Now that I no longer teach yoga, I spend far less time at the yoga studio and attend fewer classes. I still practice yoga about 4 times a week, but more and more of this is happening at home. As many people can attest to, developing a self-practice is incredibly difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible. (I did it once before, when I first moved to Bloomingon, but I’m finding it much harder to start up this time around.) Over the next few months, as I struggle with my own home practice, I’ll post here periodically to share with readers some of my challenges and any small victories.
The biggest obstacle to practicing yoga at home, at least for me, is just getting myself motivated to step onto the mat. There have been numerous days when I fully intended to practice at home, but just couldn’t get myself to do it. After a long day, I’m mostly hungry, maybe tired and grouchy, and the last thing I want to do is some physical activity. It’s especially difficult to practice at home when the fridge is right there, not to mention the TV, couch, bed, etc. In other words, there are so many other things you can do at home besides practicing yoga, and all it takes is for you to indulge one of them in order to derail your plans for doing yoga.
One effective way to overcome this, I’ve found, is to set an easy-to-achieve goal, like practicing yoga for just 30 or 45 minutes. Some guided yoga CDs, like David Swenson’s Ashtanga Primary Series CD, offer “short-form” practice sessions which are helpful if you have trouble putting together your own sequence.
Another effective method is to “psyche yourself up” for a yoga practice by turning on some music, maybe getting a humidifier and/or space heater going, rolling out the mat, gathering some props, etc. Once I do all of this stage-setting, it’s much more difficult for me to not practice. There’s something about preparing the space for yoga that just makes you want to go through with it. You probably wouldn’t skip dinner if you went through all the trouble of cooking and setting the table, and, in a similar fashion, once you go through the motions of setting up the room for a yoga practice, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll actually practice. Basically, instead of dwelling on how hard it will be to actually do yoga and thinking about how my body doesn’t feel like doing it, I focus on the simple task of setting the room up. That’s a much easier thing to get yourself motivated to do. And once you do it, actually practicing yoga will follow almost automatically.
There’s one last thing I’d like to mention about self-practice. It’s amazing! Sure, going to a class is fun and you can certainly learn a lot from a good teacher. There’s also the community aspect of a class that is great. But when you practice at home, especially if you can learn to practice without a guided CD, there’s a sense of freedom on the mat that is simply unparalleled. In a self-practice, you can do whatever you want and completely personalize the practice to your own needs. In classes, I often shut off my brain and just follow whatever the teacher says to do. It’s easy to turn into a robot. But when you’re practicing by yourself, your brain has to be much more active and alert. You have to pay close attention to what’s going on in your body. And you have to be the one to push and motivate yourself. All of this is a great way to develop self-reliance and an inner tapas.
All things considered, I’d say that a combination of self-practice and taking classes is an ideal way to practice yoga. There’s always something new to learn from good teachers. But we shouldn’t forget that there’s a lot we can learn from ourselves.