If you’d rather watch a video than read an article, skip to the end of this article and you’ll find a short video of me going over these same five points.
These are simple and effective strategies for creating and maintaining your home yoga practice.
Getting on our yoga mat is nothing more than a psychological process—our mind throws up excuses as to why we can’t practice.
I’m too busy with other more important things…
I don’t have enough time…
I don’t know what to do…
None of these things are actually true—or need to be true. Watching what the mind says when we want to practice, and choosing to take actions that work-around the excuses it throws up is part of what turns us into a yogi.
And that is why daily home yoga practice is a necessity if you really want to be a yogi. It’s not so much about what you’re doing on the mat—although, yes, that is important and does affect your body and mind too—but rather, it’s about what goes on in your mind before you even get on the yoga mat.
Recognizing that the process of home yoga practice is a mental practice in and of itself helps shift our relationship to our home practice. We start to realize that if we want to practice, we can, we’re the ones that just have to make it happen. And that’s when strategies play an important part.
We know the kinds of obstacles and issues that are guaranteed to come up when we think of practicing every day. Knowing them means we can work out in advance how we’re going to counter them.
None of these strategies are rocket science—it’s all plain common sense, but these strategies can challenge underlying and unconscious assumptions that are standing between us and our yoga practice. Therein lies their gold.
The strategies reveal that that our thoughts are false, that we don’t need to believe our mind, and we can see right through it.
That’s yoga, right there. Here’s five strategies to help you practice yoga every single day.
1. Make your home yoga practice a priority in your day.
Simple right? Make yoga matter by shaping your life around it.
Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things to cross my mind is:
When am I going to practice yoga today?
I make a short mental note of the ideal time, and that’s what I work towards. If the only spare time seems to be 10pm, I set a clear intention that at 10pm I will be doing my practice, if that’s what it takes.
Otherwise, I see if there’s a way I can re-shape my day to create space for my practice earlier. If the day’s beginning to get away on me, and I still haven’t practiced, I notice. Simply noticing is often enough to refocus my intention and figure out when I’m going to get on my mat.
If I don’t think I’m going to be able to fit it in, I assess everything I plan to do with my day and see what can go. Do I really need to check my email or Facebook yet again? Do I need to watch that show or movie? Can I go to bed 10 minutes later?
There’s always room in the day when yoga is a priority. Fit it in first, then everything else.
2. Give yourself permission to practice for as little as seven minutes.
Yes, that’s right—as Mark Whitwell says in The Promise—seven minutes. That’s enough to tune in, connect to your deeper abiding sense of Self, and step off the treadmill of the mind. It’s long enough to open the chest and breath deeply and feel your lungs expand all the way down into your belly. It’s long enough to stretch your hamstrings and your calf muscles, move your spine and loosen your shoulders.
And you know what?
Magic happens when we give ourselves the gift of seven minutes on our mats—you won’t want to stop. You’ll keep right on practicing. All because you decided to:
Just do seven minutes.
If you’re not convinced, try it and see. After seven minutes of yoga do you:
A) Feel better than when you started?
B) Want to do more?
3. Start where you are with what you know.
One of the major reasons yoga students don’t practice yoga at home is because they don’t know what to do. But you do. And if you don’t you are more than capable of finding out.
A home practice doesn’t have to be a fully sequenced 90 minute practice.
Start with Child’s Pose and Savasana—that’s a home practice. Once or twice a week, add a new posture. Research home practice online. Pay extra attention in yoga class. Buy some excellent yoga books. Be ok with being a beginner and keeping it simple.
So you don’t know much—so what? One thing is enough. (See seven minutes above). If you don’t know, find out. Watch a video. Make notes, have it beside you on the mat.
Not knowing is no excuse for not practicing, it’s an invitation to learn. And don’t be afraid to keep it simple. That photo of me practicing above? Not some fancy, difficult posture. Something simple. I’m feeling into my side-body, breathing with mindfulness. You can do that.
4. Use ritual when you practice.
Ritual is something we do every time before we practice. It might be lighting a candle. It might be putting on a yoga playlist. It might be pausing in front of a piece of art to give thanks for the glory of this human life.
It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters it that we do it every time before we practice.
Then, on those days when you don’t want to practice, or can’t be bothered practicing, or don’t feel like practicing, you begin with your ritual.
Don’t even think about practicing, just do that thing you always do before you practice and you’ll find that it magically opens the space where those feelings of not wanting to and can’t be bothered and don’t feel like it drop away and you find yourself practicing.
It’s like creating a positive samskara—an impression in the mind, a groove or a rut. For me, putting on my favourite yoga playlist is guaranteed to get me on the mat whether I feel like it or not. I hear the opening bars of the first track, and I know it so deeply. I’ve practiced yoga to it hundreds of times. How can I not practice now? That’s using samskara to your benefit.
5. Broaden your definition of yoga.
We all know yoga isn’t just asana, right?
Practicing yoga every day can include other tools in the yogic toolbox like meditation, pranayama, chanting, Yoga Nidra or even Karma Yoga—the act of mindfully being with every day tasks with no thought of reward. Like chopping carrots and making dinner. It’s harder than you might think, but done with mindfulness and full presence, it’s also practicing yoga.
Some days, you might not be able to make it on to your mat for an asana practice. You might be flat out busy, or sick, or travelling. With a broader definition of yoga, you can still make your practice happen.
You could silently chant a mudra during your morning commute, or while you’re doing any kind of travelling. You can meditate while breast-feeding. Take five minute mini-breaks at your desk to breathe with awareness. You can turn listening to a lecture into yoga by being mindful of your posture, tuned into our breath, and still of mind.
Be creative and be spontaneous, you can bring yoga yoga off the mat and into your life every single day.
Those are five small strategies that we can all use to make yoga a part of our every day life. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
If you want to make a home yoga practice happen, you can. It’s all about consciously working with whatever your mind throws up to keep you off your yoga mat.
Make it a priority, give yourself permission to practice for just seven minutes, do what you can while keeping it simple, use ritual to create flow and don’t limit your practice to asana.
Those five strategies can turn you into a dedicated home practice yogi within weeks. Promise.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise