In a perfect world, we would all have time for a kick-ass yoga class with our favorite teacher. But obligations to work, family, friends and community often leave us with little time for self-care. It is precisely when we are the most stressed that we need to relax and renew ourselves. I used to be one of those people who either went to a studio to practice yoga or didn’t practice at all, until I fell in love with my home practice. I know it might sound scary at first but you can start simple; don’t worry about elaborate sequencing or a lengthy practice. Just show up on the mat and know you want to practice.
I personally don’t believe that either is superior but both have their advantages. So let’s look at five key areas to consider.
- Motivation – I love the energy of a group yoga practice. Yoga builds a community of like-minded individuals. When you practice with a room full of yogis, you are not only accountable to keep up with the class but in a subtle way, the community keeps you engaged and the energy floats in the air like oxygen and pushes you through.
- Growth & Focus – The best part of having a home practice is you can focus on a single pose for 20 minutes if you want to. Yoga deserves time and patience and that’s what you get by cultivating a home practice. Those of you who believe only a vinyasa flow is yoga will be surprised to know that being in a pose and refining the details of that pose is also yoga. So pick a pose-of-the-day and play with it. If a teacher taught a new pose in class and you didn’t have enough time to practice it, read about it and practice. Fortunately, there are wonderful resources out there.
- Being Practical – Every day you take time to drink water, use the bathroom and eat. So treat your practice in the same way. I have realized that the morning is the best time for me to practice before the day slips away. Also, in the morning the body may be stiff, but the mind is quiet and receptive, which is very important. But either way, you can take 15 minutes out of your day whether at home, in the office or at school and do simple poses to reap the rewards anytime, anywhere. The whole world can become your yoga studio.
- Guidance – As much as yoga is about a pose, it is also about the safety and alignment of the pose. As a beginner yogi, it is not just hard but impossible to access the positioning of your body. A good yoga teacher will not only provide guidance but also assistance and adjustments in class. As you progress, your body will start storing muscle memory for a home practice.
- Cultivate relaxation – A home practice does not mean it has to be difficult, sweaty and exhausting. Often the best answer to a stressed-out, overworked body is relaxation. Invest in some great props: two blocks, a strap, a bolster and a few blankets. Use these props for long, restorative poses leading up to a juicy supported savasana. I believe restorative yoga is the antidote to stress.
So whether you can go to a yoga studio or not, just make a commitment: “I will do yoga every day.” No matter what, no matter where, no matter for how little or for how long, no excuses. That’s really the most important step. I always keep in mind and constantly remind myself how essential yoga is to my mental and physical well-being. I understand that yoga, the savior of my personal health, is the greatest gift I can give to myself and my family.
[This article was initially published on Seattle Yoga News]