(I know the Dr. Strangelove reference is vastly overused, but I couldn’t resist it this time)
There are many reasons to do a home practice. Maybe you usually go to a studio but today nothing fits into your schedule. Or perhaps you’re feeling a little off and need to go at your own pace. Maybe going to a studio provokes a lot of anxiety for you, and you’d rather enjoy the comfort of your own home when you’re doing yoga.
Whatever the case may be, it can be difficult to build a home practice. Our homes are full of so many potential distractions, many of which can seem much more comfortable and appealing then moving through a bunch of sweaty vinyasas or holding plank until your arms are shaking.
Shockingly, telling myself “No, you can’t do that” has never proven an effective method for drawing myself away from distractions. Even when I managed to get myself to turn everything off and get onto the mat, I would practice for a short amount of time and give up. Don’t get me wrong, short practices can definitely qualify as good and full practices, but I rarely benefitted from them because I always stopped as soon as I got moderately uncomfortable.
I’m certainly not an at-home-practice guru or anything now, but recently I’ve discovered some things that have helped me immensely in improving my yoga sessions at home. So here is a list of things to try–of course, they’re only suggestions, and what works for me might not work so well for others. But I’ve found that simply trying different things has been the most effective way to find enjoyment in my home practices.
- Break the rules. For me, this means playing music while I’m practicing. Loud music. No, I can’t hear my Ujjayi breath as well this way, but I find I’m able to connect my breath and my movements to the rhythm of the music. Rather than distracting me, it helps me get into my body and be in the present moment. Do whatever helps you feel a little more at ease, even if you’ve been told you’re not supposed to.
- Let your body tell you what it wants to do. In other words, move however the hell you want, or even don’t move at all. I used to feel like I had to follow a certain sequence of postures during my at-home practices. This compulsion completely hindered my connection to my practice. The great thing about practicing at home is that you can do anything you want! For me this often includes adding in random dance moves and poses that I completely make up on the spot–because it just feels good. Maybe for you, just sitting still and breathing feels amazing. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re doing “real yoga”–as long as you’re breathing, you’re doing your yoga.
- It’s ok if you get distracted–just try to come back. So maybe you remember that you need to make a trip to the grocery store later, or that you need to respond to an email, or that you haven’t set a DVR timer for that show that’s coming on later. Try to release the thought first–imagine you’re sending it away on a cloud or releasing it through a trap door from your mind (concepts from two of my favorite yoga teachers). But if you just can’t seem to get it out of your head, do what you need to do and don’t worry about it. Maybe take a few seconds to jot down a reminder note and then return to your mat. I always thought this would ruin my practice, but I’ve found that just “going with the flow,” even if that means temporarily stopping what I’m doing to make another adjustment, serves me best.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. So you’re feeling like you can’t even make it through one sun salutation today, or you’re noticing that you can’t balance in tree pose for more than two seconds. Your ego is bound to act up and tell you to get it together. Tell it thanks, but you’re good. Remember that this is exactly where you need to be. It’s all a part of your personal journey, which is one that is unique from everyone else’s. You are enough, no matter what happens on or off the mat.
- Get Inspired. Maybe put a picture on the wall. Wear some mala beads around your wrist. Light some incense or diffuse some essential oils. Repeat a mantra (I’ve been using “Patience, hope, and healing”). Make your practice, and your practice space, feel special–it doesn’t have to be much. Sometimes just putting on some crazy/colorful yoga pants is enough to make me feel like practicing. Think of what makes you feel good and then try to incorporate that into your practice somehow (and I’d be happy to help you come up with some ideas!).
Perhaps some of these guidelines might work for you; some might not. Just remember that there is something that will work for you, and you will find it if you keep trying.
If you’ve found anything else that has helped you cultivate your at-home practice, please share! I would love to add to the list.