Cultivating a home practice takes time. It’s one of those aspects of yoga that we can be really resistant to. We want a teacher, a classroom, guidance, adjustment. To be held and to know that we’re ‘doing it right’. Well, firstly, if you’re on a yoga mat then you’ve already got the important part right. You’re saying yes to your body and your desire to grow, play and explore. You are your greatest teacher and every moment is an opportunity for growth. This is one of the deep unfoldings of yoga, particularly when you are alone on your mat, listening to your body speak. Allowing your spirit to rise up and move you in whatever way it feels called. This is where you can really start to refine your practice and initiate the deeper conversation that those yogis keep banging on about.
Here’s some ideas for how to get started.
Getting your mat out and setting yourself up on it can be the hardest thing when you’re trying to develop a home practice. All kinds of fears come up and you doubt yourself – I don’t know enough, I’m not good enough, I’m not experienced enough, I wouldn’t know where to start. But that’s just your egoic mind jibber jabbering. Tell it to shut up and listen a little deeper. Your spirit wants to rise up and be heard. It wants to move and play and grow. It wants your creative energy to be channeled and unleashed and stepping onto the yoga mat will be the spark that kindles the fire of transformation. Trust in yourself and in your body to tell you how to move and how far to go.
2. Set the space
To be perfectly honest, you can roll your yoga mat out anywhere there is a space to roll it out. I used to feel like I couldn’t practice unless I was in the right room at the right time with the right conditions but it’s just not true. Having said that, setting a dedicated space honours your intention to evolve. Your yoga mat bears witness to your transformation, which might sound rather lofty but connecting to your breath and moving silently is a form of communion. You’re tapping into a deeper self and building a resonance and remembrance in your body. If possible, set the space, light a candle, burn some incense and make room for those good intentions. It all creates an imprint for greater self worth.
Even if you just sit on your mat and watch your breath for five minutes, you have acknowledged a deeper longing to be there. Listen to your breath and begin to move. Don’t think too much about it. Reach up, reach out, sweep, sway, fold, extend. Let your body move and synch up with your breath. Then just see what happens. The minute we remove expectation and judgement, we create a new freedom for ourselves.
4. The power of the playlist
I never used to practice to music but these days I love a good playlist, as long as the music has purpose. I wouldn’t put Taylor Swift on and expect to go deep inside, for example. Your soul can sing to any kind of music but there is something magical about moving in a certain way to certain sounds and vibrations. It can help you tap into a primal energy and get you way out of your noisy head. Spotify is a great resource and my advice would be to avoid anything with lyrics and put together a playlist of different rhythms and moods that you want to experience in your body. Then step onto your mat and play.
Sahadja is the spontaneous rising up through the feeling body. This is what happens when you are so dropped in that source opens you up and a sequence will simply reveal itself. “It is the flower that emerges from the nourishment of the breath”, to quote my teacher, and it is one of the most beautiful routes into your practice. Breathe, meditate, put some music on and just start to move. Try not to think about poses or what comes next. Just let it unfold.
If Sahadja feels a little daunting then kick things off with a few Namaskars. These can come in the form of sun salutations, moon salutations, full pranam namaskar or a mixture. Have a look online or ask one of your teachers, if you’re unsure. Doing 5 sun salutations a day will do wonders and you’ll find that once you get moving, the shapes will come to you and, before you know it, you’ll be flying from a Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) into Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon) quicker than you can say Urdvha Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing Split).
7. Go Online
Attending classes is actually quite a new thing in my practice and I spent a good 3 years immersing online. Yogaglo.com was a lifeline for me and enabled me to practice at home whenever I wanted to. I discovered some of the world’s greatest teachers, including three who have gone on to be my teachers in non-virtual life. YouTube has some free classes, if you’re not too keen on paying the £14 per month for Yogaglo, and there are plenty of other options, including CodyApp, Movement for Modern Life and Gaia TV.
8. Get inspired
I could sit and watch people doing yoga all day. It’s just so beautiful and I often geek out to Meghan Currie or Dylan Werner videos. Just to see the yogi in full flow and the human body moving with such grace and power. The balance between stability and freedom, strength and flexibility, deepest connection and inward expansion. Witnessing the full expression of this embodied creativity is just magical and always inspires me to reach up into a handstand or do more core work. You can also find lots of great videos on myth, meditation and mantra. And if the anatomical side of things gets you excited then you have to get the Visible Body App. It. Is. The. Shizbomb.
9. Stick to what you know
What do you know? Write it down. Think of every pose you ever stepped into and write it down. It doesn’t have to be in Sanskrit. Just have a stab at writing down a sequence. It’s so much fun creating sequences and you might surprise yourself. A few Sun Salutations, Triangle, Warrior I, II and III, Half Moon, forward fold, low lunge, high lunge, pigeon. You’ll be surprised what colours you already have in your palette. We are each responsible for painting our own canvas and yoga is the embodiment of this gift.
10. Don’t stick to what you know
One of the most inspiring teachers I have ever had the honour of working with was completely open to all yoga. She practiced as an Ashtangi for 10 years, she studied with Sri K Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar, dedicated 15 years of her life to Anusara, trained as a Kundalini teacher and dived deep into Kashmir Shaivism, Celtic Spirituality, Priestess and Shamanic lineages, wild crafting, herbalism, and body work. She literally has it all going on and it’s a great reminder to keep broadening your palette. To go to different teachers and different classes and open yourself up to the full ‘gamut’ of yogic experience, as Sianna would say. Your home practice can only grow from that kind of nourishment.