There are several obstacles to beginning a home yoga practice. Although home practice is an important way to deepen your practice many students find it difficult to sustain a regular practice at home. Let’s examine some of the frustrations that get in the way of establishing a home practice.
One of the first obstacles to beginning a home yoga practice is that there is not enough time. This seems to arise from the idea that a home practice should be like a class and so be the same length. The 90 minute class that is so common is an arbitrary duration that different styles and teachers justify for different reasons. However, a home practice does not need to be of any specific duration. Students can tailor a home practice to fit their schedules. If you have 15 minutes free in the morning, practice a few poses then. If you have 45 minutes in the evening, then you can do a longer practice at that time. The important thing is to get some practice in to give you some of the benefits of yoga. Even a single downward dog or a short savasana can change the course of your day for the better. Nowadays with the pandemic limiting our options for diversion, it’s a great opportunity to establish a home yoga practice.
Another difficulty is that students don’t think they have the space or the equipment for a proper practice. Likely a student who is contemplating starting a home practice already has a mat. As long as there is space to lay out the mat, there is space to practice. There are many yoga specific props. From blocks to belts, blankets to bolsters and more, but all that’s necessary to begin a home practice is a mat. Many of the other props can be substituted with common household items. Any type of belt can be used in place of a “yoga” belt. The same with blankets. Heavy books can substitute for blocks, and any cushions or pillows can stand in for bolsters. The point is that just the space of a mat is enough to begin. No special equipment other than your body and a desire to practice is necessary for a home practice.
This brings us to perhaps the most difficult obstacle of all. The ability to simply do it. We may have the time, the space, the equipment and even the desire to begin a home practice. But when the time comes there are any number of other distractions that seem to need our attention instead. One of my early teachers used to say that the most difficult part of practicing at home is simply rolling out the mat. As such, starting with a short, simple practice can be useful to establishing a routine. Just starting with one or two poses can be a great way to approach home practice. At first, try poses you like to do or ones you feel comfortable with. Often if you can just get into that first pose, another will follow naturally and before you know it you’ll have started a real sequence.
This brings us to the final obstacle students struggle with. That is they feel they don’t know what they should do. The sequences and instructions in a class seem so detailed and specific. That can be daunting for a student when they are considering a home practice. Again, for this I recommend to keep it short and keep it simple. Different styles of yoga all have books that can be referenced. There are many websites which offer free resources such as printable sequences that students can use, not to mention the plethora of YouTube channels devoted to yoga. All of these resources can be helpful. But listening to yourself and staying within the poses that you are comfortable with can help you with the confidence to start a yoga home practice.
So you have the time, the space, the props and the willpower to begin, but why should you practice at home? There are so many classes to take and now that everything is available online during the pandemic, why not just take classes? Classes are very important, from the social aspect to the instructions and learning from the teacher. But the essence of yoga is personal transformation. During a home practice when you are by yourself on the mat working on poses, many thoughts and ideas come up that are particular to your own situation. These are things that no one on the outside can predict. When you as the student face these thoughts and resolve them (or not), you are getting at the heart of the transformation inherent to the practice of yoga. Whether it’s the ability to relax in a restorative poses or to push yourself in the more strenuous poses, the mat becomes like a mirror where you see yourself with more clarity. That clarity then brings up challenges, challenges that yoga gives you the tools to meet.