When practicing yoga, it is advised to train with a certified teacher.
This is largely due to having someone who can safely adjust you when needed and sees the flaws in your practice.
If you only practice at home and never with a teacher, you may think you’ve got a phenomenal practice. But if you’re not aware of how a pose should really feel, you can make some pretty intense mistakes, which can lead to injuries.
That said, there are some wonderful benefits of practicing at home.
Your own sacred space.
For starters, you can choose when you want to practice. No 7 a.m. classes necessary. If you want to practice in the afternoon that’s okay. No one will look annoyed at you for making it to class late and you can choose the time that fits your schedule. Freedom at last!
Then there’s the the location. You can create your own sacred space by lighting a candle or playing soft music. You don’t see, hear, or smell the other students. It’s just you, focussing on your own practice.
Let’s play poses.
For me the best thing about yoga at home is that I can play with the poses. I practice Ashtanga yoga and, naturally, there are some asanas I still can’t control. And playing in the Mysore class is just not done. You pursue the pose until you can’t hold it anymore, and then you stop and finish the sequence. Checking a YouTube video when practicing and then trying it yourself is a definite no-go in class. Though that would be funny.
But sometimes, playing is the only way to learn. Your teacher can tell you how to adjust an asana until you’re ready, but sometimes you just have to try. Lots and lots of times. I first noticed that when my teacher was temporarily replaced by another teacher. I was doing an adjustment for Bhujapidasana for months. When the new teacher saw me adjusting he said: “What are you doing?” And after my explanation he continued: “Well, I’m your teacher now, so just try.” Within a week I managed the pose.
Practice, practice, practice.
So now, when I want to learn a new asana and know how the pose works, I just play with it at home. I schedule my practice time in my living room whenever I want, and I jump trough and jump back as much as I want to. I shovel my feet between my hands, and sometimes I fall flat at my bottom.
But after a few home practices and play time, as I like to call it, I get the feeling of the pose and eventually I manage it. I tried Titibasana everyday for a week and then finally I stretched my legs in the air without falling on my buttocks. For months of practicing at the yoga studio, I wasn’t able to do that by just trying once and then continuing my practice. And now that I manage my play time asanas, my teacher can adjust me, so that I can improve them even more.
Happy and steady yoga practice.
This doesn’t work for every pose, of course. I’m glad my teacher taught me Supta Kurmasana, because I don’t think I would have managed that on my own. But some poses are just meant to be played with before seriously practicing them. That’s why I can encourage every yogi to play and practice at home sometimes. You can give yourself the time, the place, and the space to perform and learn. That’s something that will guide you to a happy and steady yoga practice.
“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.” ~ Charles E. Schaefer
Author: Letizia Luijs
Image: YouTube still
Editor: Travis May