"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

developing a home yoga practice


recently i've had quite a few friends tell me they've struggled with developing a home practice, and a few have even asked me to share my approach to developing my own practice. my friend Andrea recently sent me the following email:

Hi Stephanie!
I'm writing because I know you're a seasoned yogi, and I am looking to get into home-practice. Do you have any tips for home practice or yoga sequences that I can do on my own at home? Yoga in the city is so expensive and unfortunately, I cant really fit it into my funemployed budget right now :]
I hope all is well!
i was delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with her. developing a strong home yoga practice is, in my humble opinion, like learning to change your own bike tire and cutting your own bangs -- daunting and scary at first, but super empowering; every independent woman should know how to do it! 

As for home yoga practice, I'm happy to offer some of my own thoughts based on what's worked for me. What I've done is tried to replicate favorite routines my old yoga instructor in CA would do. Or try to string together poses that go well together (ex: flowing from warrior II to half moon, or warrior I to dancer's pose). I make a playlist that I can really groove to and try to focus on the music and let that "move" me in my yoga practice. For me, yoga is a compromise for my six-year-old self who always wanted to be a dancer but never got to be on stage -- I absolutely cherish it as a time to listen to music and allow my body to respond in the most graceful ways I can manage to transform it. I know that's probably not very helpful, but those are the things that have helped me in my own home practice.
this pose sums it up: Camatkarasana, "the ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart"

More practically speaking, I think easing yourself into it is the best way to go. Maybe find 2 classes a week that really excite you, with teachers whose energy you really dig and whose practice mirrors your own. Use their group classes as a guide and a reference for thinking about developing your own home practice, and try to build your practice slowly, say once a week finding an hour on the mat to work on a series you want to master (hip openers, side stretches, twists and rotations, balance poses, etc.) And the sun salutation is a good building block that you already know really well -- see if you can add poses onto the ends of each sun salutation each time and expand from there. For example, I start out my practice with very basic sun salutations (standing mountain, swan dive, forward fold, monkey, chaturanga, up dog, down dog, repeat) then add on when I feel warmed up (three legged dogs on each side, warrior series, then repeat with rotations, try a dolphin instead of a down dog, transition into arm balances). I think the hardest part of a home practice is really challenging yourself to hold the poses, think about your breath, and think about your body -- usually that stuff is all taken care of by an instructor, but when you go it alone you have to internalize all of it. That's why a strong playlist really helped me at first, not only so I could have something to distract me when I wanted to quit or relax out of a pose, but also because it helped me figure out timing. Once you get used to practicing on your own you get better at knowing the poses you want to work on, integrating breath and movement, and you'll develop a routine or framework that you can return to each time you practice on your own. And the best part: once you fully develop your home practice, you're not confined to an hour in a studio space... you can be at home, or go outside, and hold those poses for as long as you please.

Does this help at all? Sorry if all you really wanted was a link to a site or something... I know a few of my friends have used podcasts on iTunes to help with their home practice... you could try that too if you wanted something more concrete. 

(Nothing sums up the joy of a self-directed practice better than spending nearly two hours blissed out in a park enjoying your poses with the sun shining on you and birds singing all around.)

For those who are interested, here are two playlists I regularly listen to when doing yoga:
"study" (also a playlist for studying, not very original, i know)

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