10 tips for building a home yoga practice

in How to Build a Practice

If I could write a letter to myself at 39, I’d pen on paperprobably make it anonymous, so as not to freak myself out by revealing a rupture in the space/time continuum.
But what would I say to that brand new yogi with her faltering home practice? After 23 years of practice and 10 years of teaching, what’s my best advice on having a home yoga practice and keeping it going?

Here are the top ten things that spring to mind:

1. Do the standing poses. They make you strong. Whenever you’ve been away from practice, and in the beginning that’s going to happen more often than not, start back with the standing poses.

2. Aim for a short practice every day, and make it a habit. Find a spot in your day for 15 minutes and make it as automatic as brushing your teeth.

3. Start by centering. Sit still, close your eyes, connect with your body. Drop your sitting bones, lift your spine, relax your face. Then do some standing poses.

4. Move in slowly, move out slowly. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn by slowing down. You can only hold your alignment on the way into a pose if you’re slow. Move out of poses slowly and you’ll protect yourself from injuries – like that nastly little hamstring tear from sitting up too quickly from wide-legged forward bend (Upavistha Konasana).

5. If you’re not completely sure of a pose, do it anyway. Figure out where your confusion is and ask your teacher at the next class. If you don’t practice it, you won’t remember to ask.

6. Always include a pose you love.

7. Set a timer for three minutes short of your practice time. When it rings, lie on your back with your knees bent, and relax your back into the floor. Never skip savasana.

8. Every practice contains at least one improvement or insight. Celebrate the small gains.

9. Remember how good you feel when you practice.

10. Be grateful. At the end of the practice, take a moment to give thanks for arms, legs, eyes, ears, breath, yoga mats, bolsters, teachers, teachings, for whatever moved, or didn’t move, and for being alive to experience it all for one more day.

What would you add to that list? Is there a practice principle, or a practice tip that helps you?

{ 6 comments }

Madeleine March 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Hi! We really love your blog and have recommended it to our readers (here: http://www.girlosophy.com/blog/five-things-you-need-know-about-yoga). I hope that many of our readers come to your blog for tips on starting/improving their practice – you have a fantastic blog! Thank you!

Eve March 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Hi Madeleine,
Thanks for the link! Girlosophy is a very cool blog – it’s good work you’re doing.

Nathalie February 11, 2010 at 11:41 am

It is nice to see the practice as a treat. The time we take for the practice is OUR time to spend with OURSELF, nothing can come disturb us. When I approach it like this, for sure I pull out my mat and I practice. Why will I want to pass this nice opportunity to try to discover myself? Cheers!

admin February 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Nat, good to hear from you! Great approach to practice.

YogaSpy February 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

I second your top 10 tips, along with a few more:
*Practice in the morning, first thing if possible. This way, it’s less likely that other priorities intrude.
*If you take a weekly yoga class, pick two poses from each class to practice that week: one that you love and one that you hate. They’re both revealing something to you about yourself.
*If you’re a fan of yoga DVDs and other such video lessons, don’t use them all of the time. (Disclaimer: I’ve never actually tried a yoga DVD/video. I’m sure that some are excellent; if a teacher is excellent, his/her videotaped teaching also will be. But the point of home practice is to listen from within!)

admin February 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Thanks, Yoga Spy.
I had the pleasure of driving Aadil Palkivala from Kits, where he was staying, over to Yoga Moves in North Van, where he was teaching a workshop. We talked about practice on our drives, and I remember him saying: “If it doesn’t happen first thing in the morning, then it doesn’t happen at all.”
I’m pretty much in the same camp, although there is something very refreshing about an afternoon inversion practice.

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