It's great if we can make it into our favorite yoga studio two or three times a week to keep our practice strong. Sometimes, however, that is not everyone's reality. Many of us are so busy with work, family, school, etc.; we just don't have the time or ability. This does not mean that you cannot still have a purposeful yoga practice. Practicing at home can be a great way to learn more about yourself and your body, as well as create a yoga practice that is truly yours.
- Have no expectations of what a home practice “should” look like. Instead, give yourself permission to explore your home practice on your mat with an open mind.
- Begin simply with the intention of getting on your mat for “five minutes to see what happens.”
- Always, always, always listen to your breath, follow your breath, pay attention to your breath. Your breath is your teacher – if it’s strained, back off, if if you’re breathing through your mouth, back off, if you’re gasping for air, back off.
- Always listen to your body and never go into anything that’s painful. Discomfort is ok -use the breath to surrender to it. But pain is a signal that your body is not ready for that posture yet.
- Remember that alignment is simply A-Line-Ment – things line up. So if you can’t remember the posture exactly, examine your body and make sure that everything lines up – ankles in line with knees, knees in line with hips, hands in line with shoulders. Very rarely are there strange angles in yoga – instead think mathematically. This is parallel to that, or that is perpendicular to this.
- The order of postures is simple – begin with warm-up postures, for example child’s pose, or legs up the wall. Transition into standing postures. Finish standing postures with balancing postures. Practice some floor postures. Always end with a closing sequence – in my classes we use bridge pose, a reclining twist, and corpse pose.
- Pay attention to what your internal guidance is saying from posture to posture. Your body KNOWS what it needs to do next, and when you surrender to it’s natural flow, you can harness this and intuitively do the postures in an order which systematically opens up the body. So if you come out of a series of sun salutations and a thought pops up, “I really feel like surrendering into a forward bend right now,” then honour that thought.
- If your body wants to move in new and unexpected ways, allow it to, staying connected to your breath and paying attention to how your body feels from the inside out. Don’t allow the mind to squash the impulse with a thought like “Oh that’s not a real posture.” What is a “real” posture? And how do you think the very first yogis learned yoga? They learned it by allowing it to blossom from within.
- Don’t skip savasana. You’re at home, so hopefully have some time. This is your opportunity to REALLY explore savasana. It’s your meditative posture where amazing things can happen. So when it comes to the end, allow yourself the great gift of surrendering into savasana for ten minutes, or even twenty minutes. Don’t drift off into sleep though – maintain that conscious awareness!
- Enjoy yourself! This is your practice, it’s a joyful exploration of the internal landscape of your body. Smile when you’re in the postures, congratulate yourself for getting on to your mat, give yourself a pat on the back when you finish. You’re giving yourself the greatest gift ever when you practice at home – the gift of spending time with yourself.
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