I miss yoga studios. It’s not the tranquillity of a dedicated yoga space, the power of shared breath, or even the community that I miss most. I miss showing up to a class and being held in my practice without any of the distractions of my home life surrounding me.
But there have been silver linings to yoga practice during lockdown. It has allowed me to tune in and refine my home practise. I have learned when I need to be with my own body and breath, and when I need a teacher’s guidance. I have learned when I need the structure of showing up to a live class, and when I need the flexibility of a pre-recorded one. I have learned what I need from an online class to feel vitalised and grounded, and what doesn’t work well in the digital yoga space.
Lockdown and home practise has transformed me not just as a student of yoga, but also, like many others, it has encouraged me to expand my business offerings in unexpected ways… I am excited to announce that Nourish’s Community Library of pre-recorded yoga classes (with plenty more narrowboat classes!).
Coordinating with Nourish’s magical team to create these classes has been a wonderful experience. Translating the joyous, inclusive and person-centred nature of our trainings and workshops into affordable classes (A sliding scale of £8-12 per month, depending on if you are a community, standard or supporter subscriber, or £89/year, for access to the entire library) has really shown me just how good practising at home can be.
I hope that the library will give you a tool to develop your yoga practice and the flexibility to make class times work for you. The community library will endure and expand well beyond lockdown, but its origins are rooted in a time where yoga feels more needed but more challenging than ever. The spirit of making your yoga practise work for you –– our students and supporters –– is very much infused into these classes.
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Embracing the Home Yoga Practise
For some people, the home yoga practise is just a placeholder until studios reopen, which is completely understandable… but many practitioners I’ve spoken to have felt that home practice is something that they will continue to pursue, even when we can (finally!) visit studios again. Establishing a home yoga practise, be that by joining a class or a self-led practise, opens up some many fantastic inlets to deepen and develop your existing practice.
One of the greatest benefits is space and time to explore practices in a way a studio class doesn’t permit. I often pause recorded classes to take extra breaths or to go back over a particularly interesting sequence. Having said this, as wonderful as cultivating a home practice can be, I am all too aware of how challenging it can be to get the most out of your home practice, so here are some tips!
General Tips for Home Practise
Acknowledge your Yoga Spot
A dedicated, serene yoga space and an hour of uninterrupted practice is an impossible ask for the majority of people. However, even in busy or restricted home spaces, it is helpful to symbolically mark your space to help you physically connect to your yoga time. You could place a meaningful object in eyesight, or place a post-it note with your favourite quote at the top of your mat. Anything that feels grounding, joyous, or helps you tap into tapas (the Sanskrit term for the discipline needed to show up for our Yoga practices).
Get Creative with Props
You do not need to fit yourself out with a home yoga studio. You do not even need a yoga mat; carpet, grass, beach towels all work as alternatives, and you can source the rest from around your house too:
- For bricks use books
- For straps use scarves or dressing gown cords
- For bolsters use bed pillows and cushions
- For eyebags use a sleep mask or scarf
- For yin or restorative practices use a blanket instead of a mat, or even practise on the sofa or in bed.
- Use the wall, chairs, sofa, tables, bannisters for whatever…
Let Others Know
Letting your household know you will be practising yoga, in an effort to support your well-being, can help secure you some peace. Interruptions from others are often inevitable, and that is fine. However, explaining to people why you would appreciate the living room or some quiet for your practice is a great way to communicate your boundaries around well-being to others.
Build a Community
Reach out to any yoga buddies you have to see if they want to practise ‘together’, be that the same live class, recorded or self-practice. Or, arrange a Zoom call to chat about some of the things you have encountered whilst sustaining a practice in lockdown. Even dropping your teacher a message to say thanks after a class is always much appreciated and helps personalise the experience!
Tips for Home Led Classes
Even when following along with a teacher home practise can be challenging.
