I went to a workshop on the weekend all about becoming your own teacher: "The Teacher Within." The workshop was not only about taking ownership of your practice within a group class, but also about beginning, creating and maintaining a home yoga practice.
Developing your home practice can be difficult – but honestly, the hardest part of it is just getting onto your mat. Once you're on your mat maybe you only sit in balasana for five minutes, maybe you follow a sun salutation routine, or maybe you put on your favourite music and see where it takes you.
I like to keep my yoga mat out all the time, so if there's any time that I need to feel more grounded, the mat is there and I can get into a mini practice with minimal effort. It's rare that I actually set aside an entire hour to practice at home. I'm definitely too easily distracted, or have too much to do, but I do usually manage to fit in several 15 minute sessions on the daily. For me and my schedule, this is perfect, and it allows me to adapt my practice to the different points in my day.
For example, when practicing in the morning, my movements are more gentle – a lot of cat-cow, twisting and pranayama practices. In the afternoon, my practice is a lot more core-focused – energy-boosting flows and backbends. In the evening, I like to tune in to focusing on learning new things or practicing challenging postures that need my attention.
Using the energy that you're in in the specific moment allows you so much more flexibility to practice what you want to practice, unlike when you're in a led class. In a class, of course there are options to take the practice to whatever level you're feeling, but when practicing, it is ALL about you.
One disadvantage of the home practice is definitely distractions. I can't even tell you the number of times I've rolled into pigeon pose and scrolled through Instagram for 45 minutes. If 45 minutes of pigeon pose is what you need, then go for it! But I know that for me – it's being lazy.
So here's the catch – when is the point at which you need to push yourself, and when do you just let you body do what it wants?
This is something that will be different in every body. I can't tell you when you should be doing a slow flow and when you should be firing up into a handstand practice. Only you know your body, and only over time will you understand what it wants and what it needs.
I hope this post explained a little of my thoughts on beginning and maintaining a home practice. Even though I know I have the tools to "only" practice at home, sometimes there's nothing better than hitting up a class with your pals and your favourite teacher. Being in a group exposes you to other methods, philosophies and ideas that being alone cannot. But – being alone can help you develop your own ideas and solidify your practice, making it what you want it to be.