What you are about to read may seem counter-productive and controversial coming from a small Yoga business owner: I believe that a consistent home practice is essential to establishing a sincere yogic attitude and lifestyle. Now having said that, you can trust that I know first-hand how difficult a consistent personal practice can be to maintain.
Just over seven years ago when my twins were born I was overloaded, running on empty and just keeping my head above water to see the next day. Unable to roll out my mat, it felt like every aspect of my life got more difficult and looking back, it was not surprising that I ultimately fell apart.
When I finally sought the support of my family instead of trying to “do it all”, I prioritized time to start practicing Yoga daily in my small study. With regular Yoga practice established in my personal life, I soon realized that life was no longer a struggle.
To commit to practice, I deliberately made Yoga another thing on my daily “must-do” list. Everyone around me appreciated and respected this as an important outlet for me to function in my strongest, most vital, compassionate and happiest self. This enabled me to let go of guilt associated with not being able “to do it all”.
Establishing my yoga practice was also not a struggle. Waking up before everyone else in the house came naturally – I was not waking suddenly or in a panic to crying or sick babies, I was waking more peacefully to the sanctuary of my mat…meaning I could deal with whatever the rest the day had in store for me with more confidence and grace.
If naturally gravitating to your mat at home is not coming easily, here are some quick tips that have helped me in my home practice of vinyasa and restorative Yoga:
1: Choose a convenient time. I practice Yoga first thing in the morning as I find the intention sets me up for the workings of day. It may also kick start your vitality, make you more productive and keep your energy levels up. If yoga practice doesn’t happen for you in the morning, don’t let it be an excuse to skip it. You can choose another time that is more convenient – before lunch or early evenings. I’ll often practice before dinner on Monday nights when my husband gets home from work (I just hand-pass him the kid’s homework and bath routine J). Yoga at these times can also be a good way to refresh the mind and release stress collected during the day.
2: Concentrate on a set sequence of poses everyday for a given time frame. Practicing the same poses every time you roll out your mat for a while is a powerful way to keep consistent with your practice. This repetition offers you a clear vantage point from which to watch yourself grow and change. You don’t have to think about what pose you want to do next, so instead you can focus on your breath, the root and abdominal locks (bandhas) and your focus point (drishti). This takes you into a deeper meditative and focused place, so that you will step off your mat feeling more present and peaceful.
3: Set a minimum amount of practice for yourself each day. Even if it’s just 10 minutes, make yourself a promise that you will do your 10 minutes. Alternatively, your minimum practice could be 5-10 breaths in 5-10 of your favourite restorative poses (cat and cow, downward facing dog, standing forward bend, seated spinal twist, gentle lunges and tabletop are great examples). Even 5 rounds of sun salutations is practice enough to invigorate the body. Each of these options can be your practice right there and if you can do more then think of it as a bonus gift to yourself! If you start small but practice everyday then you’ll find it’s not a burden but an automatic and enjoyable habit. You’ll be more likely to stick with your commitment and feel positive about your practice rather than guilty if you don’t have much time or vitality that day. *Importantly, it’s better to practice 10 minutes of yoga at least once in your busy everyday rather than wait for the magical time when you have 90 minutes to set aside for the full pranayama, asana, meditation and relaxation sequence. No doubt that time will never come so do what works for you right now.
4: Respect your body. Only practice intense yoga postures if you have time after a sufficient warm up. This is essential to minimize the risk of straining your muscles and joints. Be gentle on your body, especially if you do not have a lot of time. If you try to rush through the sequence of poses by doing them faster or pushing beyond your own body’s limits, it will not bring faster results. It will only make the practice more difficult and painful, meaning you’ll be less likely to continue.
5: Create a sanctuary for your practice. Reserve a specific room in your home that is specifically for your practice, or even just a quiet space large enough to roll out your mat. When you are on your mat, you are in your own little yoga shrine. Like most yoga students, I’ve also created a little “altar” in my study with meaningful photos, trinkets and relics to mark my sacred space for intentional practice. If you share a house with others, kindly communicate with them the importance of uninterrupted practice time and space. Over the years my young daughters have come to respect that sometimes mummy needs time on her yoga mat and most questions, help and yes, even “dobbing” can wait another 10 minutes.
6: Prioritize your practice. When you practice, make practice your sole focus. Turn off your phone and your computer, try not to roll out your mat and then walk away to check a message you’ve just received or send an email – guilty J
7: Take the time to just be. Always start and finish your practice in stillness. You could choose a breathing (pranayama) practice such as ujjayi prior to asana practice, repeat a mantra, do a self-inquiry of your body (physical, mental, emotional and energetic), or meditate. Setting stillness as top importance of your practice will make you feel nourished and peaceful, encouraging you to practice with more consistency and devotion. Just 3-5 minutes of conscious breathing or meditation will benefit your asana practice, because it helps build concentration. Similarly, practicing asana with an intense focus on drishti, bandhas and breath as mentioned above, will enhance your capacity to meditate.
8: Seek help via nearby resources. If you are feeling a little stuck by yourself, look up some blogs and yoga websites, take an online yoga class or listen to a podcast. There are some great free classes and trial memberships available online. There are also countless books and instructional DVDs. Don’t forget to treat yourself by “tuning up” with a great teacher. A few classes or a workshop will help bring attention to areas of your practice that need assistance. I know first hand that students from my advanced yoga course have found new inspiration and motivation for their daily home practice. Finally, remember Yoga is a vast discipline that involves much more than stretching, strengthening, breathing and meditating. Get inspiration by reading philosophical teachings such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita.
9: Most of all, express gratitude! Every time you come to your mat give thanks that you are blessed to be practicing yoga. Gratitude opens hearts and minds!