Developing a home practice can be challenging, especially when you are trying to transition from a studio-led approach to a home self-practice. Whether your schedule prevents you from making it to studio classes or looking to have an avenue at home to unwind, having a home practice is beneficial on many levels.
I have had a consistent home practice since 2010. I currently practice 2 hours a day, 5 times per week. There is a sacredness one builds with a home practice that public classes cannot replicate. In a home practice, the balance and understanding of the body, mind, and spirit connection authentically come to light. While I now have a solid, consistent home practice that I could not imagine not having, it didn’t start that way.
At first, 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 into my life. Slowly and progressively, I built my home practice from 45 minutes once a week to my current 120 minutes five times a week. I did this over five years, slowly adding time and days to my practice as my schedule and life allowed. I went from DVDs, to pre-recorded 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 have already done that for you with the 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 where 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 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 things that are sacred to you and have meaning. Keeping the area pure will aid in your ability to drop into your practice and stay focused.
2. Samtosa (Contentment)
Contentment is a state of satisfaction. When having a home practice, one area that prevents a condition 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 you prepare your space wisely, you can be content to stay on your mat, which will reduce the number 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 duration that will be relatively consistent and be the least disruptive to your day-to-day life, and 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 want to be with me all the time, which I love! So, to maintain contentment in my practice, I’ve trained them that if they’d like to share in my practice time, 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 diverts 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, you will need a teacher’s help to create a set practice for yourself. Without a routine, the tendency is only to practice what you like.
Additionally, you want to ensure your practice is well-balanced and appropriate for you. You will need to assess your practice daily and decide when it is time to reconnect with a teacher. You will need periodic feedback on what you are doing solo to stay safe and make adjustments to your practice to grow. If you do not feel ready to completely dive into a home practice where it truly is just you and your mat, try using DVDs and online yoga classes to help you step away from being in a public class. Once you get comfortable practicing at home, seek a teacher’s help to create a unique practice for you or learn a style of yoga that has a set sequence.
5. Ishvarapranidhana (Surrender)
Ishvarapranidhana is to surrender. Surrender that a home practice will be different from a studio practice. Surrender that there will be positives and negatives to your home practice. Welcome the idea that not everyday or practice will be the same or have the same outcomes. Let go of expectation and know that what you show up with and how it goes is part of the journey. Surrender to the experience and let go of the expectations.