Why I Practice at Home.

Via Sarah Simmons
on Aug 2, 2012
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Okay so you’re a yogi.

You have a practice that extends most days of the week and you have your mat and your bag and your fancy clothes and your yogi friends and your favorite teacher that twists you up and cradles you until you’re a puddle on the floor knocked out in savasana and feeling like all is right in the world.

Not much beats out a well taught yoga class and as a yoga teacher I know that a studio is a guaranteed way to get your yoga in. In fact I would say it’s imperative, especially as a beginner, to be guided and directed and seen through your class. Not only for safety reasons; so you don’t hyperextend your joints or develop bad habits using momentum rather than good alignment and strength but it’s important to see how a class arcs.

Going to a studio class shows you how to warm up, how to twist and balance and go upside down and get through your sun salutations and all their variations. Also it’s cool to be with other practicing yogi’s.

Even if you’re not a social butterfly there’s something sacred about sharing space with other people all breathing ujjayi in all their different bodies and personalities that makes a class special.

But then there’s the home practice. This is something I can’t advocate enough—and teaching is part of how I make money. If you have taken classes and watched dvd’s or podcasts and have come to a place in your practice where you’re comfortable with the poses then that is a cue that you are ready to practice on your own at home.

And if you’ve taken classes and watched dvd’s and are uncomfortable with poses on your own than that also is your cue to try a home practice; if you’re waiting for the right time you might just be waiting indefinitely.

So why practice at home

Because you can. That could be reason enough but there are so many more; the most in your face reason being it’s free, private and whenever you want it to be.

You don’t have to drive to a class that is at a specific time that you have to get to. The time you set to be on your mat is whenever you do it—5 a.m.? 4 p.m.? Completely up to you.

Then there are the deeper reasons.

You truly learn about yourself in your own private home practice. You learn that maybe you don’t want music or maybe you prefer Guns & Roses, Katy Perry or (god forbid) Justin Bieber. Maybe you want to do some yoga that is all about your shoulders and hips? Then that is what you do.

You look up some poses for the parts you’re looking to focus on and those are the postures you do. Maybe your practice is laying down and breathing. Laying down and focusing on your breath is (in my world) the very core of what yoga is.

It’s taking the time to just be. It’s allowing. It’s bringing some stillness and awareness to your mind and body that balances out the day-to-day task list of work and family and stress and even the hard core power vinyasa class you prefer most days. But on your own mat where you call the shots you truly become the master of your “self.”

I swear by my home practice that lets me off the “yoga leash” that safety of being told what to do and how to do it and for how long.

When I’m at home on my mat I’m in a place that pushes me not only to be creative but to be disciplined, my tapas if you will. Even when not feeling up to it I know that I will feel better, more grounded and more settled after some breathing and the gentlest of poses.

And more often than not after five minutes of gentle “I’ll just do happy baby and maybe a downdog” I end up being coaxed into something more expansive. But if not that’s okay too.

In fact, there is something to be said about permission to not; to not beat myself up over not practicing in the challenging way I normally do. To not play that mental guilt game that somehow states that I am less of a person for not going all out for an hour as opposed to a sweet and slight 15. This is something I’m working on continuously and would argue that that in itself is yoga. That that need to push myself is differentiated from- am I just being lazy or avoiding something?

On my mat I am given the luxury to work through these things as opposed to taking a class when the money, time and babysitting is there.

I am granting myself an opportunity to tailor a sequence according to what I need and what I want and what feels good. What I choose to practice shows me things about myself that I otherwise might not have learned had I not chosen to be at home.

For instance, there was a few months where I did the same routine over and over again. I craved the familiarity and the ease of knowing what to do and could physically feel the progress in my legs and strength in my shoulders and slow opening of my back as the at one time new and hard sequence grew easier and quicker. I learned to slow it down and just be in the pose for its own sake. I learned that I can adapt to things that didn’t feel right in the beginning and then I learned to let go. I let go of the need to have that one routine and then to come up with others. I learned that I am definitely a creature of habit and that variety has it’s own merits.

What will you learn on your mat at home possibly in your underwear?



Editor: Hayley Samuelson.


About Sarah Simmons

Sarah Simmons is 32 and the mother of one princess who loves to jump on Sarah’s back when she’s in Downdog. If the princess gets told not to do something the princess tells her mother to go do yoga. When she's not blogging or reading books or writing about books or running around in circles silly she's....well there isn't much time leftover so that calls for a nap and a part time job at the library.


