For many years I have more and sometimes less regularly enjoyed going to yoga classes. I never had a home practice and, frankly, the idea of practicing on my own at home hadn’t even crossed my mind. I was used to practicing under the guidance of a teacher, not realising what a beautiful way of deepening my experience a home practice could be.
Two years ago I wanted to try to integrate yoga more into my life and to learn more about it. I bought a yoga mat and I stumbled upon Sara Avant Stover’s wonderful book called ‘The Way of the Happy Woman’. I loved her practical approach and in her book she presents a different yoga sequence for each season. I started studying the postures and created my own posters for the different sequences. Equipped with the posters, I started practicing and after a while I had memorised the sequence. Not having to think about the sequence so much anymore, I was able to flow through it, really focusing on my breath, paying attention to my body and even setting an intention for that particular practice. As the seasons changed, I moved on to the next sequence. I recognized some of the poses I was practicing at home in the classes I was taking and sequencing started to make more sense to me. I began to understand why I was practicing certain poses before others and what effects they have. After a while of practicing the sequences, I started combining some of them and integrated new poses that I had learned in class. This flexibility and basic sequencing knowledge now gives me the opportunity to listen carefully to what I need on any given day and to design my own practice according to that. It changes every day and I continue to practice and learn.
So here are my 7 tips for starting your own home practice:
1. Find a sequence to start with
There is a logic to sequencing so it is good to start with one that is well balanced. You could copy the sequence to a poster, so that you can carry it with you when traveling (as opposed to having to take the whole book or your computer if you got it from the internet). Whatever works for you.
2. Get comfortable with the sequence
Practice the sequence as often as you can and really get comfortable with it. Try to focus on your breath while you move and be present. Eventually you will probably remember the sequence and you won’t need your poster anymore.
3. Find a new sequence
When you feel like you are ready for a change, find a new sequence to practice.
4. Make awareness and reflection part of your practice
Reflect and observe which poses and sequences you enjoy more and which ones you dread. Try to notice these things without judgment. You can learn a lot about yourself in this process. Taking some time to journal after your practice can also be a useful addition to your practice.
5. Once you know a couple of sequences, get creative!
Check in with yourself during a short meditation before your practice and adjust your sequence according to what you feel would benefit you most that day. Set an intention at the beginning of your practice and guide your practice accordingly. Work poses or sequences you learned in your yoga class into your home sequence or combine elements from the different sequences you already know.
6. Embrace the changing nature of your practice and be gentle with yourself
Don’t be disappointed when you’re not able to practice as often as you’d like or when you can’t practice at the same time every day and let go of negative thoughts. Learning to deal gracefully with frustrations is part of practicing. You don’t have to practice every day. The important thing is to always start over! The present is all we have and every day is a new chance to start fresh no matter when you last had a chance to practice.
7. Enjoy the journey!
Keep learning and keep growing with your practice.
These were my experiences with developing my home practice. We each have our own yoga journey, just as we have our own journey through life. The beauty is that we all experience it differently and I would love to hear about your home practice, how you started it and what is supporting you in your journey!