One of the most important steps in really improving your yoga practice is developing an at-home yoga habit, rather than relying one or two classes per week. Even if you’re lucky enough to make use of a yoga studio several times per week with a variety of teachers, the benefits from taking your classes into your own control can be significant. From being able to tailor your mat time to specific focuses, to working on more challenging postures, having a home practice allows for a more flexible yoga experience -in more ways than one. However, making the move to self-practice can be daunting. To make it easier, I’m sharing both my own tips and some from Om Yoga Magazine to help you get started.
Pick a time
Whilst I’m not expecting anyone to jump in to a long daily practice, cultivating a routine can help rolling out your mat feel like less of a chore. One way to do this is to pick a good time and aim to stick with it as much as possible. So, you could commit to a 45 minute practice every other day after work. Or do 5 rounds of Sun Salutations as soon as you wake up. Making your yoga practice a part of your weekly or daily schedule will help to integrate it into your lifestyle.
Shake it up
You may be used to your Vinyasa class on a Wednesday evening, but why not try a few different styles? Try relaxing Yin yoga before bed, or the consistent Ashtanga primary series on a morning. This way, you’ll avoid hitting a rut of replicating your yoga class as well as expanding your practice to reap more benefits.
Plan it and Write it Down
There’s nothing worse than standing on your mat with a blank mind about what to do and ending up on your phone or just giving up. To help avoid this, write out an outline of what you want to do. And no, this isn’t cheating -most yoga teachers plan out classes too! You don’t need to come up with dozens of completely different flows either. In fact, having a few basic routines to base your practice around can be really useful, as it enables you to monitor your progress and ensures that you are going back and practicing some of the same Asanas. That being said Kirsty Tomlinson of Ekhart Yoga suggests occasionally just flowing without a plan and let your body move as it wishes.
Kirsty recommends creating a yoga space, and adding candles to create a peaceful environment. Having somewhere to practice is much more pleasant that having to rearrange the living room every time you stretch!
Include Meditation and Pranayama
Meditation and breath work are intrinsically linked to yoga, and yet we too often neglect them. Use your practice to really focus on the breath, and perhaps include meditation at the end of your practice, or set aside time just for mindfulness on its own.
Commit to an Achievable Time
Yoga teachers spend a lot of time ensuring that a 60 or 90 minute class is filled so as to be continually engaging without being overly taxing. This takes practice, so don’t feel cross if you struggle to practice for more than 45 minutes or even less. Start small or even consider breaking up your practice into two small sessions to avoid losing focus. As you get more used to home practice, you can build up to longer sessions.