As a yoga instructor, I could go on and on about the benefits of practicing yoga in a group setting. One of my favorite things about a group classes is the energy in the practice space: when we all set an intention and move & breathe to it, magic happens. More realistically for most, going to a group class at a studio carves out time for you get on your mat: not only is it a set time frame for practice, but there is someone leading you through the poses. You are able to drop into a moving meditation that transforms your energy and body in a short period of time. Did I mention the energy in the room? Practicing with a group is incredible, and I LOVE teaching group classes - but there is a time and place for everything. While I'm in the business of teaching group classes (please come to my class! ;)), it's so important to be able to have a home practice so you can listen to your body and give it specific loving kindness.
Practicing yoga at home allows you to begin listening to the body in a more attentive, compassionate, and loving way.
Getting into the groove of an at-home yoga practice can be daunting. As part of my #SimpleSelfCare series, I wanted to share some things you can do to make beginning your at-home yoga practice feel simple:
DESIGNATE A SPACE.
You have to identify a place in your living quarters that allows you to experience the least amount of distraction. This means putting the pets (and maybe the kids!) in another room. Find a place that speaks to you feelings of calm and ease. Hardwood floors are a perk, but not a requirement. It doesn't have to be big: you just need enough room for your mat and a little space around you (think: lying on your back and dropping your knees to the left/right).
CLEAN IT UP!
Clutter in your physical space often equals clutter in your brain space (for me, at least). I find that eliminating clutter makes me feel less-stressed. If and ONLY if clutter doesn't totally stress you out, try and tidy up your practice space. Sometimes even covering a pile of papers / laundry with a blanket creates a more calming vibe.
SCHEDULE THE TIME.
In order to get on our mats, most of us have to schedule it into our day. This is essentially one of the huge draws of practicing in a group: we have choices in which class we attend on the schedule and choose one that works with our day. This can happen with a home practice, too. Maybe it's in the morning before everyone else wakes up, or right before you get ready for bed. Maybe on your lunch break. If you make the time, you're more likely to get on your mat.
WRITE ABOUT IT.
I am a huge advocate for journaling and documenting thoughts, goals, ramblings. When I first started practicing yoga at home, my practice journal is what kept me coming back. By writing a quick couple sentences about the practice, I was able to mark my progress realized that 100% of the time, I was always happy I made the time to do it. The writing held me accountable for my practice. It also helped me recognize the "off-the-mat" benefits yoga was providing.
BE PATIENT AND REALISTIC.
It takes a long time to learn the physical poses in a yoga practice. Even more, knowing which poses are supposed to go together also feels overwhelming. If you've been to a handful of group classes, you've definitely got a "pose library" in your brain to draw from. It doesn't have to be a flow. Just choose a pose and practice it on both sides for 3-5 breaths a side. Using the Yoga Journal pose dictionary is a great place to start. It helps to journal your mood or any physical tightness before you begin, and choose poses that reflect those present thoughts/feelings.
GET SOME PROPS.
This is an option, but I LOVE to use props in yoga. Yoga blocks are my favorite prop and I use them in almost all of my practices, but straps and blankets are super helpful too - especially if you have tight shoulders and hips. Beyond props to help you get into the poses, you may want to add a devotional item (a photo, for example) of what inspires you to practice. This can help remind you of your intention and set a tone for the practice. Candles and lamp lighting are a nice addition.
CELEBRATE A 10 MINUTE PRACTICE.
Seriously. Ten minutes of deep, focused breathing and mindful movement is enough to help the brain and body reconnect, leaving you feeling less stressed and in the moment. Setting a goal of 10 minutes is absolutely attainable for almost everyone. If you have time for 15, 20, or 30 minutes, even better. My average daily home yoga practice is about 30 minutes. That gives me time to warm up, practice a good handful of strength-building poses, and stretch and relax in savasana for a couple minutes.