Yoga class is great, isn’t it? It relaxes you, invigorates you, and grounds you. It helps you recoup after a busy day or sets the tone for the day ahead. But what about those days where you can’t make it to a yoga class? What then?
One if the most common things I hear from my yoga students is that they don’t know how to practice yoga on their own. They feel insecure or at a loss of what to do once they get to their mat.
If you can relate, let me ease your mind with some things to consider and where to turn when you want to practice at home but don’t know where to start.
Write It Down
After you leave a yoga class feeling like a million bucks, take a moment to write down a few things you really enjoyed about the class. Was it a certain posture? Breathing exercise? Take note so you can have something to refer to.
I have a student who has a binder full of resources and notes that she can flip open when needed. Start your own sacred library of healing resources. The creation process can be it’s own lovely practice.
Find Your Spot
Finding a place to practice at home can be difficult, especially if you share your space. But think about when you attend a packed yoga class. All you have is the designated sacred space of your mat.
I would be surprised if you didn’t have a space somewhere in your house for a yoga mat. I know it’s tempting to want an entire room full of candles and flowers and all things magical, and if you have one, great. But be okay with a tight space. Surround the mat with a candle or a stone or two, but let your special spot be wherever you unroll your mat.
When in doubt, breathe it out. I always start my personal practice, and yoga classes, with simple breath work. It is a great way to switch gears from what you were doing up until this point.
So before you even think about what postures to do, just get on to your mat and breathe. That’s it. Focus on deep belly breathing or any other pranayama techniques that you know of. And that may be all you do. But you spent some mindful time on your mat. Just starting can be half the battle.
Move Your Spine
The spine moves six ways, front and back, side-to-side, and twisting both ways. A lot of body pain and dysfunction comes from an unhealthy and locked-up spine. One of the best things you can do for yourself is move the spine therapeutically in all of its directions.
This happens naturally in a lot of yoga sequences, but it’s a great thing to think about when you are on your own. It gives yourself a starting point. You can gently start Marjarasana (Cat/Cow), seated or reclined twists, and side bends. Make the movements fluid. Move with your breath. Pretty soon you will feel warmed up to either move forward with your practice or on to the rest of your day.
Ask Your Body for Help
When you are warming up with your breath and/or spine movements, ask yourself, “What do I need today?” and see what comes to you. Our bodies are so wise, and they are constantly giving us feedback.
Whatever body pains you are having, revolve your practice around poses that will nurture that area. If you sit at a desk all day, counter that with heart openers and hip openers. If you are running around all day, do more of a restorative practice.
You know what you need. Just listen and act accordingly.
Give Yourself a Gift
In a world where we are constantly judging and being harsh on ourselves, don’t let your yoga or self-care practice be another thing to beat yourself up about.
This isn’t something you “should” do or only can do if it’s perfect. Whenever you spend time on your mat, it is a gift. It is time free of chaos and judgment. It is a safe space for healing. Start with just 10 or 15 minutes. Perhaps that’s all you have time for. Maybe it will evolve into a longer time period, or maybe not. Your gift doesn’t have to be an hour or more long. Set a time intention that works with your life and feel good about that.
The bottom line is that having a home practice is not as complicated as you think. And you already know more than you think. Trust yourself. Be gentle. Follow these suggestions and any other you come across. Your body will thank you.