BY CAIT LAWSON, E-RYT200
One of the many benefits of a consistent yoga practice is a deeper connection to oneself. When we make a commitment to stepping on our mats regularly, we immerse ourselves into this process of peeling back the layers and the labels that society (and our egos) likes to place upon us, and we begin to uncover who we are at our core. Our practice helps us to understand our inner landscape. As we dig through the layers we begin to get clear on how we are actually feeling, what’s really going on, and where we need to lean in, as well as where it is we need to let go. We meet ourselves on our mat, time and time again, and it’s through the breath, the movements, and the sensations of the body that we begin to understand what it is we really need in order to first take care of ourselves, so we then have that much more to give to others and our duties of each day.
And, in my opinion, one of the best ways to get to know yourself on a really intimate level is to adopt a personal, at-home yoga practice.
Practicing at home is oftentimes a very different experience from practicing in a group class. There is no one there to lead you, to remind you to breathe, or to encourage you to hold the pose a little longer. That is all up to you. And when beginning an at-home practice, those factors alone can be the most daunting. But, that is the beauty of an at-home practice - it is all up to you. And instead of the structure of a group setting, at-home you hold the freedom to move as you need. Instead of listening to someone else, at-home it’s all about just listening to yourself.
And it’s amazing what we can learn when we listen.
So if an at-home yoga practice is something that you’re interested in beginning, here are a few tips to help get you started:
Most importantly, disconnect to reconnect. Turn off your phone, the tv, the laptop and any other devices that keep you distracted. Dishes, laundry, to-do list, it all can wait. Carve out this time to just be with yourself.
And when it comes to a timeframe, let it be as long or as short as you need it to be. Only have 15 minutes? No worries. Set a timer and begin. Have a little bit more flexibility with your time? Awesome. Practice as long as your body is craving.
Be sure to move from a foundation. I wouldn’t suggest that someone new to yoga should dive right in to an at-home practice. Get to know the practice first by attending classes or working one-on-one with a certified teacher. Once you understand the foundation and basic postures and principles of a yoga practice, then you can begin to create a personal practice at home.
Oh yes, and when I say “at home” I don’t mean that it always has to be at your home. And that’s the beauty of a personal practice. You can “roll out your mat” anywhere - a hotel room, the airport, in the park, at the beach, wherever you feel safe and are able to remain focused on yourself.
And wherever you choose to practice, you may have a small ritual that helps you set the mood. Kindly ask your roommates or family members to honor your space and to not disturb you during your practice. Sometimes I like to light a candle or some incense as a way to honor this sacred “me time,” then when I’m ready to return back to my day, I blow the candle out. Some people like to have a few crystals, or pictures, or other small trinkets nearby, another nice way to honor the sacred ritual of a personal practice. Or maybe you’d like to read a short passage from your favorite book, or write down an inspirational quote in your journal, or maybe you turn on some feel-good music to help get you in your groove.
Once you arrive on your mat, always begin with your breath. Take a few slow, deep breaths before you begin the movement. Let your breath set a rhythm for your practice, and allow the rhythm of the breath be the anchor that helps to keep you present in your body.
Slowly begin to move in whatever way feels good. Again, use your breath to help you stay focused on your body and its sensations. Allow the sensations to serve as the language of your body, like an inner teacher that is guiding you where you need to go. Let your at-home practice be intuitive in nature, meaning don’t worry so much about what the movements and the poses look like, instead just stay focusing on the feelings.
And make sure that you always reserve at least a few minutes at the end of the movement to lay in savasana or to sit silently in meditation. Because that is really what the movement is for - to get you out of your head and into your body - a place where you get to really observe and listen. Those moments just after the movement, where you surrender to the silence and the stillness, can oftentimes be the most powerful.