April 23, 2014

9 Tips for Starting a Home Yoga Practice. ~ Angel Kalafatis


When I signed up for teacher training, I thought one of the best reasons to become a yoga teacher was that I would be getting paid to practice.

I assumed that I’d be practicing all the time and I envisioned my-six-months-from-then-self as a long, lean, lulu model with near acrobatic abilities.

That bubble was was burst quickly when I learned that Baptiste teachers don’t practice with the class (so that we can stay present for our students and be in the best place to speak to safety and alignment). In fact, the more my teaching schedule fills up, the harder and harder it is for me to find time for my own practice.

I’m learning now, more than ever before, how important a home practice is to me.

Yoga has more benefits than I have time to explain right now, but in just the short time I’ve practiced (roughly two years) I’ve noticed my health improve, my energy skyrocket, and my focus sharpen.

I sleep better at night and I’m seeing increases in my strength, flexibility, patience, emotional awareness and stability, confidence and self-esteem.

And when I fall out of alignment with my commitment to my practice, I feel the effects immediately.

Starting a daily home yoga practice is one of the most powerful, life-changing gifts I ever gave to myself and my loved ones are seeing the benefits—because they get a healthier, livelier, happier me. I can be the best version of myself for everyone around me.

My practice is simple—I have a yoga mat, a block and a space heater. They can be found at any sporting goods store, department store or online. Once in a while I grab a strap (which I’m learning to love more and more) or some blankets to use as a bolster for longer holds and restorative poses, but none of those have been necessary to my daily practice.

Maintaining a home practice can be tough until a good routine is established, but the pay offs are innumerable.

Here are nine tips that help me maintain consistency in my home practice:

1. I make an appointment with myself.

A daily yoga and meditation practice is an investment I’m making in my total health and well-being.

Everyone in my life will benefit from it. My time is valuable and with two kids to take care of and the rest of my commitments.

Sometimes it can be really hard to make time for just me.

But that’s also why it’s so important that I do take care of myself.

First, I had to take an honest look at how I spend my time. I put a parental control application monitor on my smart phone and noticed that I waste a lot of ten-minutes-here and five-minutes-there throughout my day on things like Buzzfeed and Facebook.

I then used the same app to limit the time I spend on most applications on my phone. I also decided to start recording all my favorite TV shows so I can treat myself to them at the end of a well spent day, rather than wasting hours throughout my day being slave to the programming schedule (I also saved all that time fast forwarding through commercials). When I turned the TV and my phone off, I became very aware I have more time than I realized and it was just about making me a priority.

So, I put my practice on my calendar every day and then do my best to honor that time the way I’d keep a doctor’s appointment, a meeting with my boss or a parent-teacher conference.

I can’t always practice at the same time every day, or for the same length of time, so I try to set my schedule at least a week in advance. If something comes up or I miss a practice, I do my best to drop any judgment around why I missed and simply try to reschedule my practice. I’ve also let my family know this time is important to me so they can be supportive.

2. I expect resistance.

There are days that I can’t wait to get on my mat. Then, some days, I will find 1,001 other, better things.

Some days are hectic and crazy—I sleep through my alarm, one of the kids spills my coffee all over the kitchen, there are a million appointments and I just want to say scrap it.

Sometimes I’d really rather watch TV. When this feeling comes up, I know it’s coming and I try to simply acknowledge it, let it go and then get on my mat anyway. Just because I feel like I don’t need yoga today, doesn’t mean it’s true.

I think of my mat like my own private island and on days I feel the most resistance I remind myself how much I love yoga and the way it makes me feel. Even if I only have time or energy to squeeze in a few sun salutations or five minutes in Child’s Pose, I never feel that time is wasted, and I’m always so grateful to myself for sticking with my commitment.

3. I set myself up for success.

If I’m going to practice in the evening, I set my mat where I’ll see it and I might even set a reminder in my phone or post an encouraging note on my bathroom mirror (or both) to remind and motivate me after long days.

If I intend to practice first thing in the morning, I’ll roll out my mat the night before and set up my block, space heater and water bottle so it’s waiting to welcome me when I wake up.

