding the pose improperly for your body, which is why you don't like it in the first place. Stick with poses and sequences you know you enjoy, they are most likely to keep you on the mat.
b) Target areas that could use a bit of extra love. This may sound a bit contradictory to the above point, but try to spend a bit of time on the areas of your body that could use a bit of extra stretch or strength. This doesn't mean going into the full extension of a pose you hate, but if you know your hamstrings are tight do a few forward folds. This is a great chance to work on these areas in-between classes where, depending on the class, you may not get to target them completely. If you aren't sure what areas need a bit of extra loving consult a knowledgable teacher.
c) Do what you know. A home practice is not the time to try new poses. If you've been working into a "peak pose" (like a handstand or camel pose) your home yoga practice is probably not the time to practice it. Instead continue working on what you can to prepare for this pose, going as far as you've gone in class, as long as you feel comfortable. This will prepare you to practice again in class and continue working into more advance postures.
3) Listen to your body! This is a big one, and really it applies in a class or private setting as well. If something doesn't feel right it probably isn't! Monitor your energy level as well. If you are feeling exhausted perhaps you should practice a more gentle practice. This can relate to the time of day as well. If you go to a studio in the mornings but have an evening home practice you may want to practice slower than you do in class.
4) Expect a shorter practice. For most people, myself included, it is much more challenging to stay focused on a home practice, as opposed to when a teacher is holding space in a class or private session. Set a timer for about half the time of your usual class practice, and take it from there. And if you get distracted by a text, a pet or the front door return to your mat.
5) Don't skip Shavasanah! It is easy to think of a Shavasanah as an extra luxury that can be skipped if you are short on time but really it is one of the most important asanas (poses) of any yoga practice. It is a time to relax and an opportunity to notice where your body or mind can't or won't relax or let go of tension. To encourage your home practice I've created a free short guided Shavasanah that you can feel free to use at the end of your home yoga practice.
6) Take advantage of the internet, but do so responsibly. There are countless yoga videos online, both for free and charge. From a safety point of view I don't recommend yoga videos to those that don't have a strong yoga practice, or if you've never heard of the teacher and their aren't any reviews. If you do, my favorite site it Gaia.com where, for 10$ a month you can get access to thousands of yoga videos, guided meditations and more.
7) Remember, no one is perfect and practicing at home is difficult. My home yoga practice is constantly interrupted by my dog or my growling stomach. This humorous video is a great reminder to not take yourself to seriously.
8) Talk to a teacher. If you are struggling with your home yoga practice, or still not sure where to start, speak with your regular teacher, who may have some great tips.He or she may suggest a few private sessions, which are a great way to have a personalized practice designed just for you that you can build on and practice on your own. I offer a "Home Body" Private Yoga Practice where I work with clients to design and create a personalized practice that they can feel confident working with and building on on their own.