Cultivating A Home Yoga Practice
This is a text I wrote back in 2015 for the webpage www.yogatrade.com (the link to the article on their platform https://yogatrade.com/cultivating-home-yoga-practice/ ). I thought I had shared this here, but realised that it has been sitting in the draft section of my blogs for all this time :).
Since my first yoga class, a few years ago now, I have taken many classes, in a lot of different studios and in various parts of the world. I have had the pleasure to be taught by many teachers and, while some of those classes were challenging at times, the hardest practice by far has always been my home practice. It is not more challenging in terms of sequence or postures, although it can be if I want it to be; it is simply the most challenging to maintain and cultivate.
I have been lucky enough to have access to yoga studios/rooms because they were very often part of my training or work environments, therefore taking classes in a studio was, most of the time, the best and most convenient option for me. I still would practise things that I was working on, before and after class as well as at home but, up until recently, a studio practice was my prevalent form of yoga. Then, last year, I began to practise at home more and more.
Studio practice vs home practice
I love both and I believe that they both offer great benefits.
Practising in a studio can really open the mind and body to do things that perhaps we shy away from when practising on our own. Students may feel more at ease and safe in a group environment, especially when starting out or they may feel more inspired when witnessing the progress of fellow yogis. Another positive aspect of a studio practice is the teacher/student relationship; the teacher's encouragements and corrections can deeply affect one's understanding of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). A studio also has the advantage to have everything at the ready to facilitate relaxation and motivation. Nowadays most studios take care of everything for you; the hardest part of taking class is often just to get there as, once you are there, in the room, with the teacher and other students, you have committed to your practice for whichever length of time it may be. You always have a choice to stop at any point, in any given class of course but it is much harder to give up on something you 1.are paying for and 2.have made the effort to travel to. I have had classes when, due to whatever personal challenges that day, I wanted to leave as soon as I walked into the room but decided against it and I always, always felt better for it afterwards. The voice of the teacher, the focus on the breath and postures would always carry me away from my worries, at least for a little while if not for the rest of the day.
In comparison, maintaining a consistent home practice can be extremely difficult at times when the main source of motivation is yourself. Being in charge means that you're the one who has to manage the many distractions which can present themselves at home such as a tempting sofa after work, kids, housemates, TV, food, a partner and the list goes on. However, when you do put all the distractions aside and make space (physically and mentally) to care for yourself, that little time of practice is every bit more rewarding. Practising at home develops many skills such as discipline, mental strength and self-awareness because it puts you in control of your practice. As much as I love to let a teacher take me into their own practice and sequencing, the big plus about home practice is that I can stay in postures for as long as I want to and change things up according to how I am feeling at the time. At home there is room to fully listen to your inner voice and really go with your flow and become "your very own best teacher". The latter is a phrase I have heard a few times in class and, to me, it tells students to follow their instincts, to listen to the voice inside all of us which guides us and, ultimately and more importantly perhaps, it encourages students to not limit the yoga practice to the comfort of a yoga room but to take it everywhere else with them.
Start slow & simple and build from there
Make time for yourself: that is what yoga is about – self-care –, so any window of time you have in your day will do to start with. It is good to work on creating a ritual in the long run but, at the beginning, taking any opportunity that presents itself to practise is probably best so that you are not too hard on yourself in the eventuality you miss a day or two. Let it build organically.