Homebody's Home PracticeMarch 27, 2017
Since 1999 I’ve been practicing yoga at home. A former pet and my children have made appearances in my home practice but it’s been relatively easy to keep this up by myself. I don’t mind being at home and find being alone comforting. However, my true solitude is hit and mainly miss. The chatter of my kids is something I’m learning to tune out or savor as I know this time together is fleeting.
While teaching in Indianapolis as well as some students in the advanced intensive recently asked what my home practice looks like. Let me try to define that for you and perhaps share some tips on staying home with yourself.
Self practice takes discipline. Self practice takes passion. Self practice is a choice.
I was so sold on the good feels yoga gave me that I just committed at 18. If my college class only met 2x a week, then my room was good enough to quench my thirst the other 5. What exactly I did on my mat and zafu the first few years was plant the seeds of a home practice. It wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t looking for perfect. The important thing was I chose to repeat the process and explore. I consistently made a space for practice in my life and weeks turned into months, months years, and 18 years later I’m on repeat.
Often I am asked about how to start a home practice. It’s hard for me to answer because I have no idea what it is like to not have one. It’s like asking me how do you blink? You just do.
I just made it up as I went along in the beginning, like you do with any love affair. I didn’t know anyone else studying it outside of my hippie friends who gleaned the Bhagavad Gita on Dead lot with their dogs named Bodhi. Madonna’s album featured the astanga invocation and cultural appropriation wasn’t a thing yet. I acquired a lot of books and clothing made out of old saris. I watched a lot of Satyajit Ray films and practiced along VHS tapes of Rodney Yee, Total Flow Yoga and cut out pictures of poses from magazines. I poured over flashcards I drew myself and wrote my own sequences to practice. A Temple of Kriya Yoga cassette tape of mantras was something I regularly played in my car and I attribute that to the mantra practice I currently have. Little things at the right place and time in my life added up to me avidly studying yoga and eastern philosophy.
Advice to start a home practice then might have to be rooted in a state of being where one is filled with love or devotion. Commitment and discipline should effortlessly flow if you are so impassioned. Self practice is ultimately choosing a path for yourself and trusting to know how to show up for yourself. To get started there’s got to to be an underlying drive.
-Clear a space in your home.
-Commit to a time in your day.
-Ask yourself what needs to be in place in order for you to practice. Do you need a certain amount of time in relation to rising, meals, work, bedtime, or acquiring available room?
-Write out a list of poses you like. Get a notebook and each time you come to your mat write out the names or draw a stick figure for the poses you want to do.
-Are you more visual? Then look at Light On Yoga by Iyengar or Penchant for Practice poster by Darren Rhodes.
Do you want functional movement and anatomy with your yoga pose images? Judith Hanson Lasater books Yogabody and 30 Essential Yoga Postures are great as well as Ray Long’s books.
-Online you have at your fingertips thousands of teachers sharing online classes, mini sequences or memberships. I have a membership with Yogaglo and occasionally take classes when I’m feeling like I just want to take a class and get out of my own patterns.
(You could take a class of mine on YogaVibes.com)
-To help transform your home into a sanctuary you may need to address the immediate space you are to practice in. A vase for a sprig from nature, a candle, your favorite pillow to sit on and a set of blocks, strap or mala beads…whatever it is for you should be regularly kept in the area you are to come back to daily/weekly to practice.
-Keep a notebook in your car and after attending a class jot down ideas you like and remember. Don’t say you can’t draw because on the spot I’m sure you could create a symbol for that thing you liked that you can interpret.
-Once you actually get on your mat operate spontaneously with some markers in mind like seated reflection, warm ups that target big movements in the hips and shoulders, poses you think you should do and the ones you’d like to do, saving time for seated breath work and meditation. Often the only rhyme and reason of my practice is desire. Desire to know. Desire to feel good. Desire to acquire what I’m not yet capable of. Desire to go deeper into self reflection and make changes for the better. Desire to sustain. Mostly I’m just doing the basics and aiming to do them well in whatever the case may be that day.
-Here’s a simple sequence you could plug your own specific poses into:
Warm ups/surya namaskar
Defined core actions (example: navasana, jathara parivartanasana, arm/leg raises)
Shoulder and upper-back work preparing for back-bends
Neutral spine folding and gentle twisting
Seated forward bends and twists
Savasana 10 min.
-You will need to be flexible. Having utter silence, a perfectly clean space, the optimal length in time, your most comfy clothes, your regular mat..whatever it is, get over it if it’s not in the cards that day. Practice, sit, sing, or squat anyway.
-You might get bored or frustrated. It’s OK for your creative process and discipline to undergo a bit of construction. Plateaus are more common than peaks and troughs. Here’s where it gets interesting if you’re willing to see it through.
All I can say is 5x a week at home I do pose work on my yoga mat from 30-75minutes. It’s regular yet it’s always shifting. I have incorporated a squat and hip strengthening routine and do my diastasis recti repair exercises which I usually knock out in my warm up for asana. I chant every single day. I read every single day. Once a week I lead an intermediate/advanced class for 90 minutes. On occasion I take a class.
Find something you can just effortlessly give to that feeds your soul and doesn’t harm others in the process. Good luck.
photo credit: Scott Shigley