I spend a lot of time encouraging my yoga students to develop a home yoga practice. In my eyes, this is the eventual goal of all yoga — to move beyond the group aerobic class and connect to your own mind and body.
If you think showing up at a yoga class once a week is difficult, try doing your own practice at home every day when everything in your apartment or house screams, “Stop doing yoga! Pay attention to me!”
Distractions at home include:
- Children and partners, who sometimes actually do say, “Pay attention to me!”
- It’s free. If you skip your home class, there is no financial loss.
- There’s no teacher (or peer pressure) to prod you along.
- The TV/laptop/bed/cat are more interesting than lifting your arms overhead.
A solid home practice, though, doesn’t start with 90 minutes every day, seven days a week. Doing that during your first month is a great way to stop doing yoga. As with amusement parks and Chinese buffets, it’s best to start slowly and work into it.
In the beginning, I ask my students to set aside five minutes a day for their home yoga practice. Yes, just five minutes a day (“less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee!”). This usually consists of simple movements of the arms, tied to the breath.
These basic movements set the foundation for their entire practice. What’s even more important than mastering five sets of handstands every day is showing up in your yoga space and calming your mind.
When one of my yoga teachers was starting his yoga practice in India, his teacher gave him a blanket. “Whenever you do your practice,” his teacher said, “do it on this blanket.” So he did. Again, and again, and again. Over time, simply stepping onto the blanket brought him into the proper frame of mind for his yoga practice.
A yoga practice is not always a Herculean task. Think of it more like water eroding a mountain, extremely slow (but consistent). Every time you step onto your mat (or towel/floor, if that’s your thing), you are building a samskara — habit — that will help you continue with your practice.
If doing a basic practice in the beginning bores you, or you find your mind drifting during those fifteen minutes, then you’ve struck gold! Yoga isn’t about distracting your mind with fancy poses and techno-dance-trance-yoga music. It’s about coming to that space where there’s nothing to entertain you, and being okay with that emptiness.
So commit to five minutes a day. Set aside time during your schedule for those five minutes, and stick with it. When five minutes seems easy, increase it to 10 or 15. Soon you will wonder why you ever stressed about making it to the yoga studio.
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