Solo Yoga is Essential: 8 Alone-Time Practice Tips.

Via on Oct 9, 2013

abundance altar

Bonus: 5 Simple Ways to Make Your Home Practice Count.

Without a home practice, you’re not really a yogi.

This may seem like a controversial opinion, but hear me out.

Taking community classes at a studio is wonderful and recommended, as you always pick up new techniques and poses (and, ideally, inspiration) from each teacher. But the sad fact is that a lot of yoga studio drop-in or membership fees are prohibitively expensive for many of us.

In any case, the key is to practice daily, or as often as possible—on your own. A consistent home practice is the essential foundation of the true yoga lifestyle.

I was fortunate to stumble upon yoga early in life and to spend years honing my home practice, sans yoga mat or any other props or accessories, before ever attending a public class.

In a former life, I was a super busy overachieving yogantrepreneur overloaded with commitments, both in Austin and the San Francisco Bay Area. Ten years ago, I was teaching a dozen classes a week and barely finding time to roll out my own mat at home.

Trust me—I know that a consistent personal practice can feel impossible to maintain.

I also know that without it, every other aspect of life gets more difficult and ultimately falls apart.

When I moved to Guatemala four years ago, the space I suddenly had in my personal and professional life was a luxury, and I found myself meditating and practicing yoga in my room for hours each week.

It wasn’t a struggle; it wasn’t just another item to check off the to-do list.I found myself waking up earlier and naturally gravitating to my cushion or mat. It came naturally.

If this magical mystery is yet to happen in your life, you may need to give it a push. Here are some tips for getting started, over and over again.

1. Start small.

Even just five minutes of sitting in stillness first thing in the morning can make a huge difference in the quality of your day.

You do not need to be skinny and flexible to do yoga. So many people think they have to be all pretzel-bendy in order to do yoga. That’s like saying you need to be strong to lift weights or you need to be fast to run.

No. You start where you are. In time, with regular practice, you will gain flexibility, strength, balance and focus. If you delve deeper, you might even have a spiritual awakening.

2. Find your happy place.

Find the place in your house that works for you. Create space for sitting meditation and for practicing yoga. Decorate an altar if so inspired, with plants, flowers, relics and/or inspiring images of your teachers and the people and places you love.

3. Pick a time and stick to it.

Be disciplined. Set a goal. Five minutes, ten, twenty. Work your way up gradually. To do this, sit in meditation every day. Practice some yoga every day. Soon you’ll find it’s not a burden but an automatic and enjoyable habit.

4. Use guidance.

In lieu of a guru, it is important to work with an experienced teacher in order to have a safe and flourishing home practice. If you don’t have quality yoga teachers available nearby, there are billions of good books, videos and online instructional resources that can help get you started.

5. Study the words of the wise.

Yoga is a vast science that involves a whole lot more than stretching, breathing and meditating. Read all about it. Read the dharma teachings, theTao Te Ching or the Bhagavad Gita. Read what feeds you.

6. Deepen your practice.

For most of us, the most efficient way to do this is to go on retreat. Take a weekend (or better yet a week, or better yet ten days) to be silent, to practice more frequently and for longer periods than normal, to be alone, to listen to the quiet, to find your balance in the present. If you can’t take a weekend, take a day. If you can’t take a day, take an hour. But try to find some space in your life for retreat.

7. If at first you don’t succeed…

Try, try again! At first, you won’t succeed. It takes time and devotion to built a solid, unwavering practice. When you notice that you’re off track and have gotten away from a steady routine of meditation and yoga in your day-to-day life, start anew.

8. Seriously, start small.

 It’s better to practice five to ten minutes of yoga, once or thrice in your busy day rather than wait for the magical time when you will have one free hour to set aside for meditation and relaxation.

That hour will never come. Instead, do yoga in short spurts woven throughout the day, if that’s what works for you, for now.

Don’t delay! Start where you are. Enjoy.

