I struggled with my home practice for years, even after I earned my teacher training certification in 2002, and especially after I had kids. Every time I got on my mat, I would remember the laundry that needed to be put in the dryer…and the snack I forgot to prepare for my kids…and the trash I should have taken out…and on and on.
I finally realized that staying on my mat is difficult by design. The poses aren’t the work in yoga. They might stretch and tone my muscles, but the real yoga happens when I arrive on my mat, and surrender to the experience.
If you think you might be ready to practice yoga at home, remember that you don’t necessarily need books, DVDs, or podcasts. All you need to practice yoga at home is a quiet space, a mat, your breath, and a willingness to listen to your body. You can add a little music, too, if you feel moved to do so.
Here’s an easy way to think about sequencing your practice:
1) Warm Up
Sun salutations are a great way to begin a home practice (I recommend starting with 3-5 rounds). Move through the first round slowly, holding each pose for several breaths. Add in some stretches as you see fit. For additional sun salutations, listen to your body, and decide whether it is best to transition between poses with every breath, or every few breaths. There are benefits to both applications (read more about that here). Remember to always keep your mouth closed, and breathe through your nose.
2) Build Strength and Awareness
Next, pick 3-5 standing poses, such as side angle pose, triangle pose, chair pose, or any others you remember from previous experiences. Hold each pose for 5-10 full breaths. Find your drishti (focused gaze in front of you, or looking up) in each pose, and hold steady. Practice each pose 2-3 times.
5) Twist and Reconcile
This is an introductory approach to practicing at home, so of course you can substitute more challenging poses as you feel prepared. You can also add more sun salutations, to increase the intensity of the experience. As you grow in your home practice, you may also feel called to play with arm balances, inversions, and maybe even the poses on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine. Take your time easing into more challenging poses, and trust the process.
Before you know it, magic will happen, and you will look forward to your home practice more than you ever imagined.