Yoga basics

Overcoming the Challenges and Myths of Practicing at Home

It’s hard to argue with the benefits of (re)igniting your home-practice. After all, who doesn’t agree with the upsides of self-care, refining your practice, focusing on your body’s specific areas of need, and spending more time with the poses you love? If you need further convincing, check out my recent post. Yet, inspiration doesn’t always lead to execution. And, most of us can crank out reason after reason to keep ourselves from making changes in our daily lives—even when the changes are in our best interest.

So, let’s take an honest look at some of the challenges teachers and practitioners face when it comes to make their best intentions of practicing at home a reality.

  • My home practice has to be 90 minutes for it to be valuable:

I love a nice, long 90 to 120 minute practice, but this is not the only increment of time that pays dividends. Yes, teachers should commit to a robust, consistent dedicated practice. After all, if you’re not able to lead yourself for a longer practice, how can you expect yourself to lead others through something similar? Unfortunately, when the expectation of a longer practice is held up as the notion of the only valuable increment of time, many teachers give up entirely. This inhibits them from embracing the time that they do have—even if it’s only 30 minutes. I’m not advocating that you should downsize the duration of your practice if you’re already spending longer, but if you’re not practicing at all because you think that 45 minutes isn’t enough you’re creating a problem for yourself that doesn’t exist. 30 minutes practicing is time very well spent.

  • My home practice has to be at the crack of dawn:

It’s hard to beat practicing first thing in the morning if your lifestyle and constitution allow it. But, if you’re sitting on the sidelines of a home practice because you don’t want to cut into your much needed sleep, it’s time to think again. Rarely, have I ever practiced first thing in the morning. Honestly, I prefer to work first thing in the morning and save practice for afternoon or evening. So, consider practicing first thing when you get home from work or before going to be bed if morning doesn’t work for you. Yes, the time of day will affect your intensity level, but it’s important to be pragmatic with your schedule.

  • My home practice has to feel like a class:

Do you need to prepare a Michelin-star worthy dinner at home in order for it to be a healthy, grounding, nutritious meal? No, and you don’t need to replicate the experience of a classroom at home in order to soothe your soul, calm your nerves and take care of your body. The expectation of a big, strong, perfectly sequenced class that contains all the dynamics of a public class is another set-up for failure. Your home practice is different—just like cooking at home is different than going to a restaurant. Keep your practice at home simple, grounded and enjoyable. Make it something that you look forward to returning to let yourself save the classroom feeling for the classroom.

  • I need a yoga room, altar, bamboo floors and radiant heat:

Nope, definitely not. You need a space the size of your sticky mat. A little more is certainly nice, but you don’t need the world’s most outfitted personal studio to get down to business. That said, there are two tips that will help you immensely when it comes to space: find a space where you feel comfortable and, even more importantly, keep your mat and any props you want to use together in a dedicated, accessible space. Can you imagine if your cooking utensils were strewn about your home in random locations—pots in the garage, knives in the closet, pans under the bed? You’d never cook! Perhaps you never do, but this is beside the point. I practice in my living room, near the couch and television because this the warmest, most soothing room in my home. It’s where I want to spend my time. I keep all of my practice gear together in a big basket in the same room so that everything is there when I’m ready to practice.

  • My practice needs to be separate from the rest of my life:

I’m a shameless advocate for integrating day-to-day life and practice. I’ve been on record as watching the San Francisco Giants win not one but two World Series’ while practicing. Yes, there is something to be said for the quietness and depth of an unplugged practice—and, there’s great value in solitude. This is how I spend most of my time practicing. But, practicing while listening to music, news—or even baseball—can be a treat. Lately, I’ve been practicing while my daughter who is 7 months scrambles around the living room and pulls on everything in sight. If this is what your life looks like don’t be afraid to go ahead and get into down-dog—you might enjoy yourself and feel better.

Jason Crandell was recently named one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to Vinyasa Yoga.

Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.

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