 

Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

Ed: Bryonie Wise

About Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle is a believer in the power of poetry, circles and stories. A freelance human hailing from Austin, TX, she has lived and loved her yoga since age 12. She adores life at Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, where she shares a tiny cabin with her partner, daughter, cat and dog. Michelle has been a columnist for elephant journal since 2010. Her words can also be found on The Tattooed Buddha, Rebelle Society, LeanPub, and her ever-evolving site, Love Education. Take a retreat in Guatemala with Michelle!

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Comments

36 Responses to “Solo Yoga is Essential: 8 Alone-Time Practice Tips.”

  1. onesadhaka says:

    Hmm,,,good to know someone can tell us what real yogis do, and how to live the 'real' yogic lifestyle….

    I am grateful for that.

  2. Candor is something rarely expressed in this politically correct world. Thank you!

  3. Another thought: My old SGTMAJ from my Marine Corps days used to say it; and it fits here "Don't just talk the talk; walk the talk".

  4. amphibi1yogini says:

    Hey? Isn't that what yoga teachers always wanted?
    Their students to have a home practice.
    The next time a yoga teacher tries to upsell you, as a student, into taking an "unlimited class package", remind them of what someone who took Old School Yoga once told you, "Isn't my having a home practice what yoga teachers have always wanted?"

    Who CARES if you need technology, avoid inversions, avoid purism to do so … you know if you are studying yoga at home …

  5. GerryM says:

    Great article. Thanks!

  6. sarah says:

    stopped reading after your statement about what makes a real yogi. Sorry but some of us CAN afford to go to studios 4 days a week. Guess we're not real yogis. gross. What I imagine yogis to do is not push or take away labels from people they don't even know. But what do I know? I just do studio yoga every week.

  7. Michelle Margaret Fajkus yoga freedom says:

    I published this piece the other day with the best of intentions—to help people start or deepen their personal practice.

    It is catching a lot of flak via Facebook and some of the above comments. I think it's because people are not reading the article but rather getting upset at the (admittedly provocative) subtitle.

    I am a yoga teacher. Of course I want people to practice at community yoga classes and pay me to lead them in practicing. However, I stand by my assertion that home practice is really where it's at.

    I am also a self-righteous hypocrite, because, having a tiny house and a 9 month old crawler, at the moment, my home yoga practice is erratic at best and usually involves interruptions to play or breastfeed. (And that's okay.)

    Namaste,
    Michelle

  8. Kimberly Lo Kimberly Lo says:

    Just my two cents, but one reason I can think of to practice with a real, live teacher is that you can really hurt yourself if you don't know what you're doing.

    It's not just about picking up new poses, etc. It really is about doing it safely and correctly.

  9. Lorraine says:

    Michelle, thank you for your article and for stimulating this discussion. I have a large, imaginary but effective club that I keep at home to beat myself on the head occasionally for not having a home practice. And while there is a Yoga studio on every corner in my neighborhood, I maintain a monthly membership at a studio 14 miles from my home, because I believe in them. I've visited the Barbie & Ken studios, and, well, they don't offer what I want. I want a studio where my teacher puts me in Warrior II and tells me to be the space where the 4 walls meet the ceiling, because somehow, that suggestion makes my mat a larger place to practice. And even if I wiggle wildly on any given day, in my favorite studio, I am filling the space I have with what I brought, and it's good.

  10. Sandy says:

    I have to agree with Kimberly Lo – practicing at home can be physically dangerous *for beginners*. Hopefully those with more experience know when and how to "listen to their body". I for one started out with video tapes (gee, giving away my age here much?) that were wonderful and basic introductions. It turned me on to yoga. Once things got harder I realized I needed some guidance and started going to a studio as my budget allowed. I think the first and last suggestions on the author's list are the most important ones: Start small. PS I've discovered Groupons are a great and cheap-er way to try new yoga studios and find instructors you vibe with – so when you do splurge on a full-price class you can be confident in knowing you will have excellent instruction for YOU.

