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Since COVID has closed all yoga studios around the country, we have been forced to practice at home.
For many, a home practice is intimidating. The focus required feels overwhelming, and without an instructor guiding your flow, it’s easy to feel a little lost.
So many studios and teachers continue to show up for their community online, making sure their students aren’t left behind or abandoned during the months apart. Dedicated students continue their practice, while many who were previously interested but timid now have the time to explore this sacred practice in a perhaps less intimidating setting.
While attending a studio and learning from experienced teachers is incredibly beneficial to your practice, it doesn’t stop there. I think of my time attending a studio as an opportunity to learn what I need to expand my independent practice. It provides me with the inspiration I need to stay motivated while practicing at home. The stay-at-home order has been a time to test my discipline and expand my practice in unexpected ways.
As studios reopen, it’s important to remember the sacredness of a home practice and honoring that time and space.
Here are a few ways to develop discipline in your yoga practice and honor your individual journey.
1. Remember why your practice is important.
Anyone who has been practicing yoga for any length of time knows that yoga is not about flexibility or intense postures that are Instagram worthy. It’s not even about weight loss or building muscle mass. These are by-products of the practice. Yoga is so much more. The practice is about bringing harmony to body, mind, and spirit.
Through pranayama (breathing), you learn to calm and soothe the mind and bring clarity and focus.
Through meditation, you learn to focus the mind and awaken your spirit and self-awareness through a non-judgmental observation of your thoughts.
Through the asanas (postures), you tone and stretch the body, bringing increased mobility and physical freedom.
If you are open and willing, this practice will awaken you to a higher level of consciousness, and usher you into a journey of self-discovery. Remembering the power behind this practice will help you step onto your mat with renewed energy and reverence.
2. Create a physical space.
Preparing the physical space for your practice is essential for your mind to focus.
Think of this preparation the same way you would get ready to go to sleep at night. You could just collapse face-first into your bed, fully clothed, makeup still on, contacts still in. This may work, but the quality of your sleep will be so much better if you take the time to get ready. The same goes for your home practice.
When preparing a space for at-home yoga practice, you may need to move some furniture around to allow for enough movement. If you have a room or an area dedicated to your practice, take a moment to tidy up.
Spend some time making the area welcoming. Adjust the lights, sweep up the floor, hide the dirty laundry. Turn off your phone, light a candle, and close the door to keep the cat out.
Preparing yourself is another essential part of a focused practice. Make sure you’ve eaten lightly before, and are well hydrated. Put on your stretchy pants, pull back your hair, and come to center.
3. Create time in your schedule.
We all know what happens when we don’t carve out time for ourselves. “Me time” never happens.
As a busy mom with a toddler running around, if I don’t make time for myself, I will never have it. I have to protect my time, otherwise I will always find something else to do.
Time is your most valuable, non-renewable resource. You have to fill your own cup before you are able to be of service to others. Carving out space just for yourself is not selfish, and it’s definitely not a waste of time.
Your practice should not just be one more thing to check off your to-do list. It’s not a measure of success or accomplishment. It’s time to turn off all external stimulation and recharge yourself. In our fast-paced society, this is a chance to stop. This time of quiet reflection is how we have the energy to truly be of service to others.
4. Develop the discipline.
A home practice requires discipline. There’s no way around it. It’s so much easier to sit on the couch or watch one more episode on Netflix.
Developing any kind of discipline is difficult, I won’t pretend that a home practice is any different. Just like getting in eight glasses of water every day, or including more veggies in your diet, it’s difficult at first. It takes a good amount of energy to remember and to set aside time for this work. But as with any addition to your routine, when you commit to a discipline, it does become easier.
There will be days you just can’t make it to your mat. There will be setbacks in your practice if you get sick or hurt. There will be distractions that can’t wait—like a toddler pulling off her poopy diaper. Be gentle with yourself and do the best you can.
Start your home practice with a realistic time frame; maybe 10 to 15 minutes a day, so you can be successful. Work your way up to a more substantial practice over the course of a few weeks. There will be days that it just doesn’t happen. That’s okay. Just remember to come back. Your mat will be there waiting for you.
5. Commit to learning more.
Practicing the same sequence of asanas will become uninspiring and dull after a while. But there is no need for your practice to become stagnant. When you commit to learning more, your practice will open up like never before.
Find videos that are slightly out of your comfort zone. There are thousands of free videos online as well as more in-depth, paid memberships, and communities to join online. Listen to podcasts, or find masters who will impart their wisdom.
If you’re really serious about your practice, read up on yogic text and study the postures. This is a great way to expand your practice. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Hatha Yoga Pradipika teach students about the origins of the postures. Even though these texts are dense, finding summaries will still provide you with plenty of inspiration.
Yoga is a practice, meaning you never stop learning. If your home practice is feeling stagnant, it’s time to expand your learning.
6. Take your practice off the mat and into the rest of your life
Yoga is so much more than an hour on your mat each day. If you let it, this practice will change the way you live your life. It will influence the decisions you make and the way you interact with others. It will change the way you spend your time, your money, and your resources. It will change the way you view the world, and what role you play.
The practice is about developing patience, surrender, compassion, and tolerance. All of these qualities are what can be transferred to others and into every aspect of our life.
Yoga is about connecting us with what is truly important. With a consistent practice, you will bring about more self-awareness. Set intentions for your practice, and take that intention off your mat and into the world. Bring mindful breathing into everything you are doing whether it’s walking down the street, washing the dishes, or having a difficult conversation with your partner.
Your home practice can be more than just following along to a 30-minute YouTube video.
As studios begin to open up and we can meet together again, remember the power of strengthening your home practice and continue to make it sacred.