In an ideal world, we would all get our daily yoga practice in a great studio with our favourite teacher and feel fabulous, emerging back out into the world all calm and feeling suitably Zen. However, we know all too well that life and work can seriously hamper getting our mat time! I’ve certainly struggled in the past to get to a class that was compatible with my office hours, and ended up taking very early morning ones, resulting in getting to my desk in a sweaty rush, which wasn’t really the calming post-yoga effect I had in mind.
So why not try a home practice? It saves the travel time, you can practise when you like and the online platforms available like Movement for Modern Life offer monthly subscriptions that can work out considerably cheaper than live classes, which is so helpful if you’re on a budget. Here are my top five tips for making a home practice work for you:
1. Maintain a special space for your practice
Even if you live in a cramped little studio apartment in the middle of a busy city (yes, this was my personal scenario), try to carve out a regular space you can use for your practice. I kept a strip of carpet in my living room free for my mat, which I kept rolled up in the corner with my blocks, and lit some candles to create a more relaxing environment and help me into the right mind set to practice. Be adaptable: you may need to use a hallway or even your kitchen; there’s no ‘perfect’ place in which to practise yoga, and we need to learn to ignore street noise or neighbours bustling around next door. Don’t be frustrated by disturbances but use them as an opportunity to practise that single point of focus; we’ve all seen those videos on social media of yoga practices being bombed by dogs, cats and kids, so keep a sense of humour!
2. Try to adopt a routine
Like forming any other habit, maintaining a regular practice takes discipline and, as a coach, I can tell you that the less you have to think about when it comes to getting something done, the more likely you are to do it. Get rid of the ‘shall I? Shan’t I?’ mental chatter and decide at what time of day your practice will happen and just go for it. I used to like to practise when I got home from work, leaving any stress on the mat and drawing a line under that part of my day before relaxing into the evening. I also like a practice later in the day because my muscles are warm and relaxed. When will suit you best? Yes, I know – life doesn’t always go to plan, so roll out your mat when you can if you miss your preferred time. Even as a yoga teacher myself, I don’t get to practise every day but I seize precious opportunities when I can find them.
3. Do what you can with the time you have
It can feel like a real luxury to get a full 90 minute practice in on a busy day, so don’t sweat it if you can only manage 30 minutes. On a really hectic one, maybe it’s just 20 or even a quick 10 minute stretch before you run out of the door to get to work. It doesn’t matter! Be happy that you gave even a few minutes to your mind and body – they will thank you for it later no matter how little you were able to do.
4. Mix it up
When you practise at home it’s really tempting to stick with the flows and poses you like or are good at; in a class, you know the teacher will lead you to places you would rather avoid, like inversions, backbends, or whatever you inwardly groan at when they are announced. Try to keep your home practice varied. With online platforms you can try out different teachers and styles as well as different levels to keep you challenged and interested. If your practice becomes stale, it will start to wither and die, so feed it regularly with variety and keep things fresh. If you are worried about taking more advanced poses at home, then that’s the time to get to a live class or book a 1:1 with registered teacher and get some guidance before you go it alone.
5. Go mobile
Now that you have an established home practice you can take it on the road! If you are travelling for work or pleasure, your online platform can easily go with you on your laptop or tablet. Get a folding travel mat, and you can take your practice into your hotel room or onto your balcony and not have to succumb to aches and pains from travelling long distances. Carving out that time to practise can also help you to manage the stresses of working away from home. Some people even like to recreate a mini-shrine in their hotel room, burning a candle or packing a little statue to help create the right environment for you.
Have fun with your yoga at home and enjoy your practice!
This post was written by Tracy Johnson, the founder of Brainbox Coaching, Empower Yoga Bristol and Stretch+Knead. She trained under Sally Parkes and is a 200 hour RYT with Yoga Alliance. Tracy blends her yoga teaching with confidence coaching and stress management to create a holistic practice, and runs her classes with warmth and humour. She is the author of a careers guide, Working in Science, co-author of The Coaching Gurus, and writes for publications such as OM Yoga Magazine, Globe of Love, Happiness+Wellbeing, MindBodyGreen and has been featured in the Guardian, Body Fit magazine, the Bristol Post and Cardiff Life. She is also a career and confidence coach, self-defence instructor and an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and is currently writing a book combining yoga with her coaching techniques for stress management.