Yoga is an art. As a kid I wanted to play guitar. I went to lessons. I didn’t practice between lessons. My teacher kept saying “you can’t really learn without practicing at home”. He told me this every week. He could tell I wasn’t practicing. I think he got tired of going over the same bits over and over, which was all he could do because I didn’t practice. I didn’t progress much at playing guitar either; I lost interest and quit after less than a year of lessons.
Just as a musician must practice their musical instrument daily, or a dancer practice every day, yoga students who want to make progress will have to find the self-discipline to start a daily practice on their own.
The most important reasons to begin and continue a home practice
- You get to know your own body , your own strengths and weaknesses.
- You gain the mental and psychological benefits that are the whole original purpose of yoga, and will not come without daily home practice. You will learn more about yourself than any books or workshops can ever show you, because you will be taking that inward journey every day.
- You will have this touchstone, this place of anchoring every day, A true blessing in this ever-changing, fast paced and imperfect, sometimes crazy world we live in.
What is a daily “home” or “individual” practice?
Daily – Honestly, 5 to 7 times a week is GREAT!!!
Home – in your home, have a place for doing yoga, a place you like, it can be in any room, outside on nice days… Have a time for yoga; most people who don’t chose a specific time for yoga have trouble doing it 5 to 7 times a week. I carved out time in the early morning, because too much can happen once my day is started.
Individual – Just you with yourself. It can be done with or around others, but you are doing your yoga, no chatting, no interruptions, no TV, phone, no distractions!
Practice – is not a competition, not an exhibition, not a performance and not a race! Let it be stress-free. Cultivate a patient mind. Some days you’ll be slow and other days you will feel like being fierce. You will learn to honor where you are at.
How do you begin a home practice? To start, you do what you can remember from class (so yes, do attend classes.) Take your time getting into and out of postures, and hold postures longer, to make discoveries and build strength.
- Take some time, five minutes is good, to become aware of and deepen your breath.
- Begin moving easily and repeat 3 to 10 sun salutations, to warm up the body.
- Do standing poses – warriors, triangles, tree or others; switching it up is good.
- Do child’s pose when you need a rest.
- Do a few seated postures and one or two laying down.
- Include one inversion. Legs up a wall counts.
- Always do savasana for a minimum of 8 minutes.
It is a great idea to get an individual session to design and refine your daily practice, after a few weeks, then at least once a year.
BUT... “I don’t have time for it every day.” By making time for a daily practice the rest of your day will be more productive. The rest of your day will be less stressful. These blogs discus how yoga does this in more detail; yoga for beating stress yoga as tool against fatigue
“I don’t care if I make progress I’m just doing yoga for maintenance.” There is no such thing as maintaining, unless you are making progress. Unless you are strengthening muscles in your body, and moving in your full range of motion 4-6 times a week. Exercise is stimulus. The changes to body tissue happens in the 24 to 48 hours afterwards. You become weaker and more rigid after 48 hours. This is even truer as you get older. After the 48 hours… if there is no stimulus again your hard work begins to get undone. Period, that’s it. (After months and years of daily yoga you maintain better flexibility if you do miss some days or weeks, your base-line has gotten higher).
“I do enough other exercise.” Great! But, by doing a home practice of yoga, you’re less likely to get injured doing other exercises and be able to do them longer as you age.
“I’m active in my daily work (or life).” Most often, in our daily routine, we do many repetitive movements, with the focus on what we are doing rather than the body and mind doing it. We use limited amount of the many muscles, less range of motion and less systematic use of many muscles. If your work is hard physical labor, less and/or “restorative” yoga might be what you need to practice at home.