I remember the good ol’ days living back in California where I could take a yoga class anytime and all the time. There was no need for me to practice on my own-I had plenty of opportunities to practice with a teacher, and I loved it.
I loved being challenged and inspired. I loved turning my mind inward and flowing through my moving meditation without having to “think” too much. I loved receiving adjustments and learning new flows and poses. I loved exploring my own limitations through the guidance of a teacher. I loved having someone share their expertise and experience with me so that I could take it with me into the classes I taught. Each teacher offers unique approaches to a pose; each teacher uses different verbal cues for a pose. Some teachers incorporate pranayama techniques; others do not. Some teachers make a playlist; others lead the class in silence. Some teachers believe in and adhere to one format; others merge formats and teach multiple types of yoga. That’s what makes yoga such a fascinating practice–it is about how it resonates and speaks to you.
What are some reasons why you love taking a yoga class?
From the beginning of my yoga career I have honestly enjoyed teaching but I truly enjoy learning the practice even more. “The true teacher never stops learning,” and I live by these words. This is why I have struggled over the past four years to maintain a consistent practice. Once I started traveling and gave up my routines, I found it very challenging to get myself on the yoga mat alone.
From new city to new country, from hostels to friends couches, I accidentally abandoned one of the most important things in my life. I traded yoga in for adventures and booze. Getting up at sunrise to hike a mountain or sleeping a hangover off took precedent over yoga. Sure, I would take a class here and there, but my practice began to struggle a lot.
With this kind of schedule and lifestyle it is no surprise that my practice suffered. It didn’t take long for me to notice that I was plateauing. This led to much frustration. I wasn’t making progress and I refused to take action toward solving this goal. I know I needed to start a home practice-home being any where in the world I laid my head at night. Hotel rooms, beaches, parks, patios….the potential was all right in front of me. I just had to decide to do it.
It’s hard though, isn’t it? Some of you reading this have a home practice. Some of you don’t. I currently have a strong self-practice that I do in my yoga studio below my home in Thailand 4-7 times a week. How did I get there? Here are some tips to help you begin or maintain a huge me self yoga practice.
- You know that feeling you have after you walk out of an invigorating yoga class? Use that feeling to propel yourself forward. You can give yourself that same feeling. Once your feet step onto the mat, most of the battle of self-motivation is over. You have to be inspired by what yoga has already given you and make a decision to do it. Our minds our the most powerful tools we have. You have the power to take your health and happiness into your own hands. The great Lao Tzu said it and we all know it-“A journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.”
- Your self-practice does not need to be 60-75 minutes like most classes you participate in at the studio. Start with 10-20 minutes in the beginning. Just like anything new, ease yourself in to it so that you do not become overwhelmed and discouraged. Small steps will lead you to small successes and set up a solid foundation for you to build upon.
- You do not need to be a certified yoga instructor to have a home practice. Anyone can do it. There are myriads of resources available to you from your local teachers to You-Tube videos by some of the greatest yogis out there to books. There are even apps for yoga poses, flows and classes. This knowledge is everywhere, which leaves you no excuse. Start with what you know and as you learn more, add a pose or sequence here and there; maybe take a pranayama or meditation workshop. Keep expanding your repertoire so that your practice becomes exciting, refreshing and you incorporate all the major facets of yoga.
- For example, my home practice is usually 50-75 minutes, depending on my schedule. When I step on the mat, I follow this basic format that allows for creativity and progress.
- First, I connect to my ujjayi breath and then begin Surya Namakar A, followed by Surya Namaskar B (these are sun salutations and the traditional way to warm up the body). From there I do 2-4 standing sequences, including standing balances. Next, I focus on the core, strengthening both the abs and low back. Then I choose some seated poses, followed by back bending. I tend to end with hip openers and inversions.
- On a day I have more time, I add some pranayama and meditation after my asana practice.
- This format allows you to work on strength, flexibility and balance. It also guarantees that you work and stretch the main muscles and their counterparts. Borrow sequences from your favorite teachers and after awhile you’ll start making up your own!
What I have found through a home self-practice is that I listen to my body a lot more. I know when I need extra time to work the hamstrings or hips. I can feel l need to spend some time on my Dharma Yoga Wheel to develop my thoracic spine flexibility. I’ll be in the middle of a flow and all of a sudden I feel called to transition into a pose I didn’t expect or to try a variation of another pose. The possibilities are endless when you are in control of your own body and mind. No teacher and feel what you feel during your practice. Only you can.
A home practice has strengthened the relationship I have with myself. I understand my strengths and am grateful for them. I understand my weaknesses but have grown from them. With a consistent home practice I have finally begun to progress in my handstands, backbends and hip openers-three long-time challenges for me. I proved to myself that I can achieve my yoga goals if I maintain a consistent practice, one that I do at home, alone, and one I do at a studio when I get the chance.
Going back into the studio after having a home practice changed the way I approached classes. I am now confident with where I am in my own practice so that I can receive the most benefits from another teacher.
The true teacher never stops learning. I now know that our greatest teacher is ourself. My self practice has shown me things about my practice and myself that I couldn’t get from taking a class. It took me years to realize this, and I am so grateful that I did. I will continue to take my practice with me everywhere I go. I will continue to give myself this great gift. And when the time is right, I will share it with others by teaching a class and gain from others by attending one.
Begin your journey of endless possibility and self discovery by starting a home self-practice now!!!