The Obstacles are Many, But the Path Is Worth Taking!
Imagine rolling out your yoga mat in a tidy corner of your home just minutes before the sun peeks over the horizon. Stepping onto the mat, you honor the stiffness of your morning muscles by moving slowly and softly, enjoying a long inhale as you lift your arms above your head. On the exhale, you drape your body over deeply bent knees and then sway to and fro for a few moments before beginning your practice in earnest.
For today’s session, you’re kind to yourself. You stretch more than you strengthen because you sense that is what your body needs. The practice lasts about 30 minutes, and that satisfies you completely. As you roll your mat back up, the other members of your house begin to stir. You’ve logged your alone time, and it was a wonderful way to begin the day. Next up: a warm cup to sip on and breakfast.
If it sounds a little luxurious that’s because it is. It’s not every day that we can claim a quiet, early moment before everyone in the house is abuzz. Sometimes there isn’t even a clear, uncluttered corner to be found. The hurdles to developing a home practice are plentiful. Luckily, though, they’re not impossible to overcome, and—trust us—they’re worth hopping over! This month, we share some of the most common obstacles to developing a home practice and offer advice and tips for overcoming them.
Over the years, you’ve shared with us many reasons why a home practice is just plain tough to commit to. Here are some of the most frequently cited problems and their potential solutions:
I can’t wake up that early.
Then don’t! It’s certainly not written in stone that a yoga practice must be done in the A.M. Although it is true that Iyengar and others describe the pre-dawn hours as the ideal time to practice, the fact is, if you’re a night owl aiming to practice as the sun rises, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you have been up all night caring for or worrying about others, then sleep is your first yoga priority.
Start by squeezing in a practice where you can. It could be a five-minute practice in the afternoon or ten minutes before bed. By beginning with these small, manageable increments, your goal of developing a home practice will be an achievable one.
I wouldn’t know how to move. I need the guidance of a teacher.
If you can stretch your body as you’re waking up in bed, you can practice yoga asana. Nevermind the Sanskrit terminology or precision alignment cues. Tap into your body as it is in this moment. Where is it stiff? What could use a little strengthening? Be guided by your internal wisdom, and allow your breath to lead the way.
Many have written on this subject, and among our favorites is Eric Schiffmann who wrote Moving Into Stillness. He reminds us that our breath and intuition are a powerful pair. Inhales generally bring us into expansive stretches, making your spine as long as it can be, for instance, and exhales permit a deepening as in forward fold or in twists. We needn’t know the name of a pose to move our bodies. Think of yoga as your personal dance. One that revitalizes your body and feeds your soul. No one is watching, so no movement is wrong.
Yoga is a process of deep listening. It can be helpful to remember that the yoga poses as we know them were developed quite late along the timeline of yogic history. Get out of your own way to let your best self shine forth. Shed your layers of doubt, and trust the wisdom already inside you. Get breathing. Get moving.
But seriously, I don’t know any of the poses.
California yoga teacher Jason Crandell wrote a lovely article not too long ago in Yoga Journal. In addition to offering insights and motivation for beginning a home practice, he offers short sequences that will help you structure a complete-feeling home session.
We’ve also found Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual by David Swenson an invaluable reference for go-to sequencing. We haven’t found a clearer, easier-to-follow instruction manual, and the spiral binding makes it perfect for resting on the ground and viewing as you practice.
Neither do we! No one does. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to get all we want done done. You’ve heard this advice before: It’s a matter of priority. But don’t stop reading there. If family and career and everything else come first, we are doing family and career and everything else a disservice. When you invest time, even little spurts of time, in yourself–your peace of mind, your wellness, your happiness, your health–you have more to give and everyone is better off.
Maybe it’s unrealistic to begin with 90-minute or even 60-minute practice sessions, but two minutes here and ten minutes there are a perfectly good place to begin. When ten minutes becomes habit, you’ll want to bump it up to fifteen and then maybe twenty. Before you know it, you’ll be immersed in yoga for 30 or 40 minutes. Start small. Forgive yourself if it’s not happening the way you imagined. Keep rolling out that mat.
One of our students shared a tip that has worked for her: Keep your mat rolled out! After a while, you won’t be able to ignore its call.
I have four little children, two German Shepherds, and too much furniture in the way.
Then yoga is your medicine, and it is especially essential for you! We’re not strangers to these types of “distractions,” ourselves. There are a few things you can do.
Approach #1: Insist on finding time in those late-night or early morning hours when the house is relatively quiet. If this doesn’t work, don’t be discouraged. Read on!
Approach #2: Re-envision what you think of as a yoga practice. I kid you not when I tell you that half of my yoga is practiced with an eight-year-old clinging to my torso. So what that these sessions aren’t the stuff of Google Images: I’m not wearing white or sitting in front of a waterfall as the heavens bestow a rapturous light upon my countenance. Life is messy and chaotic, and true yoga helps us to find the calm amidst the storm. If I didn’t open up to this re-envisioning, I wouldn’t have known that yoga can make me giggle until I fall over and bring me closer to the ones I love.
Approach #3: Just as you would insist on privacy in the bathroom or in your home office, insist on designating time and space if you’d really like to practice by yourself. Respect your own requirements and enlist everyone else’s respect too. If you’re the parent of a toddler or an infant, see Approach #4.
Approach #4: Nap time is the golden hour if you’re home alone with bebe. Of course, it doesn’t always go as planned, does it? If Approach #2 isn’t cuttin’ it, the best you can do is reach out, reach out, reach out. Develop a support network! Trade babysitting time with other parents who need a moment to themselves. Find a Mama & Me class (like ours at 12:30 every Tuesday), or ask someone to watch the little one while you find your way to the studio. Sometimes your best home practice is found at your home away from home.
Your home practice can become your most valuable course in the Self. Since each day is different, you’ll be able to tailor your session so that it suits your mood and energy level today. Some days you’ll invert and contort. Some days you’ll simply sit to clear your mind. Let us know how your home practice is going, and do share any of the obstacles holding you back if we haven’t addressed them here!
Stay in touch and see you at the studio.
Leigha & Jacqui