  11. lisalooleeli says:

    Great article, I am now in the process of developing a home practice and it is a challenge but definitely attainable. I will still frequent my home studio (the teachers have become my friends) to further develop and learn new poses safely.
    Peace x

  12. Charlotte says:

    I love my home practice and consider it integral to how I make yoga work for me and where it fits into my life. It works for me for so many reasons. I visit a studio rarely just to check in with a teacher to see if there are any alignment or other issues that need ironing out, and to get some hands on spotting on new poses. Granted, I have been practicing for 10 or more years on and off but I'm not convinced people are more likely injured at home than they are at a studio, beginners included. People who tend to push past their limits would probably have that tendency wherever they are. Some research figures on that sure would be interesting! And perhaps some are even more likely to injure themselves trying to 'keep up' with someone on the mat next to them rather than running their own race, so to speak, at home where there is no one to impress.

    I love this article and the discussion it stimulates and urge everyone to consider cultivating some degree of home yoga practice – to what degree is highly personal depending on multiple factors. There is some interesting research by a psychologist named Anders Ericsson where he describes the effects of what he calls 'Deliberate Practice' where an individual can make exceptional achievements within the context of extended periods spent practicing in solitude. Anyway, whether or not his observations in the fields of classical music, tennis or chess can be extrapolated to yoga may not be possible and probably depends on what it is one hopes to achieve. My anecdotal n=1 experience bears out his findings – I have made much more progress (on all levels) with an almost exclusively home practice than I did for double or triple the time (and money) spent at various studios.

    Thanks for the article! Will share. Namaste.

  13. getitom says:

    I do think it's unfair to say that without a home practice, you can't be a "real yogi." Being a yogi has a different meaning for everyone, and in my opinion, we should not try to be defining it or restricting it based on our own personal experience.

    However, these are some great suggestions, and I appreciate the rest of the article. :)

  14. Dallas says:

    I am an old fat guy. I took classes in a studio for 2 years and made some progress. When I retired we went on the road in an RV and my practice fell apart. I find your advice timely and effective. I practice Yoga for health, strength, relaxation, healing, and inner peace. I guess that makes me a Yogi, albeit, not very accomplished. The location of ones mind is much more important that the location of ones body while practicing. Grocery store lines, long boring meetings, great places to practice. So today I begin the journey anew. Thank you for the inspirational words.

  15. catfishmcgowan says:

    Great tips!

    I've been practicing Ashtanga almost exclusively at home for the past 7 years except for my first 6 months where I took private lessons to learn the system and a one year stint in a Mysore class.

    A few things that help me get on my mat at 5am every day: Using a light therapy lamp and listening to loud music for at least 30 minutes before I practice to help wake my ass up. Taking a hot shower before practice helps to work out any kinks from the previous day. I got these tips from a little e book written by Angela Jamison titled "House Recommendations." It is an excellent resource.
    When I get to practicing, silence seems to work MUCH better than having music in the back round. Silence makes it easier for me to zone in on the sound of my breath and move with it in a deliberate way. That kind of focus on my breath is the thing that keeps me on my mat.

  16. xgirl says:

    I would love to have a home practice but I don't have the space and/or privacy. It is impossible for me to meditate in my current living situation and it is extremely frustrating. I cannot find a way to get around these hurdles, unfortunately.

  17. Sanda says:

    life itself is the practice of yoga not asanas!
    "you’re not really a yogi"…:(

  18. Funky fairy says:

    Very timely and relevant article for me-after a hiatus i have home practiced almost every day in January! With 2 small kids and a small house I have taken to doing it on the front patio, at 5:30am ish, or the beach/oval/reserve/garden wherever I happen to be…long ago given up caring what others think! Created a space out front with prayer flags, incense and a broom to sweep the space before practice. Seeing the sun burn over the hills in the distance as it rises is a fabulous bonus that I wouldn't get practicing indoors too! That and the mosquito bites hahaha!
    Thanks for sharing your insights on it

  19. Linda says:

    I love my home practice as much as I love my studio practice. Namaste Michelle

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