It is just a week now until I head off on retreat and I’ll be gone for three weeks, making this the perfect time to start building your home practice! But getting started can be hard and so I thought I’d share some of my initial struggles and tell you how I built a personal practice that I can take anywhere.
There was a time when developing a home practice seemed almost impossible to me; my excuses included, no time, no space and can’t “find” my mat (always in my car). If I ever did get started, I’d find myself “stuck” after a few poses, unable to remember sequences that seemed so familiar when I was in a class.
So how did how get from this barely show up at all kinda attitude to a committed daily practice?
Firstly I bought a second yoga mat; this may sound extravagant but as soon as I had a mat that lived at home I was able to set up a permanent yoga space. I then booked four private sessions – more would have been great but this was what I could afford at the time. I asked my teacher to help me with some basic sequences that I could practise myself. The sequences were very short and I did start to practise a bit more but still not as often as I’d hoped. I had an “all or nothing” attitude that fuelled a mental soundtrack something like this “how can 10 minutes make a difference – I need to be on my mat for at least an hour for this to be worthwhile!”
One day my teacher told me about a Kino MacGregor workshop in Edinburgh. She told me she’d be teaching an “energetic” style of yoga called Ashtanga – yeah, yeah, it’s yoga, thought me, and promptly signed up! After my first 3 full primary series classes in quick succession (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), and workshops on arm balances and back-bending, I was barely able to hold the steering wheel straight on my drive home! But I felt totally different; mysteriously tearful yet happy to have found such a disciplined approach to yoga that I knew would work for me.
At the Edinburgh studio I’d purchased a tiny (and expensive) booklet containing little photos of each pose in the primary sequence; it was perfect and felt like a new found treasure. Some of the poses were hard to figure from the photos but I did my best and found I stayed on my mat longer, without clock watching to see if it was time to rush off and make dinner! There were lots of poses that seemed impossible but I started building up Sun Salutations; three of each, then five of each before slowly adding in a few more poses. Now I had a framework and I started to feel more empowered to make my practice my own.
Everyone it seemed could chant the opening and closing mantras when I’d attended the Kino workshop. I wanted to learn too, so I turned to the back of my booklet and started memorising the Sanskrit chants. Soon I started chanting before my practise – I found this created a pause long enough to switch my attention from the rest of the day to my yoga. Somehow this little ritual also helped me to stay on my mat and stay in the present moment of my practice.
Even after I’d learnt the sequence, I carried my little book everywhere; it came on every holiday and lived by my bedside as I tried to learn the Sanskrit names for poses. Recently the cover fell off so I’ve decided to leave my book on the shelf; it deserves a happy retirement as it has done its job! Like a language learned, I feel fluent now.
These days I modify and adapt my practice based on what I feel I need. I have my own short-forms that I practise way more often than a full primary series and I’m okay with that now. I’ve finally understood that it is better to aim for a handful of essential poses that you can easily fit in rather than not practise at all because you can’t find a spare hour or more!
And there’s way more help at hand these days; you don’t need to struggle with a little booklet, you can get apps for your phone or sign up for constant access to online resources for whatever style of yoga takes your fancy. Its all out there – yoga has never been so accessible so that means there’s simply no excuse!
Need some more tips – check out my previous blog on developing a home practice.