How to Develop a Home Yoga Practice: The WHY

Often in classes, emails, teacher training, and even emails, I get asked how do I practice at home?  Now,as a yoga studio owner, I have to want people to come to the studio, I mean, that is how I help pay to feed my kids, but I also know the importance of a personal practice…so it’s the YOGA of those two seemingly opposing viewpoints that you and I have to practice.

Before I tell you a few tips I’ve used to develop my own personal practice, I want to start with telling you WHY you should have your own home practice…even if it’s short, and infrequent.  

Your home yoga practice is where you take what you’re learning under a teacher, and make it personal; it’s a home practice that enables you to make the yoga something that helps you on a deeper level.  When you’re practicing with a group, you’re at the mercy of the speed of the teacher (if you are the sort, which most people are, that stay in sync with the class). When you practice at home, it gives you the opportunity to see which side is stiffer, where you are “stuck” and perhaps trace up (or down) the length of a tight spot to see if you can find its origin.  When you practice at home, you take the therapeutic benefits of the asana (the poses) and apply them directly to whatever your body needs specifically at any given moment on any given day.

Now, let’s caveat this one second…  A Home Yoga Practice is not your ticket to only practice the poses you love, totally disregarding the poses you hate.  (it’s the group classes that are great about sneaking more of those dreaded poses into your practice…) Honestly, it’s been my experience, the poses I HATE practicing –for me it’s anything inversion related–being upside down–those are the poses I need to work on most.  –more on that in a second.

When you do your yoga practice at home, especially after you have developed a relationship with a knowledgeable teacher, you know how to take the poses you’re practicing in class, and put them together into a practice that’s safe and perfect for your body.  This is the magic of yoga. When you do a practice dedicated solely to what your body needs and wants, that’s where you make your yoga practice a daily medicine for your body.

Let’s not forget the most obvious reason why a personal yoga practice is so awesome….it’s convenient as all get out!  Once you have developed your own personal practice, you can practice it anytime, any where. You are no longer subjected to googling, “yoga studios near me.”  (although, if you are in the Chattanooga, TN area anytime soon, I am gonna go ahead and shamelessly plug our amazing studio–so google yoga Studios, E. Brainerd. 🙂 )  With a personal practice, you can take any amount of time you have available to you –whether it’s 5 minutes or 75, and make it fit your immediate needs.  

Group classes and, more specifically, private lessons, are great at helping you to learn the basics of the poses, how to put them together in logical safe ways, and then you combine that with the energy of a group coming together to breathe and move in unison.  I call it the magic of a studio class. You have the eye of a skilled teacher, the energy of the prana from everyone’s breath, and the synchronous movement of your body to the cues of the teacher. It’s like a trifecta of wellness.

When you take those skills home, even if it is just for a few minutes a day, or 1 day in a week, you start to deepen that connection with yourself.  Now, for those of you that are new to yoga, you’re probably thinking this sounds crazy, but come with me a little further. Oftentimes, folks start a yoga practice and say they are uncoordinated or downright clutzy.  I know I was one of those people. I used to joke that tree roots would jump up out at me while hiking. (no lie, i was convinced of this for YEARS.) The fact of the matter is, I may have been very active in the gym, or running or whatever, but these were exercises I did to my body, not practices I did to improve my body.  –hopefully that makes sense.

Yoga can be very beneficial exercise you do to your body, but it’s even deeper than that because it is a personal journey of discovering exactly what is going on inside this divine temple.  Instead of exercises to my body, I am exercising with my body, paying attention to the subtleties between sides, between days, between postures, and how they make me feel both physically and emotionally.

When you have a solid yoga practice, you start to really develop this knowledge of  yourself and the next thing you know, the self that you knew before yoga is someone WAAAAY different than the self you know with yoga.  You start to tap into that new, more peaceful person, and you want to access him/her more and more. Eventually, the folks around you start to notice the difference.  In a little more time, your spouse may or may not ask, “have you practiced your yoga today?” —that may just be me. 🙂

This self awareness is begun on the mat, usually in a room with other people just as lost as you are.  It is grown with time and effort and commitment –to yourself and the practice. Before you know it, you’re in a studio or with a teacher in a group and you find yourself wanting to stay in a pose a little longer than the rest of the people.  Or, you find yourself wanting to jump the mess out of it and you don’t know why, when previously, you just did the pose because you were told to.

When you cultivate a regular home yoga practice, you can go back to the pose that made you want to run and scream and hide, and explore it in smaller chunks.  When you have time set apart for just you to move and breathe without anyone else around, you can figure out what it is about a twist on the one side is easy but not so much for the other side.  Armed with that information, you can go to your teacher and ask for assistance. (I am willing to bet, the teacher has already seen the differences in sides and has been doing subtle things to help you–if the teacher is paying attention–but now that the word is “out” it can be a sort of collaborative effort.)

The best reason why you should start a personal yoga practice, or a home yoga practice, is it enables you to focus your attention on what suits you specifically.  When you know your posterior chain muscles need work, you can spend more time working those muscles (i’m speaking for myself here.) When you know you sit at a desk 10 hrs + a day, then you know that you need to lengthen out your psoas and strengthen the upper back muscles.  Armed with the knowledge that you have from a group class, you can tailor make a practice that’ll leave you with a better sense of yourself.

Going to the studio is awesome for the shared energetic experience, the shared wisdom from the teacher, and the safety of learning the postures. In a world that continues to get more and more remote, or more online, the physical proximity in a studio class is amazing to help maintain that human to human contact.  I try to get at least one group class in a week (this is not including the classes I teach which is a WHOLE different blog post.) Being with a group is motivating & uplifting. Practicing at Thrive Yoga and Wellness is the BEST because, more than any other studio I have ever been to, it is a community of people all coming together to get the benefits of physical practice but also to experience real relationships vital to leading healthy, productive, and connected lives.

Now, sometimes you’re not quite ready to just take what you’ve done in the studio and string the poses together on your own.  That’s totally fine. Since we are in a world connected virtually, tons of options exist out there to help assist your personal practice remotely.  Youtube is an AWESOME resource.  We even have our own channel that’s growing weekly with content that you can use at home, and best of all it’s free. Now, if you want to have the flexibility of a home practice, but the supervision of a knowledgeable instructor, loads of people are now available to help you with the benefit of video conferencing and online groups.  We even offer a group like that with Thrive Online. I like to think of Thrive Online as the best combination of a home practice with the guidance of a teacher.   You get the convenience of led classes, with the benefit of regular, direct connection to a knowledgeable, experienced teacher.  It’s a way to take your practice with you–no matter where you are, and to have someone to ask, hey, am I doing this right?

The next time you have a few extra minutes, I encourage you to take them and try to do a little yoga.  Whether it’s something like my “holiday home stretches” routine, or it’s something more intense like the 30 minute cardio inspired yoga class.  Just wait and see how it makes you feel.  I bet it’ll be something that you notice is a little easier to do than you thought, and it’ll be something that makes you feel amazing….and maybe even something you think, “hey, I could do that again!”  —fingers crossed!