Setting Up Our Home Practice Space for Success
Yoga has made a paradigm shift since Covid came on the scene and upended our entire sense of normalcy when it came to practicing yoga in public classes. (Read Yoga In The Time Of Covid). There is indeed a silver lining to it all though – we are now practicing yoga in the comfort and safety of our own homes. Read and reflect on this list of nine guidelines to help you optimize your home practice – so you can get the true benefits each time you roll your mat out.
1. Minimize distractions. Don’t have your cell phone or to-do list nearby.
This seems like an obvious one, yet it’s probably the most overlooked. As you’re moving from that zoom meeting to your mat, remember this is a sacred time for you. Set aside the phone, the connected watch and anything that will ‘ping’ you when your sole responsibility should be attending to your breath and body.
2. Maintaining boundaries. Is this your practice?
Believe me, I get it. We are all now attempting to transform our homes into places that feel comfortable and sacred for our practice, and having a private space may be a luxury for some of us and impossible for others. Can you create a dedicated space with a door that can be closed? If not, consider asking those you may live with to honor your practice time. Explain how this time helps you show up with more kindness, patience and compassion in all your interactions.
3. Prepare your space for success. Keep it as tidy as possible and make it feel inviting.
If the area you’re practicing in looks like a six-year-old frolicked through it for a costume party, then take a few moments to tidy it up and let that purifying be part of your practice. One of the pillars of our practice is saucha, or cleanliness. Our surroundings affect our mind and focus. If your eyes are constantly looking around during your practice thinking about what chores need to be done, laundry, etc. then it becomes even more difficult to invite in our focus than it already is.
4. Settling in. Take a few minutes before starting class to settle into your space.
This is paramount. Honor the transition from what you may have been doing before you rolled out the mat. If it was work related, let that pause for a moment and give yourself permission to arrive for a practice. If it was something from the home like cooking dinner, cleaning or a conversation, give yourself a few minutes to transition into your practice time before you join the class. Taking this little extra moment will help you clear out what came before and become more receptive to a potent class.
5. Stay accountable. Stay for the entire class.
As a teacher, I have noticed one thing in this global shift to online classes that can be incredibly detrimental to our idea of ‘practice’ – students doing the first portion of a class and then caving into their distractions and moving on to something else. Commit to staying for an entire class. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you’re working with an experienced teacher the class will have been sequenced to support your entire body. The slippery slope notion of ‘a little practice is better than none’ can be a disservice, possibly even harmful to your body. Give your practice the benefit of the doubt to help you cultivate discipline and commitment. Stay for an entire class, and please do not skip savasana! That is arguably the most important part of a class.
6. Empower yourself. Modify as needed and don’t over do anything.
Without a teacher physically present in the practice with you, you must take ownership of your level and readiness for certain poses. Acknowledging when a certain transition or asana is not right for your body is very important. It will undoubtedly take discernment and patience to not attempt something that can be physically harmful for where you are at. The gift of practicing at home is that we may find ourselves in an environment where we do not need to compare ourselves to our neighbor with the extra-stretchy hamstrings who just wrapped her leg behind her head. However, if the teacher in your online class is demonstrating something that you’re not ready for, do not feel beholden to achieve every pose. Build the foundation of your practice over time with patience and persistence.
7. Find your rhythm. Set up a good weekly cadence for your practice and commit to it.
This one also goes back to tip #5. Stay with it. The practice of yoga is there to provide a lifetime of exploration – physically, mentally and spiritually. It was never said that after a couple classes you’ve mastered yoga and should move on. Quite the contrary. The deeper you get into the practice, the more you’ll realize how infinite the process of self-discovery and awakening can be. So set yourself up for the long haul to truly actualize the benefits of yoga. Find a weekly rhythm of at least a couple classes and times that you can commit to. Prioritize this and put it in your schedule and plan around the classes. Be unflinching with your compromise and notice how the practice itself starts to shift when you stay with a regular cadence of classes. If you find a teacher you love, switch up the classes occasionally but do stay with a regular schedule.
8. Technology. Don’t let this be a roadblock.
Here are some simple thoughts. Make sure your computer or device is charged. The moment you’re in a down dog and need to go grab your computer charger is the moment you may decide to just walk into the kitchen and ditch the rest of your practice. Set up the screen in a place that is easy to see if you need some visual guidance, but try not to look at it the whole time. Our drishti (gazing or focal point) is important in the practice. Try not to let your eyes be constantly roaming and pulling you out of your practice. Optimize the audio experience. Consider using a bluetooth speaker to improve the sound and help you hear the instructor’s cues loudly and clearly.
9. Stay curious. Finally, let all of this be an exploration.
The yoga will meet you right where you are if you are ready and willing. Don’t let yourself get frustrated if moments become challenging. The practice is meant to shake things up a bit for you, to help broaden your perspective while inspiring you to go deeper at the same time. If you find yourself hung up on a certain pose or transition, be patient and curious. Ask questions and further your study by doing research on your own. Yoga can offer a radical new way of living if you let it. It will encourage you to become the best version of you, and that is not always an easy road. Meet yourself where you are and enjoy the journey!
By Nat Kendall
September 10, 2020