The most challenging part of a yoga practice isn’t a headstand or an arm balance, it is carving out the time to spend on the mat. We pack our days so tightly there isn’t much wiggle room to stop and breathe. As important as it is to attend yoga class, it is equally as important to develop a home practice.
It is the process of practicing at home that is important, not the outcome. Improved strength and flexibility are fabulous, but the real significance of a home practice is the commitment that you make to spend time learning about yourself. In yogic philosophy it is called Swadhyaya, or self –study. Swadhyaya really is about committing to the process of paying attention to you.
With this in mind, avoid setting expectations about how long you will be on the mat and how often you will practice. Set yourself up for success. A home practice does not have to be a “class” at home. You don’t have to practice for an hour and half to reap the benefits of yoga, you can improve your flexibility and strength with just 15 minutes of practice! Maybe some days you simply unroll the mat and do a few cat and camels, maybe some days you unroll the mat and just sit. Other days you might do a more scripted practice. Just remember it is about the journey, not the destination.
You don’t even have to practice every day, research shows a few times a week is beneficial.
Now, you are on your mat, what do you do next?
Deciding which poses to practice can be intimidating. One of the most frequent reasons my students tell me for not practicing at home is because they are afraid they might hurt themselves by performing a pose incorrectly. This is understandable. There is a lot in the media about how yoga can hurt you. As long as you check your ego at the door and you really pay attention to the sensations in your body, you will be fine. Gentle to moderate stretching is good, gentle to moderate exertion is good and pain is bad!
If you have attended my class more than once, you know there are several poses that I teach almost every week. There is a reason for this repetition. First of all, the poses are important. They call for lengthening and stabilizing in all the right places. They prepare you for a deeper practice and “undo” the restrictions caused by many of our daily postures. The repetition also reinforces movement patterns so you feel more confident practicing those poses at home.
But, if you have never attended my class or simply don’t remember those foundational poses, here are a few to begin with.
Supta Eka Padangustasana
Long and Kneeling Lunge
Extended Child’s Pose