How to cultivate a home yoga practice
There seem to be many people who want to practice yoga but don’t really know how or where to start. Going to classes is amazing and having a great teacher guide you is an unparalleled experience, but many of us don’t have the time or money to go studio classes, or we feel too intimidated when we’re just starting out, which is why some opt start at home. A yoga practice is also a very personal and sacred thing, so there are those who prefer to keep it to themselves.
I personally started at home and don’t think I would have every started a regular practice, let alone become a yoga instructor if I didn’t have access to YouTube videos. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but if you have been thinking about starting a home practice, either as a beginner or to supplement your studio classes, here are a few tips to keep it going long enough for it to become a habit.
· Follow videos for inspiration. Until I signed up for yoga teacher training, I did not go to a yoga class, I exclusively did YouTube videos by YogaByCandace®. This takes the need for creativity or inspiration out when you want to just move and not think, and in the beginning it is great for introducing you to poses, transitions, cues etc. By the time I went to my first class, I felt comfortable because I knew all the pose names, I knew what a vinyasa was and I knew the cues for proper alignment. I also draw a lot of my inspiration from yoga accounts I follow on social media.
· Pick one pose you practice every day. This was an integral part of the 30-day programs I followed and it’s amazing because you can visibly see your progress which is so inspiring. One day, you realise you can do the thing which seemed completely inaccessible and it is such an incredible driver to keep going.
· Mix in some yin practice. When I first started I didn’t like yin. It felt like a waste of time because I wasn’t really doing much. But that’s not true. Firstly, you are working into the deep connective tissue, which can feel intense if you are quite immobile. Secondly, it is a much more meditative practice, so you are practicing control of your mind. Finding more range and mobility, learning more about the breath connection, practicing meditation and bringing more yin energy into your life will accelerate your dynamic practices.
· Take some time to just play without structure or expectation. The only way you will keep this up is if it is fun (unless you are super disciplined) and you want it to be fun otherwise, what’s the point. Whether you are just sitting in meditation, flowing, playing with arm balances or inversions, doing drills or repeating the same movement over and over again, do what feels right in the moment. Go with the flow and let your inspiration lead the way.
· Practice without the pressure of filming yourself for social media. Often your practice will be disjointed, clunky, messy, repetitive and just not IG-worthy – these are often the times when you have your breakthroughs, your fits of laughter and when you will be most in tune with your body. These are the times when you try the same thing one hundred million times, it’s when you get just that bit further/better/stronger than last time, when you really feel into your body and every movement feels delicious. Trying to look good for the gram takes you out of the present moment.
Cultivating a home practice was great for me because I had a busy schedule but enjoyed getting up early in the morning to work out, so I would do an hour of yoga before everyone woke up. I didn’t worry about what I was wearing, what other people in the class were doing (I was the only student!) or what I looked like and I could hit pause to practice something for a bit longer. I would usually follow the videos 6 days a week and then just play with things I’d learned the other day. It also gave me the confidence of knowing the terminology and having a strong practice once I did start attending classes.
Whether you choose to practice at home or attend classes (or both, they are not mutually exclusive), the key things to remember is this is your practice, not anyone else’s, how you feel is more important than how you look and yoga is not just the poses. You do not have to do an hour of sweaty flowing every day, you do not have to sit for an hour in strict meditation. Be it 45 minutes, or 10 or 5, be it handstands or child’s pose, the most important thing is that you get on your mat.