Home Practice is the core of yoga. Class is great – but there is more, much more to yoga, and a lot you can really tap it alone, on your own.
In class, you are being observed, you act accordingly, there is a role to be played. At home you are free.
At home you are both the student and the teacher, and a lot come out of it. It is really when you begin to practice at home that you learn and experience both freedom and empowerment. That is when you will really experience the transformative effects of yoga – on body, mind and spirit.
How can you get a Home Practice? Just do it!
Like any other thing in life, if it is not on your calendar, it will never get done. Someday is not a day of the week! Therefore, open your calendar now and see when you can make it happen.
If that sounds daunting, here are some hints that might help you get started and stay with it.
Start slow, both on time and expectations. And no, you really cannot mess this up!
Students tend to set the bar too high when they start. If they don’t make it through an hour of perfectly sequenced poses, they get disappointed and give up.
Instead, do a few poses that you know and feel confident with. When you’ve finished, lie down for a five-minute Savasana. Ten minutes and you’ve got a Home Practice!
Be disciplined. Make Home Practice a priority. Put it on the calendar and commit to it. I would start with 2 days a week, keep with it for two weeks, then see if you feel better physically and mentally, then 3 days a week. Eventually you might be doing it every day.
See if it gets easier. Pretty soon your 10-minute practice will grow to half an hour. Give yoga some space and time, and it will make a place for itself in your life.
Time and place:
Choose a time of day and a place where you won’t be disturbed. If you can, set aside the same time each day. First thing in the morning is good; wait until later and you might get caught up in your busy schedule. In the morning, the body may be stiff but the mind is quiet and receptive – what is very important. If afternoons or evenings work better for you, practice then. I really like practicing at noon. I am done with my morning work and it is a “lunch break” before my kids get home. My body is more opened than earlier in the day but not as tired as in the evening.
Do what you know. But don’t be afraid of being creative either. Remember, there is not a wrong practice. If a movement does not feel good, your body will let you know. Yep, maybe you will overdo at times, but your body will let you know as well. It is a learning curve. Like anything else!
Start with a few simple, familiar asanas like Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and Adho Mukha Virasana (Downward Facing Virasana).
Follow with a few standing poses: Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle), Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose) and Virabhadrasana II (the second Warrior Pose).
Finish with a seated forward bend, maybe Paschimottanasana or even simpler as in adho muka swastiksana (easy crossed legs and head support), or lie with your legs up the wall.
Then, rest for several minutes: even if you’re short of time, always practice Savasana (Corpse Pose). I confess that a lot of days all I do is Savasana. And that is ok! Don’t berate yourself or feel lazy. Savasana is wonderful and restorative. I find very helpful to do forward Swastikasanawith head support (changing crossing of legs) and then sitting up for meditation, or just sit up and watch your breath for a few minutes.
Cultivate the voice inside, the teacher inside yourself. Maybe at first you’ll hear your class teacher’s voice reminding you to lift your kneecaps or extend your elbows. If it doesn’t feel right, stop. Avoid poses you don’t feel confident with; save them for class when you can be supervised.
Work by the book. B. K. S. Iyengar’s LIGHT ON YOGA is the bible of modern yogis in every method; Geeta Iyengar’s Preliminary Course has detailed, step-by-step instructions and drawings to help you through the poses. The Mehtas’ Yoga the Iyengar Way has big color photos.
When you’ve been self-practicing awhile, you might try this: After your next class, try to remember the poses your teacher taught and write them down, in order. If you don’t know the names, describe them or draw a little sketch. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. Then, next day, recreate the sequence – or part of it – at home on your own.
See if you can remember the points your teacher made. When you do poses a second or third time – when you become your own teacher – the learning deepens; the experience becomes more profound, and more truly your own.
Buy a mat and three blankets (you’ll need them for Salamba Sarvangasana, Shoulder Balance, vital to your practice). A belt and a block or two are very useful. Use a timer to build up time in your inversions.
Sequencing the postures:
begin with standing postures,
then go on to inversions,
twists and forward bends.
Often, Sarvangasana is done towards the end of a sequence before Savasana (corpse pose or final relaxation).
If you do Sirsasana (Head Balance), it must be followed with Sarvangasana or another pose (such as Setu Bandha sarvangasana) which creates the Jalandhara bandha, the conjunction between the chin and the top of the sternum. (this is a very important order for the balance of your nervous system. Do not alter this one!)
But many times I find helpful to break away from that as well and start on the floor doing some simple leg work like Supta Pavana Muktasanacycle. (lay on the floor, bring one knee into the chest, then the other, then both). When my body feels more opened I move into AdhoMuka Virasana (forward hero pose or “child’s pose”), from there I find it easier to go to Dog Pose and start the standing asanas.
Other times I only do inversions and call it a day. With time you will get the hang of it!
Do the same pose in a variety of ways.
For example, do Utthita Trikonasana with your front foot up the wall – with the back heel at the wall – with your back to the wall, then facing a wall. The goal isn’t to find the way that works best for you, then always do it that way.
Experience the pose from every angle. Learn all about it. We want to be as familiar with these poses as with a room we know so well that we can walk around it in the dark, without bumping into the furniture.
In time, the poses become a template we can use to explore our minds, our senses, our emotions, our place in the world and our relationship to the Higher Power.
There are so many resources online, on Instagram that it has become very easy. I started practicing by myself with Light on Yoga and doing all sort of “no no” stuff and survived just fine!
Again, I want to reassure you that you cannot mess this up!
Isabela Fortes is a Board Certified Holistic Health Expert,
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher Level II, Certified yoga therapist.
She is a mother of two and works with client and teaches Yoga in Southern California and virtually anywhere in the world.
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