41 Responses to “Why I Practice at Home.”

  1. Michael says:

    Yay! This kind of perspective seems almost taboo in the normal communications forums that are dominated by people who earn money from yoga. Thank you for finally broaching the subject. For me, my yoga practice is something that is with me all the time, and I practice asana where ever and whenever the mood strikes me. Mats, special clothes, a studio, etc. (everything you see advertised on the left side of this web page) are all completely unnecessary. One small part of my practice is to sometimes go to yoga classes. Classes are good because they teach me new things and get me to do things I would not normally do. But ultimately they are class, a place to learn about practice, and not the practice itself. In my opinion, many of the "controversies" and "issues" in the yoga community are a result of people having been brainwashed into thinking that the tools (yoga classes, yoga products, defined yoga "styles", famous yoga people, etc.) are the practice itself. Thanks for a good article.

  2. Helen says:

    I think Michael said it all! I've just really gotten into a home practice and I'm learning to love it. Great article.

  3. cat york says:

    Couldn't agree more! I practice almost every day now, without judging myself, because I practice at home. Leaves lots of time for other the other things about life that I love.

  4. Jasmin says:

    I stopped going to the yoga studio last year after having been a regular for nearly 11 years! The drive, LA rush hour traffic, looking for parking, praying for a space to place my mat in super crowded classes, dodging outstretched arms and ducking feet of fellow yogi/yoginis stretching in adjacent mats, and rising costs in class fees just became too stressful…instead, I turned to the teacher within and continued with my yoga practice in the comfort of my home. I've even subscribed to yogaglo for a small monthly fee and get to practice with a virtual teacher when I feel the need. I love the freedom and flexibility a home practice offers. Thank you for this post and helping reinforce my confidence in my home practice.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks Sarah! I agree so much. Home practice helps me truly 'drop down' and practice intuitively, and this is the bulk of my practice now. Even the 'sweet and slight 15', as you put it. And thank you for the reminder that it's ok, however our practice turns out. And yes, classes are great for getting another perspective.

  6. Anne Falkowski says:

    Yah! Sarah. Great article. Plus you can write immediately after practicing and I know for me alot of stuff comes up on the mat that I would love to journal/write aboout and it is often lost by the time I get home.

  7. Auki says:

    I've never understood why anyone (other than a beginner) would need to drive to a Yoga studio to practice Hatha Yoga asanas. Sounds like a waist of time, money and gasoline! I've practiced yoga at home for thirty-five years.

  8. sarah says:

    My belly is tumbling with all this support. Truly didn't think anything would come of this. It's awesome to hear how people benefit from taking their yoga into their own hands and just practicing what comes up. I think classes are great to reconnect to a group setting and to fine tune things but ultimately it's all about you on your own in your heart on your mat doing (or not doing) and for me def. in your underwear with a journal to reflect.

  9. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Thank you for this. I always knew EJ would come around and not just post by-teachers-for-teachers.

    I have been studio-free for a year.

    In addition to yoga's costing too much, I don't miss the studio "attitude"; and I am able to fix my longer-than-class-length home practice to the point of having it center me every time. With classes, I'd gotten centered only on a fluke, except with one world-class studio which closed (they must have worked themselves out of a job). Admittedly, I'd dreaded going to all but the restorative yoga classes and meditation classes at more convenient studios (occasionally). I'd never gone when tired. I'd never gone when depressed. I'd never gone when feeling hungry. Obviously, I don't feel the same way about pilates mat now … I go to a pilates studio now for mat pilates class (different ball game, different kind of students, different kind of teacher … a more come-as-you-are sensibility).

    True, I did not go to a yoga studio frequently like the high-rollers. I kicked my butt cross training for the vinyasa classes at home. It showed to the more spiritually authentic teachers, and was appreciated. To the more mercenery, young and in a hurry types, they shrugged their shoulders and tried to promote more money out of me in the short term (e.g. privates, workshops), which ultimately failed.

  10. persie says:

    Thank you Sarah. Your words came with perfect timing. Recently i have gotten a little burned out on the regular class i attend, i think i have gotten from it what i need, and it's time to move on. I had been considering just doing my own practice at home. Thank you for the encouragement and for highlighting the benefits. With the home practice, i find lots of distractions and lack of motivation. Maybe i just need to put it on my calendar as a "class" and attend it with the same discipline. Anyway, your article is helping motivate me, so thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Katie says:

    Yes! Thank you! I can’t afford to do yoga in studios right now, so I am grateful I can do it with amazing instructors at home. Elephant has become my yoga community and I’ve learned so much here. I, too, recently did a sequence over and over because that was just what I needed. Thank you for writing this.

  12. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Not necessarily true. After the first 5 minutes (used to be 10) you tend to forget you're alone. The only differences are: doing it pre-sequenced, the counting can get tedious (but I'm no stranger to doing aerobics alone – been there, done that) … doing it to an audio or video, you do feel that "4th wall" on occasion … you know, the energy mismatch as though you were being performed-to rather than instructed … and the vistas DO change on occasion and over time …

    Marshall McLuhan was right though–the medium is the message … and you've got a bunch of cool media in that video … cool enough for a hot room!

