Developing a home practice can be a challenging task, especially when you are trying to transition from a studio led practice to a home self practice. Whether your schedule prevents you from making it studio classes or you are looking to have an avenue at home to unwind, having a home practice is beneficial on a multitude of levels.
I have had a consistent home practice for the last 6 years. I currently practice 2 hours a day, 5 times per week. There is something about a home practice that cannot be duplicated in a public room. The balance and understanding of the body, mind, spirit connection truly comes to light in a home practice. While I have a solid, consistent home practice now, that I could not imagine not having, it didn’t start out that way.
Prior to the last six years, I began my home practice with a yoga dvd for 45 minutes once a week. I did this because I could not make it to a studio due to my work schedule. I started once a week for 45 minutes because it was realistic and relatively easy to budget that into my life. Slowly and progressively over the years I built my home practice from 45 minutes once a week to my current 120 minutes five times a week. I did this over the course of 5 years slowly adding time and days to my practice as my schedule and life allowed. I went from dvd’s, to online classes, to Ashtanga. I went from building a home practice based on schedule practicality to having a home practice out of choice. During this time I’ve found the key to developing a home practice is cultivating a few guidelines.
Where to Begin:
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and spend hours trying to create guidelines. The eight limbs of yoga has already done that for you with second limb of yoga, the niyamas. The niyamas are five principles that refer to your relationship with yourself. So let’s set up your space with the five niyamas in mind.
1. Sauca (Purification)
Purification can be as simple as dedicating a space in your home that only your practice will occur. If you have the luxury to take an entire room, do so, but don’t clutter the room with miscellaneous items that do not pertain to your practice as this will take away from the intended space. If you do not have an entire room to dedicate to yoga, then block off an area in your house where nothing else will occur. Whether you are working with a room or a dedicated space you can include a few items like wall hangings, crystals, or statues to personalize the space. Be selective with what you add into your space and avoid adding unrelated or unnecessary items. Choose only a few items that are sacred to you and have meaning. Keeping the space pure will aid in your ability to drop into your practice and stay focused.
2. Samtosa (Contentment)
Contentment is defined as a state of satisfaction. When having a home practice one area that prevents a state of satisfaction is distractions. Have your space prepared with props, lighting, & window coverings so that you do not need to leave your mat to make any adjustments. Distractions come pouring in the moment you step off your mat. If your space is properly prepared you can be content to stay on your mat, which will reduce the amount of distractions going on. Also, make this time a phone free time. Turn it on silent and keep it out of your space to avoid distractions from friends, family, and work.
3. Tapas (Discipline)
Tapas can be the most challenging for it is your responsibility to hold yourself accountable.
Set realistic and defined parameters for your practice. For example, dedicate a time in your day when you can practice and a specified length of time. Pick a time and length that will be relatively consistent and be the least disruptive to your day to day life. Set boundaries for your practice with members of your household. Let them know that during this time, you are unavailable. Work with your surroundings. I have two adorable pups that just want to be with me all the time, which I love! So, in order to maintain contentment in my practice I’ve trained them that if they’d like to share in my practice time that they must stay in their beds.
4. Svadhyaya (Study)
Svadhyaya allows you the opportunity to focus and learn what is going on within yourself while you practice. During led classes, part of your attention is diverted to the teacher. You are trying to listen, incorporate cues, and go along with the sequence as they teach it. At home, all of your attention can be on you. Accountability also comes into play here. If you do not have a yoga practice that comes with a set sequence like Ashtanga, then you will need the help of a teacher to create a set practice for yourself. If a routine is not created the tendency is to only practice what you like. Additionally, you want to ensure your practice is well balanced and appropriate for where you are at. You will need to assess your practice daily and make the decision when it is time to reconnect with a teacher. You will need periodic feedback on what you are doing solo in order to stay safe and make adjustments to your practice in order to grow. If you do not feel ready to completely dive into a home practice where it truly is just you and your mat, then try using dvd’s and online yoga classes to help you step away from being in a public class. Once you get comfortable and use to practicing at home, then seek the help of a teacher to create a unique practice to you or learn a style of yoga that has a set sequence.
5. Ishvarapranidhana (Surrender)
Ishvarapranidhana is truly what it is all about, surrendering. Surrender to the fact that a home practice will be different from a studio practice. Surrender that there will be positives and negatives to your home practice. Surrender that not every day or every practice will be the same or have the same outcomes. Surrender to knowing that what you show up with and how it goes is part of journey. Surrender to the experience and let go of the expectations.