June 16, 2013

What Really Happens When a Yoga Teacher Practices at Home. ~ Cory Martin

I’m Not a Cook in the Kitchen, but I’m a Yogi with the Oven

I teach yoga. Practicing at home should be easy, right? Well, not always—which  is why I’ve decided to give you a glimpse at my home practice to let you know that you’re not alone when your yoga doesn’t end up looking the way it does in the glossy pictures of Yoga Journal.

What follows is my recipe for a well-rounded home practice.

To start, you’ll need a hard surface to place your mat on. Personally, I find that my kitchen works best. If the only space you’ve got is your bathtub, then don’t let me hold you back. Once you have your mat laid out and your space claimed, it’s time to warm up.

Most days I’ll do a few rounds of Sun Salutation A followed by a couple rounds of Sun Salutation B, but there are times when I’m just not feeling it. So I crank the oven to 375, open the door, sit back on my heels in Virasana (hero pose) and before I know it I’m preheated and ready to go.

From there it’s time to move on to the standing poses. I like to begin with a good old crescent pose to get into my legs and stretch my hip flexors.

This is where I also start to connect to my breath—breathing in and out through my nose with a slight constriction in the back of my throat allows me to really focus on the important things, the good things in life, you know, like saucha—which means cleanliness, or the fact that I scrubbed the kitchen floors, or that I used Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Counter Cleaner, or that I took out the trash…

Once I’m in the groove of my breath and my legs are ready to work, I’ll hop right into Utkatasana, or chair pose, and hold for five breaths or more.

When my thighs start to quiver, I look into the dining area for inspiration. I bend a little deeper, hold a little longer, then honor where my body is in the moment. There’s no judgment in home yoga, even if the furniture is doing it better than me.

Next, it’s time for a little dancing warrior. I start in Warrior II, reach back for Reverse Warrior, and end in extended side angle. If I notice that my hip is jutting out behind me and my chest is collapsing towards the floor, I’ll use props. Since I don’t have any blocks lying around, I’ll use a can (or two) of organic cannellini beans from Whole Foods, but if you want to use BPA lined cans full of pesticides that’s totally fine, just don’t ingest.

After dancing through Warrior II on both sides a few times, I’ll flow into Warrior III. If I feel like I need more of a challenge, I’ll take this time to work on my balance and Madonna arms and get to work on sharpening my good old meat cleaver, which has been neglected since I became vegan two weeks ago.

Then, I’ll fold down into standing splits and make use of my knife by cutting up a cucumber and setting it to the side.

After I’ve completed the standing poses, I like to do a little bit of core work. There are times when I’ll stick to the regular standbys like Navasana (boat) to Ardha Navasana (half boat) or yogi bicycles, but sometimes I like to step it up a notch and reward myself along the way.

So, to really get enlightened (or shall I say lighter?), I use props for crow. I squat down in Malasana (yogic squat) to open my hips then I start to organize a bunch of almonds in an inspirational message and set to work on my abs. I make my crow a moving version—inhale and lift, exhale head down, inhale and lift, exhale chew.

This work is also really great prep for coming into headstand from Bhekasana (frog pose). So, after I’ve consumed my daily-recommended ounce of nuts I take my practice upside down.

Once on my head, it’s usually about the time I get an email announcing a new Diane Von Furstenburg dress on Gilt.com. I’ll silence my phone and focus on my form, pulling my elbows towards one another and my shoulders away from my ears, but when I get a text from a friend asking if I want to go to happy hour I say yes and take that as a sign I should buy the dress—which I do immediately.

After headstand, I take the time to add in a few more inversions—handstand, forearm balance, scorpion, keg stand (what?!). The good thing about home practice is that you usually have quite a few walls to work with. Feel free to take variations and get creative with your inversions and when you’re finished come down to your mat and lie on your back.

Once there, it’s time for some back bends.

If you’re working on Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel) and want to find more openness in your upper back and length in your arms, I suggest opening your refrigerator door and using the bottom ledge as you would with blocks against the wall.

Next, it’s time for some twists. If you’re like me, you might find that your cabinets give you great leverage to take yourself deeper.

As a close to my practice I will take a nice forward fold and reach for my toes. Remember to keep a flat back and lead with your chest as you come into this pose.

If you’re really in the moment then it’ll probably be about now that you notice there’s something amiss with your feet. So, I absolutely won’t fault you for taking care of them.

Once done with my pedicure forward fold, I prepare for the final resting pose.

I’ll settle onto my mat, grab a couple of the cucumber slices I cut earlier and place them over my eyes. Then, I take one final deep breath in and sigh it out. As I move into Savasana, I let my body relax and my mind clear as my nail polish dries.

After about five minutes I slowly begin to wake, then I move to a comfortable seated position.

With my hands at my heart I gently bow my head. I whisper namaste and honor my home yoga practice—a practice that is ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ and nowhere near perfect, but I’m okay with that and you should be too because it’s all about finding what works for your body and honoring that.


Cory Martin likes old school composition books and standing on her head. In 2010 when Cory was presented with the opportunity to write the documentary film, Titans of Yoga, she jumped at the chance to combine her two biggest loves—writing and yoga. She has written for television, authored several books, and is a 500hr RYT. She currently teaches in Venice, CA and tries to write daily, even if it is just a to-do list. You can find her on Facebook


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Assistant Ed: Linda Jockers/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{All photos courtesy of the author}

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