Five Tips on Establishing a Home Yoga Practice
I’ve been practicing yoga for over 20 years. The vast majority of that time has been spent in quiet mornings on the mat at home. At first I dropped in on classes with different teachers who set me off in the right direction along the path. I was inspired and started coming to class more frequently. Then, I traveled to India to study in the traditional manner and cultivate a direct connection to the lineage of yoga. It was when I returned to the U.S. after spending two months in India that I switched over to a home yoga practice.
There were many reasons. First was economical. I was a graduate student at New York University (NYU) and, like it is for most students, money was tight. If I practiced at home I could save the monthly yoga studio fees. Second was time and convenience. I was living in New York City on Avenue B in the East Village. If I was going to practice at a studio, the teacher whom I most connected with was down on Broome St. Public transportation was a less than ideal connection so it would mean walking for 30 minutes each way or a taxi which I couldn’t afford. While I love walking, I also had to walk back and forth to and from school, which equaled about 90 minutes of walking each day. It was just too much. The last reason, which is harder to explain, was that I felt I had a teachers but that my teachers was in India. It just didn’t feel right to go someone else’s class. There were other reasons too, like how you can wear what you want when you practice at home. Or how you can go directly from your yoga mat to a nice hot shower or even back to bed for a little bit. In a home yoga practice you’re also free to release whatever sounds want to come out of your body freely, within inhibition. This last one is a bigger blessing than you realize.
So, there I was, just a year in to a committed six day a week yoga practice, and I was already on a home yoga practitioner. As you can imagine, I’ve developed some systems that really help get your home yoga practice established. Let me share a few of my tips below.
1. Routines to Minimize Distraction—Good habits can be hard to form and easy to break. Getting on your mat at home with consistency and regularity requires you to routinize your behavior. One of the biggest obstacles to getting on your mat at home is, well, the experience of being home. Laundry is sitting around waiting to washed, folded and put away. The dishes are there, not really washing themselves. Kids, pets and family make it hard to claim time and space for yourself. A great way to minimize distractions is to set up a moment-by-moment routine for your day that builds up to your practice. I like to practice yoga in the morning, after I meditate. My biggest distraction is getting caught up in the internet, whether answering emails, messages, and comments or just reading the news. My ideal morning routine is a cup of tea, reading an inspiring book or writing if my thoughts are fresh and then getting on my meditation cushion and my mat within no less than an hour after waking up. On days when I stick to my morning routine, practice (and life) flows so much better.
2. Commitment—Not everyone can commit to practicing six days a week, so be honest with yourself about how many days per week that you can commit to. So many home yoga practitioners set really high goals for how often they want to practice only to fail at achieving those goals. Then, instead of yoga being a success experience, yoga feels like yet another good thing that you don’t do, like eating enough greens or drinking enough water. It can be very motivating with a home yoga practice to set your goals lower, like getting on the mat one day a week, when the kids are at school, and then achieving that goal. You can always add on to the positive momentum that you build.
3. Time—It can be at whatever time works for you, but my biggest advice around setting up a home yoga practice routine is to practice at the same time. Your body will get used to doing yoga around the same time each day. If you adjust your practice time too much it can feel almost as jarring as jet lag. Choose a time that you can be consistent and stick to it.
4. Find a Teacher—This may seem counterintuitive, but just because you are developing a home yoga practice doesn’t mean you need to be a self-taught yogi. In fact, you will probably find more consistency, direction and progress in your practice if you have a teacher. There are many ways for a home yoga practitioner to find a teacher. After my first trip to India, I practiced at home for about a year and then traveled back to practice for at least a month. This combination really worked for me. I would go to India and immerse myself in the practice. During that period, yoga study was my sole focus. When I returned back home, the lessons learned on that trip would slowly integrate in my practice and in my life. After a year of self practice I was ready to be steeped in the teaching again. Whether you decide to go to travel to study yoga or spend time with a teacher closer to your home, what matters is building a connection to a teacher whom you can return to for guidance and direction.
5. Online Support—I started yoga in the days before YouTube. If you wanted to watch a yoga video you had to put on a DVD. Compared to the ease with which yoga students today stream vast troves of yoga videos online, this sounds like the dark ages of clunky technology. Now you can have access to some of the world’s best teachers at your fingertips. And, what’s worth perhaps even more than that, you can connect with like-minded yogis all over the world. Sometimes knowing that your friend got on her mat today motivates you to get on your mat today too. On days when you don’t feel motivated to practice, putting on a video created by your teacher can pull you through those low periods. While there are many online channels for yoga, I created Omstars with the specific intention of supporting home yoga practitioners in both their personal practice and in building a true community.
6. Sacred Space—One of the most beautiful things about going to a yoga studio to take a class is the palpable change in atmosphere that floods the senses when you walk in to the space. It can instill a sense of holiness and call your soul towards the sacred. Tuning in to that same feeling at home can be difficult. Creating a small home altar can radically transform even a small corner of a room into a mini-temple. It doesn’t have to be a big production (unless you want it to be). My practice space always has a candle, an incense burner and a crystal on a small shelf or table. When I’m at home, my altar is more elaborate. But, just lighting a candle for me is often enough to signify the inward turning of the mind that yoga really is. Scent plays into the nervous system and if you get accustomed the scent of a candle or of incense, that can evoke certain attitudes that make home practice more connected to a sense of the sacred. Do you have more tips for a home yoga practice? Share them below!