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

Via Michelle Margaret Fajkus
on Oct 9, 2013
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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 Margaret is a Gemini yogini, writer, teacher and retreat leader who founded Yoga Freedom in 2002 in Austin, Texas. Her home since 2012 is Lake Atitlán, Guatemala where she lives in a tiny eco cabin with her Colombiano partner and their adorable daughter, dog and two gatos. Michelle has been writing this column for elephant journal since 2010 and has written some inspiring books, with more on the way. She leads yoga and mindfulness retreats and serves as the retreat managers for the stunningly beautiful Villa Sumaya on majestic Lago Atitlan. Her lineage is the very esoteric Yoga Schmoga, which incorporates hatha yoga asana, dharma (Buddhist) teachings, pranayama (breath work), yin yoga, mindfulness practices and meditation. Join Michelle on retreat in Guatemala!


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. amphibi1yogini says:

    Hahahahahahh…. another one has been duped … 🙂

  8. I think you may have missed the point of the article…but then again: you stopped reading at the first line that you took personally.

    If you can afford both financially and time-wise (one-in-the same: time= money) then that's awesomely wonderful.

    However, there are those who only practice at a studio because, IMO, they're under the impression that one HAS to be at a studio to practice… kinda like the idea that you have to go to church/synagogue/ashram/mosque to be [insert religious title]…it just doesn't hold water.

    Do what you can from where you're at and all will be well.

  9. amphibi1yogini says:

    Oh, the studios (particularly power and vinyasa yoga studios) feed into this. And anybody is fair game.

    And even people rolling in dough can be deceived into buying more than they need.

    And couldn't money go to the lawn, the kid's education, the paying down of the house? Be real!

    And, no, I can't afford a yoga studio. It is nearly a waste of my time at this point. I can teach myself (and even kick my butt – within parameters as I am chronically ill) quite well enough.

  10. 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.)


  11. Don't you dare silence yourself or shrink from this. You got a good conversation started. Regardless, someone somewhere will take anything you say personally and find offense in it.


  12. No one (HERE) is suggesting that everyone must go to a yoga studio to learn. I can tell you I began my practice as a home practice.. every day for the last two years (minus 3 weeks for medical concerns this year). I recognize the importance of a home practice as well as the occasional studio visit/rec center visit for subtle hints and suggestions for improvement.

    No offense amphibi1yogini but, not everyone's reality is the same.

    I am becoming certified to teach (2 weeks and I'm done: TG) because I know what a steady consistent practice can do for a body and for a soul. I also recommend to students that they develop a home practice… after all, not everyone can afford to do go to studios.

    I think maybe you missed the point of this article as well.


  13. amphibi1yogini says:

    Yeah, that's the rub. Taking things personally. I'd met one very greedy, bad apple in the yoga world. He thought women over 50 were all the same and could/would be cajoled into helping support the studio's quest for private practicing income …

    I'd given no yoga studio any support for asana training for 18 months. (After taking well over 100 classes – YES! – spaced out over a number of years.) That didn't mean I didn't go to a community satsang or kirtan. This is JUST what it sounded like.

    The spirituality is underrepresented when we talk about yoga. I will take my community without the packaged commercialism, as well—thankyouverymuch …

  14. 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.

  15. Enmanuel says:

    Kimberly you are right. A friend of mine is actually at the hospital with a dislocated bone and probably will need surgery: This happened when the teacher was out sick.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. lisalooleeli says:

    This is true and I think that once you know your body, it is nice to have a home practice as well. I have a somewhat home practice and I do have a studio that I frequent as well I think it is nice to have both. This was a good article 🙂

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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. 🙂

  22. Michelle says:

    Thank you for your comment, Charlotte. Interesting research connections!

  23. Michelle says:

    Thanks for reading & commenting, Lisa!

  24. 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.

  25. mightzi says:

    i think it's about sitting on the floor, rolling around and finding poses that make you feel better about yourself and the world. and breathing. it just so happens that i end up doing the same asanas or whatever that so many others have been doing for thousands of years. no one needs to pay to do yoga, ever.

  26. 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.

  27. samitee says:

    LOL! Nice comment. I agree. I guess if I don't follow these 8 steps, I can't accurately label myself as a yogi. Which is great, because who likes labels anyways? How very yoga …

  28. onesadhaka says:

    : ) it was still a nice article…none of us is Krishnamacharya anyhow, just us.

    I referenced your article in this post.. .

    Shanti : )

  29. Wayne says:

    I agree..the key to yoga (I'll get self righteous here for a moment!) is knowing your own body, pushing and respecting your own limits, and that is just as true in a group or a solo practice.

  30. 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.

  31. Trin says:

    I am in the same situation. Moved back in with folks and only have a bedroom with a low ceiling for private space. I have worked out if I keep my room tidy and adjust my poses slightly I can do all the moves that are needed on my mat. I may not have the great zen yoga space but I have the space on my mat…now to take the next step and step onto it! OH I also recently found out headphones work wonders for cutting out noise and people, just pull them on, boost up my meditation sounds and close my eyes. Can't even hear the door open two feet away 🙂

  32. Johannes says:

    my yoga teacher told me to compare going to a yoga class as going out for dinner which is good for you tasting new foods, social interaction, breaking away from home etc. Compare this to yoga then you will realise that you need to eat (do yoga) at home as well.
    it's just information that i'm sharing here and for me it worked to have "the best of both worlds" 🙂

  33. Sanda says:

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

  34. 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

  35. Linda says:

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

  36. Judy says:

    Michelle, thank you for this article. I moved from Florida where I took classes at a wonderful Ashram. Since I've been in my new state I haven't found a class that compares to what I'm used to, so I went without my yoga for about 6 months. By then I'd lost my flexibility and my joints tightened back up (I'm 68). I started a yoga session in the living room once a week, then twice and then more. As the weather got better I started my sessions on my deck about 6 weeks ago and now greet the sun with my yoga every morning. What a difference in my life and now my body is back to where it was….flexible and no more joint pain.

    My teachers at the Ashram did their job…they taught me to practice on my own. i also stay in touch with both of my teachers and they are always there to answer questions and be supportive.

    Ignore the naysayers….they don't get it