Last week, in the midst of an incredibly stressful day, I completely lost focus. Wandering around my laptop through a sea of emails, unfinished documents and missed deadlines, I could not seem to pierce through the haze of confusion and overwhelm that had defined my day.
My house was a mess, my neck hurt, and a deep and oppressive fatigue was setting in. I had just 2 precious hours to complete a week’s worth of work before my 2 year old returned home and demanded my undivided attention.
IT WAS THE PERFECT TIME TO PRACTICE YOGA.
I closed my laptop, lit a candle, sat on a nearby pillow and breathed deeply. I did a couple of seated twists and lifted my heart to the sky. Within minutes the fog cleared. I felt reconnected to my vision and returned to work with a clearer head and a renewed sense of purpose. That day, my home yoga practice lasted less than 5 minutes, and it was perfect. Sometimes it lasts longer. I’ve stopped working with time constraints.
Sure, it would be wonderful to start every day at 5am with 30 minutes of meditation followed by an hour of rigorous asana. But if you set up rigid conditions such as these you will be less and less likely to meet those conditions as your energy naturally ebbs and flows, and as the demands of everyday living continue to evolve and change.
The key to cultivating a home yoga practice is to remove as many conditions as you possibly can.
The truth is you can practice yoga anytime and anywhere. Don’t have a mat? You don’t need one. Don’t know which poses to do? Lie down and start stretching in ways that feel good. Don’t have enough time? Practice for 2 minutes. Kids bothering you? Let them crawl all over you while you’re in downward dog. On a long drive? Pause every once and a while to twist and stretch your shoulders. Too sick, fatigued, injured? Notice your breathing. Right now.
NOW is always the perfect time to practice yoga, with things just as they are.
In the beginning, people come to yoga for flexibility, stress relief, pain management, and physical healing, but for most yogis, the reasons for practicing evolve. Eventually, the practice will also help you to feel more at home in your body, generate life force and vitality on demand, cultivate unconditional acceptance of yourself and the moment, and connect you to the power and truth at your centers.
That being said, here are my top tips to help you roll your mat out at home:
When the urge to practice strikes, say yes, even if it seems like the conditions aren’t right. In the beginning let go of any notions of proper time, place or mindset and follow every impulse to practice when it strikes. PRACTICE ANYTIME and ANYWHERE.
CREATE SACRED SPACE
Creating sacred space is a yogic practice in and of itself. Gather some of your precious items and sources of inspiration and build an altar. Light a candle and add fresh flowers if you have the time. Clear out a space in your home or office that’s big enough for a yoga mat and feel free to LEAVE YOUR YOGA MAT OUT.
REMOVE UNNECESSARY DISTRACTIONS
Turn off your cell phone. When your mind tells you to get up and attend to something else you “just remembered”, stay for 5 more breaths. You can stick with anything for 5 breaths.
SET AN INTENTION
Essentially, yoga is about connecting to ourselves by moving our awareness inward and redirecting our attention back towards our bodies, our breathing and our innermost experience. At the start of your practice, sit quietly, and choose an intention that will support your practice and connect you back to a preferred state.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT “DOING IT RIGHT”
The worlds of yoga are vast, varied and complex. When we practice it’s often difficult to know if we’re “doing it right” or even to know what we’re doing at all! The truth is that we don’t have to know what we’re doing. That’s just another condition we can let go of.
Every time we notice that we’re breathing, it’s yoga. Every time we notice that we were accidentally holding our breath, it’s yoga too. Our breath is the fuel for EVERYTHING in our practice; it’s the starting point, and the goal. Don’t worry about breathing correctly or incorrectly, just breathe in ways that feel good to you.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Commit to deep and compassionate listening. In the beginning, move slowly and in ways that feel pleasurable, so that you can sense the inner workings of your body and commit to a pain free practice. A home practice, unmediated by the influence of a teacher or guide, is one of the best ways of developing trust in our intuition and intimacy with ourselves.
USE GROKKER AS A RESOURCE
Find a video that fits your time, skill level and intensity needs, and get to work. For those of you who are newer to the practice of yoga, my beginner’s series is a great place to start.
START WITH SMALL GOALS, THEN WORK YOUR WAY UP
In the beginning, your primary goal is to get on your mat. As you continue to show up, you can begin to set small practice goals-10 to 15 minutes at first- then working your way up as you start to notice the benefits. Go for quantity over quality in the beginning, meaning get on your mat frequently even if your routine is not long or super intense. When you start to notice that there’s a particular time of day that works best for you to practice, set gentle goals to practice more consistently at that time.
STICK WITH IT
It’s important to note that there are deeper reasons we avoid sticking with a home practice. When we pause to turn our attention inward, moving our awareness back into our bodies, we begin to face all of the feelings and sensations we’ve repressed and avoided. Moving with and through those feelings is challenging but worth it. Yoga is an alchemical practice, and beneath those uncomfortable feelings and sensations lies a rich reward: YOU with all of your power and focus. As you learn to roll out your mat in spite of all of your challenges, as you practice staying with yourself for just a few more breaths than feels comfortable, you increase access to all of your inner resources.
At the end of each practice, spend a moment appreciating yourself for showing up. Take savasana as often as possible, even if you’re practice was mild or more meditative. Every time we practice yoga, we are taking small steps forward towards the better person that we want to be, so thank yourself for doing the good work!