If you practice yoga every day with perseverance, you will be able to face the turmoil of life with steadiness and maturity.
But before Instagram, in 2008, I set my New Years resolution to start a home yoga practice and do yoga every day. I had seen the mental and physical benefits of increasing from 1 day a week to 2 days a week, and then from 2 to 4 or 5. My teachers had talked about how yoga was a daily practice for them. That it was their way to check in with their body and mind. It gave them time to feel their heart beat, their blood pump, and to set an intention for their day.
In 2008, I was in the throws of college courses like organic chemistry and fluid dynamics…I needed an outlet, and daily yoga was a powerful place to start.
That 1 year of daily yoga turned into 2, to 3, to 4, and I now have sustained a home practice for about 9 years. Has my practice changed over the years? Definitely. But the benefits and my amazement at them hasn’t ceased. I love that after all of these years, that first down dog of my practice feels like returning HOME. It’s instant center, instant strength.
Above and beyond some form of daily movement (which I think is *such* a critical piece to a happy body and mind), daily yoga has the extra benefits of explicitly connecting movement and breath. This connection acts to steady your nervous system and calm your thoughts. It’s a powerful energizer for your day.
If you’re thinking of starting a home yoga practice, here are three questions you should ask yourself. These questions will prime you to have a sustained, satisfying home yoga practice.
Question 1: Why do you want a home yoga practice?
What’s your goal? Do you want to replace your studio classes with home practice? Are you trying to make daily movement a part of your life? Just trying to get some extra stretch in to counteract your running?
Most importantly: why? What benefits do you seek?
We ask this question because a powerful why can make any how happen. The clearer you are on your goals, the more you can tailor your at home yoga program so you know what “success” is. For example, if you’re replacing studio classes, 5-10 minutes of restorative poses and floor stretches might not feel like a success. But if you’re just trying to counteract the stress of running or other high intensity exercise, those 10 minutes might be all you need! Know your why so you know what a “successful” practice looks like.
Question 2: What are your favorite parts of a yoga class?
This is where you get to dream. One of the best parts about having a home practice is that you get to choose what poses you do, what order, and when. You can spend 10 breaths in half moon or 10 breaths in child’s pose – it’s all up to you!
So get clear: do you want to incorporate some meditation? Do you appreciate twists and side stretches the most? Make sure you’re designing a yoga practice that you want to do!
Question 3: What’s your activation energy?
This is a harder question, so I’ll give you an example from my practice.
If I roll out my mat, get into down dog, and immediately start doing warrior and standing poses, I’ll quit within 10 minutes. If I roll out my mat, take a seated position for 10-15 breaths, move into some cat and cows and light stretches before I get to the intense physical postures, I can be on my mat for a full hour.
Sometimes in yoga class, we want to quit. Usually there’s the first 10-15 minutes before our body is warmed up, and our brains are moving “I wish I was somewhere else. I shouldn’t have come. Ugh, this is going to be so long.” (Or at least that happens to me…). But you don’t leave, because there’s an entire class and you’re there. By 30 minutes in, you’ve found your groove, and by the end of class, you’re SO grateful that you came and stuck with it.
The trouble with a home practice is that there’s no one there to keep you engaged or stop you from stopping. So you need to know what your activation energy is. How long do you have to stay in your practice or what do you have to do in order to get your body and mind IN the practice?
So for my example, taking some time in meditation and with smaller movements primes my body and gets me into a good brain space to be able to do the rest of my practice.
You’ll have to play with this – everyone is different! But when you find your sweet spot, you’ll know to ignore the petty voices for a few minutes and really get deep into your practice.
The nature of yoga is to shine the light of awareness into the darkest corners of the body.
So, it’s time to ask yourself those three questions.
- What’s your goal?
- What’s your favorite part of a yoga practice?
- What’s your activation energy?
These are critical questions that will make sure you have a home yoga practice that doesn’t feel like a chore, that you actually enjoy, and most importantly, that you can sustain over time. Don’t worry – there are posts to come about logistics like when, where, and how.
PS: If you’re feeling stuck on creating a home practice you love, send me an email. I help coach yoga practitioners of all levels on creating a safe, fun yoga practice they love (in person or on Skype!). Send an email to sam[at]behappyhealthyhuman[dot]com.
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.