If there is a live class you want to join, book yourself in in advance. Even if it’s a pre-recorded class, block it into your calendar. Of course, sometimes with the best will in the world, plans change and you can’t always stick to schedule, but if you can find a way of making it clear to yourself, as well as those who share your space, that you want to put time aside for your practice, this can be helpful.
If you are streaming via a computer or your phone, turn off your notifications as it’s very difficult to resist the temptation to check your messages when they pop up. You can also put your phone in another room to stop the temptation of scrolling during your class.
Don’t Feel Bad About Not Finishing
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve started classes, and haven’t finished… be that because I just can’t get into it, I’m interrupted, or I don’t enjoy the class. It happens. Showing up is half the battle and it speaks to your commitment to practice.
When it is just you and the mat, it can be incredibly transformative and confidence building… or filled with self-doubt and frustration. A self-practice comes once you have some competence and familiarity with yoga, but you don’t need to be a seasoned practitioner to try it. Even familiarity with a small group of poses is enough to deeper into your own practise, your relationship with yoga, and yourself.
Things Might Feel Different
Unless you jot down a sequence in advance, it’s going to feel a lot less cohesive. Letting go of this expectation is one of the biggest ice breakers to just beginning. Focus on your embodied relationship with each asana, as opposed to their sequencing.
Knowing how to start is often what holds people back. Try sitting for five breaths before doing a gentle spinal twist, or lying on your back for some reclined hip openers, or standing and going straight into sun salutations.
Less (but often) is More
Self-practice lends itself really well to establishing a more frequent practise, be that three days a week or every day, because you tend to practise for much shorter amounts of time. A 45-minute self practise is a challenge – 15 minutes is usually ample. Even five minutes is great, and it makes it easier to sustain a yoga practise when things are busy.
Give Yourself a Focus or Intention
Focusing on a particular pose or body part can be a great way to structure your self practise. Or giving yourself an intention such as ‘to wake up’, ‘to wind down’, ‘to connect to the body’, or ‘to be guided by the breath’ works well.
Move beyond the mat. Add in free movement. Interrupt your sun salutations with five minutes of dancing.
Use Workshops to Support Self-Practise
Workshops and short courses on an aspect of yoga you are interested in, can be a great way to begin and enhance a self-practise as they give you in-depth knowledge to integrate and focus your practice around.
Nourish’s four-week Explore and Develop Course especially supports self-practise. Each week we journey deeper into different facets of practice; first broadening our conceptions of alignment and asana, strength and mobility, whilst establishing a developed understanding of our unique anatomy, before integrating this with breath, meditation and the intersection of our practices with yoga philosophy on and off the mat.
Deepening Your Practise Can Take Many Different Forms
Deepening your yoga practice is about growth, but it is not about ‘mastering’ asana. It is about understanding your own unique needs and adapting your practice to serve them best.
For some people, home practice can feel liberating and support this journey of deepening as they find a little more space, a little less resistance, a little more freedom, self-knowledge and growth in asana, breath and mind… but others may find without the studio dynamic their practice stalls, and they end up feeling, stuck bored and frustrated.
This cycle of progression and plateauing, or even abandoning certain poses as we unpick old movement patterns and relearn new more personally aligned ones, is natural. There is a lot to be gained from recognising and embracing this. However, there are lots of things to try to help reconnect you to your practice.
Workshops, courses, and practising different styles or with different teachers are great ways to deepen your practice. However, most important is what you gain from trying something new (and the realisation that a certain style doesn’t work for you, is just as illuminating as discovering what does).
Deepening Your Practise can take the form of…
- Exploring different movement practices
- Switching up your meditation practice from seated to walking, or eyes closed to eyes open
- Committing to a self-practice one day a week
- Practising just pranayama and/or meditation one day (instead of asana)
- Journaling and reflecting on your practice
- Making a cup of tea mindfully
- Reading a book or listening to a talk (I like this Michael Stone podcast) to develop your yoga philosophy knowledge
Like everything with yoga, home practice is a journey whose nature changes from one day to the next. I would love to hear what you find does – and doesn’t work – with your own home practice.