In October of 2014 I attended a workshop focused on developing a sustainable at home yoga practice. Students, ranging from 19-67 years of age, created a semi-circle around our teacher, listening intently for the secret of creating a vigorous, engaging yoga practice, which would keep us busy for a lifetime. To my disappointment, there was no secret, no awe-inspiring idea which propelled me into a state of bliss. What followed was as analytical as a yogi could get, “There are three steps to creating a home practice,” She said, “ Step one, find a place. Step two, find a time. Step three, decide what to practice”.
As she spoke, I frantically wrote down the steps, attempting to capture the wisdom in each word. Although the lesson continued, offering helpful insights on overcoming roadblocks, I could sense the commitment needed to bring this lesson to fruition, and reap the benefits, in my own life. “Okay,” I thought, “Find a place..”.
Step One: Find a place
This could be a place in your home, gym, or work. You may find it helpful to put inspiring objects in your space, such as pictures, figures, or books.
If your space is limited, lay your mat beside your bed. You can store it underneath your bed when not practicing, which will be easily accessible morning, noon, or night.
If you have a guest bedroom or office, dedicate the area (when not in use) to your yoga practice.
At the gym
Rent a locker and store your yoga mat inside. This is great practice for applying yoga to real life situations because of the distractions that exist in public places. What a great way to challenge your ability to stay in your body and in the moment!
This may not be reasonable for some, but for people with offices or other spaces which can be closed off to others, this can be done.
Store your mat in a coat closet or under the desk. During lunch, before or after work, shut the door (lock it if you must), turn off the fluorescent lights and turn on a desk lamp and start your practice.
Step Two: Find a time
In my opinion, this is the most challenging of the three steps. In our busy day-to-day lives, finding time is difficult, but one minute is all you need. If you make the commitment to practicing for one minute a day, you will feel the benefits of yoga. This could be standing in Wide Legged Forward Fold for a minute, Child’s pose for 8 breath cycles, Warrior II while you’re waiting for your morning cup of coffee.
A mistake I often make when feeling overwhelmed is that doing yoga is going to take 30-40 minutes, but it doesn’t have to. I have felt the benefits of a 3 minute session, consisting of Downward Facing Dog in the driveway, waiting for my niece to wake up from a nap. This being said, start with a minute and build up to 10, 15, or 20. Make a commitment to get on your mat each day. Set a timer (I use an app called Insight timer) and when your minute or 10 minutes is up, notice how this short practice has changed your mental or physical self. Do you feel more relaxed, in tune, nourished? The important thing is to give time to yourself, mind, body, and spirit.
Step Three: Decide what to practice
Some basic rules include keeping it simple and remembering to breath. Using a timer can be helpful but listen to your body. A woman from Park City, Utah once told me ‘Don’t read the clock, read your energy level’.
Below are links to foundational poses which can be built upon when you become more comfortable in your own practice.
Putting it all together
When starting out, it helped me greatly to follow a regimen. A yoga instructor, Cathie Cassia, told me how she began her own daily practice, which has gotten me onto the mat every day for almost a year.
Set your timer for 14 minutes and practice the following poses:
2 minutes Downward Facing Down
2 minutes Standing Forward Fold
8 minutes Sun Salutations
2 minutes Savasana
What I love about this sequence is having the flexibility to change any part of it depending on how my body and mind is feeling. Some mornings I may start with two minutes of Reclined Big Toe Pose or Child’s Pose, followed by Warrior III and Tree Pose. Closing with Savasana is the treat I get at the end of the 12 minutes. This is one of the many reasons I get on the mat each morning.
The evening following the training, I went home and ambitiously cleared a space to permanently put my yoga mat. Step one, check! Next, find a time, “I’ll practice right when I wake up” I told myself, check! Step three, Cathie’s 14 minute regimen, check!
During the past eleven months, my at home practice has grown to become an enriching, ever changing, addition to my life. It has created space for me to reflect, more fully, on the miraculous, interconnected world in which we live.
I hope this helps you in creating your own home practice or re-invigorates you to continue. May you live with ease and joy.