  13. Xerxes says:

    I have started practicing at home a couple of times of week due to an injury. Despite what the instructor says, there is always the desire/pressure to go for every pose in class, hang with the pace and stay with everyone else. Being your own teacher means giving yourself permission to modify when you are hurt and explore in depth your weaknesses (in my case, headstands and balancing poses) without the pressure of all those eyes. Come on, we all look beyond those drishti fakeouts!

    Thanks Sarah, for sharing this with us.

  14. Sarah says:

    And thank you for the feedback, xerxes. That's what it's all about, the responses.

  15. Vision_Quest2 says:

    The distractions of looking at others through the corner of my eye (though about 95% of the time I practiced in class with my eyes CLOSED – in retrospect, a BIG FAIL when dealing with teachers who have an agenda, which is to say, many of them) may have contributed greatly to my lack of feeling centered after practice through the taking of a class.

    But, I like to think it's those teachers who had an agenda, that were responsible for my lack of feeling centered.

    Of course, I'm biased in favor of the "agenda" that would meet me where I am. Most of those teachers – far younger and more limber than I am, in possession of agendas, as well – would need a yogic GPS for THAT … I had to supply ALL my own modifications sometimes (especially with the Big Rock Star teacher they had) … I told them, with the mental energy I expend on my home practice during the week (big commute to work – long story) for the money I was paying for classes, I expect better!

    This is why I switched to pilates mat. A more therapeutic approach, no acrobatics, actually more "competitive" than yoga is reputed to be (ANYTHING is, really)–but with competition comes handicapping and customization (MISSING from most yoga practices–and even Iyengar which has those considerations, also has its detractors) …

    I grabbed alignment cues from two somewhat Iyengar-like practices' since then my home practice "quality", as it were, skyrocketed — and I never looked back. Oh, I did later on go to a more primarily-home-practitioner-friendly studio and or a studio that does not discourage switch-offs with yoga at an inexpensive gym. (Hint: avoid most "vinyasa", "hatha/vinyasa" and "power yoga" studios to find THAT …)

  16. It is all a bit bemusing to me and perhaps a little too either/or. I think you should always practice at home and you should work with teachers to aid your practice at least from time to time (the length may vary.) I'm routinely surprised by the number of folks who go to yoga classes and don't have a home practice.

    Mind you, I avoid a lot of the negatives (well documented here) of some classes by getting private lessons, which paired with my home practice seems the best of all worlds for me. Of course, I think I should open myself up more and explore taking some classes/workshops from time to time as well. As much as I don't like some of the aspects of the class setting for yoga, I think that part of the yoga practice one should work through like the work you do getting past the tightness and resistance to get to the heart of some asanas.

  17. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I can't afford private lessons. OK, so traditionally yoga was taught only to Brahmins. I can't afford private lessons. I also will cross-train. That's the only thing that works for me. I have plenty of kinesthetic intelligence and body-awareness that I bring to the table (nothing like that of Grimmly [Anthony Grimm Hall], but then he has been to more than his share of workshops; he devoutly practices vinyasa krama/ashtanga at home). Many old-school hatha practitioners do, too; from the days of Richard Hittleman and Lilias Folan, onward through Laura Venecia Rodriguez, a contemporary champion of home practice).

    What seems underrepresented these days are vinyasa yoga-pilates fusion home practitioners like myself. And, as I have said, I am going frequently, willingly to a studio mat pilates class … they want me to take a private or so. They are, at least being nice about it … not sure they know about my home practice at this point (I learned my lesson–the best thing is not to talk about it–"don't ask, don't tell; nobody would believe me when I say a virtual David Magone is trying to teach me arm balances, anyway …) ….

  18. C. Devlin says:

    I practice at home, aided by good teaching dvds, articles, etc. If you think about other disciplines, they presume individual, solitary home practice. Music, for example, dance, dressage and other forms of horse-back riding, painting, writing, sports, etc. Any form of study. Schooling of any sort presumes the student will study on her own apart from a teacher. Yoga shouldn’t be any different. I’ve always been puzzled by people who limit their yoga practice to a class, which usually means they do yoga once a week, which to me is hardly doing yoga at all.

  19. Ramani says:

    I think people are afraid of their own bodies and themselves, which is perhaps why hardly anyone practices. I look it at like any other class. I pay money to learn something which I then go home and study. Just makes sense to me, don't know why practicing at home is such a revelation. With that said those of you who think classes are only for beginners are perhaps missing how much depth there is to this subject and perhaps just aren't around very good teachers or only want a basic practice at home, which is enough for most people.

  20. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Loved this!

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