4. I warm up.

I love my space heater. Did you know our body temperature actually drops two or three degrees overnight (just one of the many reasons that comfy bed is so hard to leave).

No matter what time of day I practice, I have become very attached to heating up my space. I like to compare a heated practice space to bumper bowling—it makes it so much softer and easier on my body that I almost feel like I’m cheating. I find a space heater helps me warm up faster and get my body muscles loose and limber and I’m warmed up in ¼ the time I would be in a room temperature space.

Sweating also stimulates detoxification in the body and increases aerobic fitness. It took me a few times to get used to the heat, but now I’m totally addicted.

5. I keep it short.

Especially when I was first building my practice. It can take 21-30 days for a new behavior to become habit, and I tend to lose motivation quickly if I don’t feel successful, so I’ve learned to create winnable gaps for myself.

If I don’t have an hour a day, then I don’t try to force it. Some days I start out with 15 or 20 minutes and go from there. And, I listen to my body. Sometimes I feel great and want to keep going. Other days I might spend 20 minutes in Child’s Pose and call it success.

6. I honor my body.

This is not a fitness challenge. This is not a competition.

I often remind myself that any time I get on my mat and tune into my breath—I’m doing yoga.

It’s that simple.

By checking in with my body and spirit each day I find that I start to know what I can handle from one day to the next. Pushing my limits is one thing, injuring myself out of foolish pride is another. I learned that during a long teacher training weekend. We were doing a lot of hip openers and seated trees and forward folds. I have a history of knee injuries, so they tend to be weak and experience pain easily. I could tell by the second practice that my knees were starting to protest, but instead of using a block or backing off a little, I just kept pushing.

I spent the following two weeks doing leg-up-against-the-wall pose, icing my knees and letting go of my ego.

Sometimes certain poses might feel tight or I may find that I experience manageable discomfort. That’s fine—that’s growth and I breathe through it. I’ve learned though, that when I feel pain, or if the discomfort becomes unmanageable, I need back off. Ease up.

I remember that Child’s Pose is always there for me.

7. I find sequences I like.

I started my practice by doing Ultimate Yogi 108 videos. I’ve also found that, like most major cable and satellite providers, my cable provider has a ton of yoga videos in their “On Demand” section. YouTube and Netflix are also great resources. Amazon.com offers a ton of DVD options.

Travis Eliot, Baron Baptiste and Shiva Rea are some of my personal favorite yogis to learn from. They even offer podcasts I can access online. The app store in my smart phone also has daily yoga practice apps, many of which are free.

I like to venture out and explore what’s available to me.

8. I stay accountable.

One of the biggest keys to success in my home practice has been enlisting a good friend to be my accountabili-buddy.

She knows my goals and she’ll touch base with me often to see how I’m doing and offer encouragement. Just knowing I’ll have to acknowledge my way of being out loud to another human keeps me accountable and I also feel supported.

My home practice has also rubbed off on my family and I’ve got them practicing, too. It feels good to have something this rewarding to do together and it keeps me motivated. Social media has also proven to be a great way to stay connected for exactly this type of thing.

I can reach out to friends from all over—I can plug into yoga Facebook groups or even create my own and touch base with like-minded people that way. My local studio offers a lot of these Facebook and Meetup groups and I can’t get enough. We can let each other know how our practice went today and if any of us needs encouragement or has questions we’ve created a powerful community.

9. I stay open.

I had to learn to drop what I think I know about my body and my abilities.

Every day is a new day.

Some days I’m lit up with energy and surprised at what I can do, while others will be days for rest and drawing inward—all of which can be equally powerful if I’m willing to let go of my expectations and keep a spirit of curiosity and inquiry around my practice.

If I miss a day, it’s not the end of the world. I pick up and carry on. I try to let go of my judgments and hold space for myself by simply getting on my mat and coming into every day of this journey with an open mind and an open heart.

Now roll out your own mat and join me!

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Apprentice Editor: Kristin Monk / Editor: Travis May

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