8 Tips for Self Practice

8 Tips for Self Practice

Establishing an at-home yoga practice was one of the best things I’ve done to both enhance my overall well-being and refine my yoga practice.  It wasn’t, however, easy. I remember trying everything I could think of and ending up in a crying heap, beating my hands on my mat asking why I couldn’t get myself to do this thing I wanted so badly.  Because it’s hard, that’s why. You know what they say though, the things that are most difficult to change are those that end up being the most rewarding, and that has been absolutely true. 

I can’t point to any one thing that made the difference, other than my willingness to try,  fail and try again, over and over and over. I slowly found the right combination of circumstances, mustered up the will and it started to click.  I used John Scott’s Ashtanga Yoga book and learned one pose at a time, adding a new pose each week. My practices started out in very short durations (10 minutes), and I used many of the tips included below to support my efforts. Finally, finally it worked.  It is now my favorite part of my yoga practice. The freedom to move according to the needs of my body and mind and the time alone are powerful self-care tools.  

If you are ready to create a home practice, try these tips below.  Remember it’s always ok to “fail”. Persistence is key and be willing to try different combinations (time of day, sequences, environments) until you find what will work for you right now.  Good luck! The work you put in now will come back to you I’m sure!

8 Tips for Self-Practice

1.Starting with something small, like “I’ll just do sun salutations.” is a great way to get yourself onto your mat. Be gentle with yourself when you are tired and allow time for more effort when you feel well. 

2. When possible, let your practice space be away from the bustle of the house.  Leave your phone on silent and keep a notebook near you to write down any to-do’s that come to mind.

3. Stick with it!  Consistency is far more valuable than anything you achieve on a single day.  Aim for regular practice that builds over time. 

4. When sacred space is not available, accept and enjoy what is. Commit to moving and breathing and being fully part of your surroundings. 

5. Set up your space in advance.  Layout your mat or any props you will need, even clothes. Try to create a space you will be drawn to and enjoying being in.  Open windows, listen to music and surround yourself with decor that’s comforting and enjoyable

6. Know that change can be difficult.  Obstacles like limited space/time and distracting tasks will present themselves  and can be dealt with as they arise. When things seem challenging, know there’s an opportunity there for great change if you apply effort. 

7. Routine is your friend. Having a consistent time and place you practice is useful for getting started and keeping you going. A consistent set of asana that your body easily falls into will limit the need to make decisions on the fly.

8. Reward yourself!  Keep track of the days you get on your mat and practice.  Any amount counts! Set small goals and reward yourself when you achieve them.  You might have a favorite cup of tea when you finish or keep a practice journal noting your accomplishment.

An Open Letter to Yoga Instructors

An Open Letter to Yoga Instructors

We all want the best for our students, I wholeheartedly believe that, but let me tell you yoga teachers: there’s a better way. It’s time to really ask yourself: What am I here for?

When students are taught and master fundamental skill sets, are allowed to develop through logical progressions and are empowered to learn the asanas in their own bodies, magic happens.  

I’ve seen it time and time again in the self-practice format.  People new to yoga, people who have spent their time in group led fitness, people “past their asana prime”.  They are learning to stand on their heads. They are building tremendous core strength. They are surprising themselves by what they CAN DO, instead of feeling self conscious about what they can’t.  And it’s a beautiful thing to see.

So here’s my call to you asana teachers…  

First and foremost, get a teacher and practice asana!  It’s in our own practice that WE truly understand and own the postures.  Here’s where we do the nitty-gritty work of experimenting with progressions, refining our understanding of the posture and working out how we can share with others.  

Next, choose a posture – any posture! You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, there’s plenty of resources out there if you are willing to look. Study up on your physical anatomy bit by bit. Break things down one movement at a time.  Practice and track your own progress in the various elements of the posture. When you feel like you’ve laid the groundwork, start sharing!

Start sharing simple progression with your students and really OBSERVE them as they try it out.  Listen to their questions, ask them how it feels, watch how they move, become truly invested in the art of teaching, observing and communicating. Gather up all your prep work and your field experience and refine your technique. Keep sharing and don’t be afraid to be wrong.

If you choose to dedicate yourself to teaching asana and sharing yoga with others, why do it any other way? You can do this and your students deserve it!