Establishing a Home Practice—Make It Personal.

by Jessica Hinkson
(originally published on elephantjournal.com)

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Four Simple Steps to Establish your Home Practice.

When I enrolled in the Yoga Teacher Training Program at YogaSpace, I had never entertained the idea of having a home practice.  My first day of training with Kathryn Beet and Patricia White was all about establishing a home practice.

Kathryn and Patricia introduced us to a basic wall series. The postures may have been basic, simple and easy to understand; however they were also extremely active. Moaning and groaning sounds filled the studio throughout the day along with muffled laughter.

On a personal note, it was surprising to realize how tight my body felt on all levels—physically, emotionally and mentally. To say the least, I definitely had my homework cut out for me.

As we were wrapping up our first day, Kathryn and Patricia reinforced establishing a home practice was of the utmost importance. Why? I simply like to look at that old saying, “Practice What You Preach.”

How can I ask people to breathe, to scan their bodies from head to toe and to investigate places of stored tension when I myself am not? How do I create a safe environment for my students if I haven’t learned to establish one for myself? If I am not continuing the investigation of myself to become more open as I stretch my tight muscles, massaging my internal organs, moving blocked energy, then how is it that I have a right to be leading anyone else, if I can’t lead myself?

Establishing a home practice can be a challenge. It is easier to be in a classroom. In a classroom, you cannot escape and attack those dirty dishes or re-organize your closet. It’s easy to get distracted at home and avoid your practice with the idea that you will do it later. Trust me. I am an expert at procrastinating.

Here are some helpful tips for establishing a home practice. It took me a while to find out what worked best for me and I thought I’d share my tips with you.

1. Determine what form of yoga you love to practice—RestorativeYinHathaVinyasa or Flow to name a few. Be open and attend a variety of classes with different teachers, especially if your practice is new or if you feel unsure about your favorite form of Yoga. Once you are feeling confident with your practice in a studio environment, you are probably ready to begin designing your home practice. For me, Restorative Yoga is my absolute favorite. I often refer to it as magic time. I also reference books for guidance—the following are a few of my favorites:

The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health by Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden
Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann
Relax & Renew, Restful Yoga For Stressful Times by Judith Lasater

2. What time frame works best for you—morning, day or night? Try practicing at different times of the day. Some days, I like to practice as soon as I get up, jumping right in to my sun salutations to wake up. Instead of a nap in the afternoon, try a gentle practice by combining Hatha and Restorative. I also enjoy a restorative practice right before bed. My mind slows down, my breath becomes steady and calm and I am ready for a deep sleep upon completion—unless I pass out in Shavasana. A successful practice in my books!

3. Set up your space. What makes you feel warm, cozy and comfortable? My living space is sacred, as it should be for everyone. Establishing a sense of sacredness is dependent upon the individual. I light a ton of candles, roll out my mat in the center of my living room and line up all of my props (two bolsters, two blocks, one eye pillow and three blankets). I play whatever music it is that I feel my body is craving. To me, there is no right or wrong music. Your body knows what it needs. Trust yourself.

4. Have fun! If you feel like laughing, laugh! If you feel like crying, cry! If you want to make sound, stick out your tongue, stay in Child’s Pose for 20 minutes; then do it! Leave the idea of what you think you should be doing outside to the naked streets. My first yoga teacher, Maher Benham, used to get his entire class to say:

I take the puppet that is of myself, and I fling it against the sky.” ~ Emily Dickinson

We all thought that she was nuts! We couldn’t figure out why she would have us say that phrase repeatedly as if our lives depended on it! Until one day I had an “aha” moment. I understood that she was trying to get us to realize that who we were as individuals was enough, to stop trying to be the person we thought we were supposed to be, and embrace the person we all already are.

“Today more than ever, it’s crucial that we include practices in our daily lives that promote health and spiritual growth. The state of the environment, the stresses created by the world’s ever-increasing population’s demand on dwindling resources, and political unrest are signposts of the critical state we face. If we want a world worth living in, and worth leaving to future generations, we need to take responsibility by creating well-being in our lives and by supporting others as they choose healthier lives. In other words, to transform the world, we first have to transform ourselves.”

~ Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph. D., P.T.

Jessica Hinkson is a yoga teacher, actress, and writer in Toronto. She has a blog called From Yoga To High Heels. It is a blog about life, peace, and yoga.

Editor: Lacy Rae Ramunno

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