Until I moved to Puerto Rico in 2013, I hardly ever practiced yoga at home. I admit it, I use to be a studio junkie. Day in and day out I would drive myself to the yoga studio so I could get in my 90-minute fix. Sure, I’d play around with inversions at home – I’d try poses that I was too embarrassed to try in class, but I never took the time to roll out my mat at my house, by myself, to just flow, to just move through whatever poses I want without anyone else telling me what to do. I had become too reliant on the studio, too reliant on a teacher, and practicing yoga began to feel less organic, and more like a structured regime in my day-to-day life.
Once I began a consistent home practice I realized that it’s really quite liberating and I feel as if it has taken my practice to a whole other level. A home practice has taught me discipline; I make time for my practice even if it’s only 10 minutes a day – I turn off my cellphone, turn off the computer and dedicate that time to being on my mat. I’ve also noticed that I have become much more efficient at tuning into my body’s energy and frequency from day to day – I’m more aware of how my emotional body affects my physical body. Some days I push myself; challenge myself to move a little deeper into poses and to hold poses for just a couple breaths more. Other days, I modify down, allowing my body to decompress and to restore itself. My home practice allows me to explore each asana in a totally new way – in a more spiritual way. I really feel the poses, instead of just going through the motions, and notice how they affect my body and my soul.
I’ve learned a ton about my practice and myself through a home practice, and I think the lessons and the breakthroughs will differ from person to person. But the most beneficial lesson that I’ve taken away from my time off from the studio is to stop comparing myself to others. We always say that yoga is a “personal practice, just you and the mat, nothing else matters.” And while this is most definitely true, at times it can be hard to stop comparing yourself to that person next to you in class that’s dropping into backbends so effortlessly, or holding that arm balance for what seems like eternity. In classes, I would find myself pushing harder because I didn’t want to look weak or incapable to the teacher or to the other students. I would also find myself feeling defeated when I couldn’t get into a pose that the person next to me could do. And while a little healthy competition can be good at times, I think it’s important that sometimes you just work hard for yourself, not for or because of anybody else. A home practice has brought me back to the mat, back to my sacred space and my own personal practice, free of comparison, free of judgment and more open to possibilities – and because of that, my practice finally feels complete.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I still haven’t given up my love affair with the studio. Nothing compares to the energy of a studio setting – the connection between the students and the powerful guidance of a kick-ass teacher. After all, I teach at a studio now. I would be out of a job if everyone just practiced at home. I still think it’s incredibly important, and incredibly beneficial, to attend classes regularly, but at the same time I think it’s also essential to balance out that studio time with a personal, at-home practice.
So... Give it a try! I think you’ll amaze yourself with what you can do and what you can learn when you are on your own. Below are a couple of tips to help you start your personal at-home practice. Experiment. Try a couple of different techniques and see what works best for you. Then commit and watch what kind of magic unfolds when it’s just you and your mat.
1. Find a quiet space for your practice. An area of the house where you can move without distraction. Turn off the phone, turn off the TV, and shut down the computer.
2. Dedicate time to the practice. Whether you have 10 minutes or 2 hours – commit to your mat. Forget about the pile of dirty dishes that needs to be washed. You can worry about them later.
3. Journal about your practices, it’s a great way to document progress and get in tune with yourself – How your body was feeling during the practice? Where was your mind at during the practice? What poses are you working on, seeing improvements in? What poses do you want to work on?
4. Find some inspiration! YouTube yoga, Instagram yogis, and books about yoga are great places to start.
5. If you’re having trouble creating your own flow:
– Focus on an area of the body that feels tight or sore. Maybe you just focus on hip openers for one day and backbends the next.
– Pick a theme. Need to feel grounded? Focus on standing poses. Need to feel more compassion? Focus on heart-openers.
– Find a sequence that you like. For me, I mainly stick with the Baptiste Journey Into Power Sequence – but allow myself a creative license to throw in other poses and flows that I want to work on.
– Turn on some music and just let the asanas come to you. Who cares how you look? You’re at home, remember?
6. Most importantly, let go, let loose, and just have some fun. That’s really what yoga is about!
I love reading your comments and would love to hear about your personal home practice!