How to Plan a Successful Home Yoga Practice
Oh, you thought you were practicing today?
Picture it. It's early on a Saturday morning and you're up before the rest of your household. You push your coffee table to one side, grab your blocks, and unroll your yoga mat. You cue up a playlist on Spotify and settle in for an opening meditation and an invigorating home practice.
Until your phone starts beeping with notifications. Okay, no big deal. You open your eyes and silence it.
Except now the music seems a little too loud. And you're tired of the song that's playing anyway. Maybe you can just quickly look up a new playlist to try out today.
Then your roommate or your partner comes shuffling out to say hello. You try to answer in a way that says "I'm focusing on my yoga practice right now so please take the hint and give me some space." They are too sleepy to get it.
You make it through some cat cows and a few sun salutations. You're in down dog, wondering what to do next. What was that thing we did in class last week? Seconds tick by as you try to remember the sequence. You tentatively try it out on one side, decide "that's not it," do something different on the other leg.
Chair pose, that always gets the blood pumping. Except it's much harder to hold chair pose when you're on your own, and before long, you're lying on your back, and your invigorating practice has been approximately 15 minutes of vinyasa, 3 minutes of fiddling with music, 5 minutes of deterring the people you live with from talking to you, and 10 minutes of savasana.
Why does a home yoga practice hold so much appeal? And why is it so challenging to execute successfully?
To answer question #1, the benefits of home practice are:
*You can practice on your own schedule
*You can tailor the session to whatever you want to work on that day
*You can take your yoga with you when you're traveling or on vacation
To answer question #2, the challenges of home practice are:
*You don't have someone guiding you so you aren't sure what to do
*You don't have someone pushing you, so every session becomes a restorative practice (Restorative yoga is awesome, but it's not awesome to end up in a restorative session by default, and certainly not every single time you hit the mat at home)
*You don't have an environment where interruptions and distractions are minimized
When we show up at a studio to take class, part of why we are there is to be guided through the practice by a teacher. It relieves us of making choices about what's next. Instead of planning a flow for ourselves, we are usually only between choosing between action (following the path of postures the teacher has set out) or rest (taking a timeout whenever we need a minute).
To be in the midst of a practice while continually asking yourself "What pose should I do next?" is exhausting. And it doesn't promote a quiet, calm mind, but instead a busy one that's trying to decide if reverse warrior should come before or after side angle.
I'm tired just thinking about it.
If you want to create a successful home yoga practice, the first step is to know what kind of practice you want to have. There are three basic types:
*Media-Based, Teacher-Led: There are a million and one podcasts and videos out there made by yoga teachers that you can follow along with. With the media-based home practice, the teacher is still guiding you through a session. Even though they aren't there in person, there is still a level of accountability that can keep you moving during the session. And having someone else chart the course of the practice takes away the "decision fatigue" that comes from asking yourself "What's next?" If you're looking for video, check out my donation-based vinyasa series here.
*Self-Designed: A self-designed practice is one that you plan out in advance. If you're a yoga teacher, practice one of the classes that you've planned for the upcoming week. You'll be able to bring new insights to the sequence after putting it into your own body. If you're a student, you can find sequences online, or plan out something based on your own experience in class. The key here is to write it down so that you can easily refer to it during your practice. Otherwise you're back to relying on your memory and brainpower, which can put the brakes on the session, both mentally and physically.
*Total Freestyle: In this practice, you totally let go and give your body permission to move. You might not do the same thing on both sides, you might not even do much that technically "looks" like yoga. The total freestyle approach can be amazing, but it's only really effective is your goal is to "follow what feels good." If you have more specific goals like "I want to work up a sweat," you're better off with one of the first two methods to help you get there.
Now that you know what kind of home practice you want to have, there are just a couple more steps to set yourself up for success.
Give a heads up to those people who share your space that you'll be practicing (you can also send a text or write a note) and politely encourage them to leave you alone :)
The last piece is to hold yourself to the same standards you would maintain during a yoga class! Turn your phone on airplane mode, and if you're using music, choose a playlist and stick with it. You wouldn't get up during someone else's class to adjust their music. Show yourself the same respect.
I hope these tips have been helpful. Let me know in the comments how they've worked for you, or if you have anything to add about building a successful home practice!