Elevate Your Home Yoga Practice
A home yoga practice is nothing new to me. Whether I'm just moving on my own for myself, trying to work out a sequence to teach, or taking an online class, my home practice has been my saving grace over the last fifteen or so years of being a full time yoga teacher. Due to "Shelter in Place" orders, many of us are practicing yoga at home right now and realizing that creating a space conducive for yoga is not that easy. All sorts of obstacles can make practicing yoga at home challenging including pets, children, lack of space, lack of props, lack of resources and lack of motivation. But these things should not stop you from getting on your mat or cushion. Right now is a great time to have yoga in your life. So many incredible teachers all over the world are sharing their gifts virtually via Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. I have taken full advantage of this myself and I have to admit it's been really inspiring. Practicing at home allows you to move at your own pace without the added pressure of keeping up with others. You don't have to battle through traffic to get to class on time. You can practice in your pj's, swimsuit or naked. You can practice outside if you have the space and take extra long Savasana's. Having a regular yoga practice is such a great way to manage stress which, let's face it, a lot of us are feeling right now. We are all missing our yoga communities, studios and physical contact, but a home practice can make the mandatory "Shelter in Place" feel more like a "Sanctuary in Place". Below are some thoughts and tips for anyone who might be having a hard time with their home yoga practices. Feel free to share your favorite teachers and classes in the comments.
LET YOUR FAMILY/ROOM MATES KNOW WHEN YOU PLAN ON PRACTICING
If you live in a busy household with lots of people, it can be really hard to create time for yourself. By letting those people know ahead of time that you are taking an hour for yoga, not only are you more likely to commit to the practice but chances are you will have a more quiet and peaceful experience. I am a much calmer and happier wife when I practice, so my husband is more than happy to give me my hour and a half when I need it. And you never know, your family members or roommates may want to join you!
SET THE TONE FOR YOUR PRACTICE BY CREATING SPACE IN YOUR HOME
Whenever I step foot in my favorite yoga studio, I feel like the weight of the world instantly lifts. The clean space, the light, the candles and little altars are so soothing to the soul. These little touches make me feel like I have entered a sacred space. Why not create a similar vibe at home? I know not all of us have a separate room or area to practice yoga, but you really don't need a lot of space. All you need is enough room for your mat. I do think there is something special about taking a few moments to clear away clutter and distractions and perhaps add something that is meaningful to you. Lighting a candle, placing mala beads in front your mat, dimming the lights, dabbing essential oils on your pulse points and playing some soft music can make a big difference. If you take the time to add these little touches to your practice area, you will feel more inspired.
INVEST IN YOGA PROPS
Most yoga studios have props that students can borrow. Props are great in assisting us to go deeper and feel more stable in a pose. I teach and practice with props all the time. I imagine that even after the studios open up, it might be a while until we can borrow props again, so why not get your own. The props I use often and recommend are cork blocks, a strap, a couple of yoga blankets and a bolster. Of course if you don't have these things you can find items you probably already own to substitute. I've experimented using a couple of thick books as blocks and they work great. Some big bath towels can be used in place of a blanket. A long scarf is a nice alternative to a strap, and a couple of pillows can mimic the feel of a bolster. I also love using a wall for inversions and restorative poses. I have been known to use a couch or chair as well. And finally, if you are practicing a lot, invest in a good yoga mat. It really makes a big difference.
TAKE A "LIVE" CLASS
As I mentioned earlier, some of the best yoga teachers in the world are offering live classes right now. I have been practicing with teachers I haven't practiced with in years and it has been amazing. I love hearing my teachers saying hi to me and catching up with them. It's also great to hear them guiding me in real time and offering specific alignment cues, suggestions and modifications that are specific to my needs. While it's not the same as being in a studio class, I definitely feel the group energy. I look forward to my live classes every week and it helps me stay consistent with my practice. Many yoga studios have started offering live classes too so be sure to visit their websites and sign up for your favorite teachers newsletter!
TURN YOUR PHONES OFF
Since many of us are working from home right now, it might be more difficult to unplug. Not to mention we are probably online more these days looking at news feeds and trying to understand what is happening with the pandemic. These little devices can wreak havoc on our brains and cause us to feel more stressed and anxious. This is why in my opinion, taking a daily break from the phone is so important. In my public class, I make a point to ask people to turn their phones off or silent and even put them out of sight before we start. I do this because I want to create a space for students to get quiet and go inward. I highly recommend doing the same thing at home. Again, letting people know that you are practicing, including your boss, work team, etc., can make this a lot easier. Giving yourself this little break can actually make you happier and more productive when you are working.
DON'T FORGET TO ADD MEDITATION
When this all started, my brain literally hurt from the amount of information out there and the worry of the future and getting sick or getting someone else sick. Meditation has never felt more useful than it does right now. Every morning, I make myself sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Sometimes I will do a little breathing practice first, but many times I just do nothing. I let my thoughts wander and just sit. I can't explain why, but after I'm done, I just feel more calm and less stressed. I feel like I am able to focus easier and I'm less likely to over-react. Some people like to use guided meditations which are great as well if they help. Just start with five minutes and go from there. This one thing can truly change your life.
DO WHAT YOU CAN AND BREATHE......
These are really strange times. No one knows what the future holds and that can feel really overwhelming. All we can do right now is our best. Be kind. Spend less time online. Get outside and be in nature. Take care of your body through exercise and nutritious foods. Drink lot's of water. Connect with your loved ones. Get plenty of sleep. Be more open and experiment with your practice right now. Try a new style or teacher. When you feel overwhelmed, just stop, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Start with four second inhales and six second exhales, then increase the length from there. This will allow you to shift from fight or flight to calm. After a few minutes your body will relax and your heartbeat will slow down. Take care of yourselves and each other.