Home (Practice) for the Holidays...and any day

Just like that - the holidays have arrived. Schedules seem tighter at work and at home. There are fewer hours of daylight, and the cold has settled in for many places.

And perhaps, slipping just out of your grasp, is one of the mainstays of your sanity and peace: your yoga practice.

This might be a tougher time to get to class. But we were born with the only thing we need for yoga: our bodies.

To establish a home practice, or to add a home practice into our life, we have to get through the biggest hurdle first. Once we get it out of the way, everything becomes easier. I promise.

Time. You think you don't have any.

You DO have time. You may need to give something up, or cut back on something else, but you CAN choose to prioritize. How long and how often is up to you. We make space for our priorities.

As one of my favorite artists, Brian Andreas says: "Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life."


Home practices in 2013

Maybe today is that day for you!  Here are some thoughts to get you started, or to help you along:

Your home practice doesn't need to be 90 minutes (initially or ever). If you are confused about where to start, or how to build a practice, my advice is to start small. Commit to 10 minutes on the days you practice and do some deep breathing and your favorite poses or simple sun salutations. Add a few minutes a day, or just continue with 10 minutes. Many long-time studio practitioners feel married to 60-90 minutes. Just remember that as a student, in a class where you are being taught -  there are natural pauses and breaks and late starts that you won't have when you are all by yourself. You can fit more in when you are on your own.

Dare to be different, or stick with the familiar. There are multiple ways to approach "what" you do during your home practice. Some people like to practice the same sequence each time. Others go with what they feel like that morning. If I am doing a longer home practice, I like to plan out the sequence to a peak pose, or work through a sequence that I am planning on teaching that week. If I have 30-45 minutes, I might just do what feels good, based on the parts of my body that feel tight. My awesome friend, Megan, shares her sequence notebook with EVERYONE - and you can check it out if you are looking for sequence ideas. She has themes and time estimates and they are my absolute go-to when I am looking for inspiration.

Buddy Up! Invite a friend or a partner to join you. Even a furry friend. Particularly around the holidays, it is an awesome way to spend time with someone and also allow time for your yoga. You can practice a sequence in tandem together, watch a yoga video, or choose a playlist and then do individual work.

When in doubt, use 5 as a breath count. It can be challenging without a teacher to cue breaths, so if this presents itself as an issue, use 5 deep breaths as a start. The more experience you have, the easier it will be to "feel" the breath count on both sides, but it is always good to have points of reference to fall back on.

You can have Hot Yoga at home. It will cost you $25 and perhaps a small $3-5 increase in your electric bill. Behold, the space heater. I will, as my insurance background dictates, remind you that these are dangerous if left on or plugged in near flammable objects. Please be smart, yogis - unplug after you heat up.

Your home practice doesn't have to be self directed. If the idea of practicing without an instructor intimidates you, first thank Ganesha that you are getting your asana on in 2013, and then log on to your computer for some action at one of the many yoga websites available. Most are even running holiday specials. I'll shout out Yoga VibesMy Yoga Online, and a new offering, Mat2Mat, because I've used them both and some of my favorite teachers are on there. There are lots of other options out there as well. Also close to my own heart are the Ana Forrest intensive CDs, which can be loaded onto an mp3 player and taken anywhere.

Set the mood.  Love the candles your teacher has, or yearn for the smell of sage or incense as you walk into the studio? Done and done. For $4 and $3, respectively. Totally worth it. Again, yogis, let's be careful with the fire. But do it up. The same is true for playlists. Set your iphone, your ipad, or your computer - go to Pandora or create an iTunes playlist to suit the type of mood you are setting for your practice (or the mood you are in). The more you put into the experience, the more you are likely to like it. And a DESIRE to do the practice is vital, especially in the beginning.

Candlelight home practice 

Get creative with props. If you get hooked on home yoga, you can invest in some props. But as you get started, remember that soup cans, pillows, books, towels, water bottles, and belts make great yoga props in the absence of the usual block, strap and roll. I could write a whole blog post on props I have made out of hotel room items.

Take Savasana. It is so easy to pop up after the last active pose and move on to the next scheduled item on the to-do list. Carve out two minutes in the time that you have allotted to give yourself even just a quick savasana. It truly allows your body to take in all that you have done. 

Don't give up. Home practice is a labor of love. It requires discipline and focus, which can take time to build. It might take a few fits and starts for a habit to be born.

By making space in our lives for yoga, we surrender to the space that yoga will make in our bodies and minds. And slowly, but surely, that newfound space becomes a sanctuary.