Complement your athletic training with yoga. It's a powerful support system for all athletes that can be a conduit for uniting breath, body, mind, and spirit.Read more
It's National Yoga Month! Last year, I talked about about my yoga journey; from that funny first practice to life as a new mom. I openly shared about the practice and how it became an anchor in my life and why I wanted to help others. This year, for National Yoga Month, I thought it would be great to kick off my tips for starting and maintaining a home yoga practice. My practice changed for me, on many levels, when I started showing up for myself at home.
Three things I learned:
1. Starting a home practice was the hardest part.
2. It inspired me to try new things, get out of my comfort box.
3. It taught me how to show up and trust myself. Ah-ha moments with self-esteem happened here.
In the early days of my practice, I relied on trekking to the studio to be guided by my favorite teachers. It was my daily go-to routine, it was my time for myself. No one to answer to, only connecting with my breath and moving my body. Often times, a teacher would instruct a class to a "peak" posture. This is when a class design is taught to prepare the body into an inversion, binds, or an arm balance. At first, I wouldn't attempt to do anything during this part of class, I would sit and watch the teacher in awe. I was fine with not trying, perfectly content with my fear and staying in my comfort box. Or...so I thought. That is the thing about the F-word. No, not that one. Fear. Most of the time it straps cement boots to your ankles and you don't move. For a while, I would sit back in this part of class and afterward, I would run home and practice said peak posture in my backyard or against a wall in the bedroom. Eventually, it became silly, to me, running home to play instead of trying with the rest of the class or be in the moment with the teacher.
You could say my home practice began because I was simply too chicken to try something new at a studio. What happened was an interesting dance of marrying my studio practice with my home practice. The partnership began out of fear and turned into something really powerful. I started practicing daily at home in the early part of the day, often times while my son was napping and sometimes, while he ran around me. I would try to remember the Sun Salutations from classes, as best I could, and flow in my living room. I was able to tune into my body, feel how my body moved and where it felt open and strong. Sometimes I would practice as little as 10 minutes and it was enough, other times, it was 90 minutes or more. It wasn’t about timing or cuing, it was pure connection. It became playful, like a dance (it still very much feels this way). I practiced to emote. To move through my emotions. I played with breath work; seeing what happened when I shortened my breath or lengthened it while moving. I would hold it in and then let it out loud and proud. I would move myself in ways that felt new, always trying something new each day; whether it be a yoga posture, breath work, moving away from traditional check points, and bringing forth whatever I was feeling and practicing through it. There was a freedom I found at home that ignited my self-study within the practice. I could, in fact, use the yoga to learn about myself. So much of the physical practice mirrored my life. As teachers, we use great metaphors about life and yoga; connection by broad terms. How the breath invites us to check-in. If you want to know how your best friend is doing, check in with his/her breath.
I realized the importance of brining my life onto my mat. Sometimes we tend to retreat from our lives in a yoga class. We turn off the world when we step in through those doors. Reaching to achieve blissed-out peace, love, and unity. I would often internally struggle to turn off the world at the studio practice. I wanted to be like my teachers, to have such peace. I felt like I failure, at times, because I never had it. I would wish myself into another state. Back then, I was struggling. My home practice opened me up to being REAL. Many days I moved in anger or sadness, in great despair because that was my current state. Some days there was joy and peace. I learned to accept myself and no longer feared my emotions. I moved through my inner turmoil and I believe this is when I began to heal through my life stories, traumas, and depression. My mantra then and now: "This is me. This is where I'm at today. I am here to breathe, as I am." It became that simple and still rings true today.
Some of my favorite tips to start from home:
1. Start small, 10-15 minutes per day.
2. Set up a space or corner in your home that feels good. Clear an area and make it yours. I love practicing in my living room next to our big windows.
3. Marry the studio practice with your home. Use the body and breath cues you learned from your local teachers.
4. Play. Play. Play. Let yourself be playful. Jump around, try a new pose, and use furniture as props.
5. Dance. Dance. Dance. Turn on your favorites tunes and groove. Use yoga postures to dance and emote. Express yourself!
6. Trust your breath. One, great tip in a vinyasa practice; An inhale is typically an upward movement, an exhale a downward. "Inhale, reach your arms up, exhale forward bend." As heard in a yoga class.
7. Feeling stuck? Find a class online. lucy has several classes on their Youtube channel, free. I have a 17 minute yoga sequence on there too!
The hardest part of starting a home practice is beginning one. Maintaining a home practice is closely connected with the ability to show up for yourself. To inspire and empower yourself. Life is busy and it happens outside of yoga. The practice can be experienced in traditional and non-traditional ways. It can be as little as 5 minutes. I have found that when I show up for myself, I am at my best. And when I am at my best, I can show up for others from a place of abundance, much less out of depletion. I have given myself the space to breathe and accept where I am at today. With acceptance, comes great love. A love for the self and the commitment to taking great care of the self. You will always be taken care of when you take care of yourself. I truly believe that.