Having done yoga for close to thirty plus years I have observed my practice go through many permutations.
Here are the basic of the basics for keeping it going through thick and thin:
- Have a special mat: I suggest you buy a new one just for your home practice. This is your “magic carpet” so choose well and initiate it in whatever way feels right to you. Then put it in its home–whether it’s a room or a corner. ( Many of the mats in stores these days are mostly plastic and they not only feel unwelcoming to the feet but are also are slippery. Be sure to feel the surface by running your hand over it and squeeze the mat between your fingers. And remember that you don’t need a perfect room,just enough space to stand, lie down. stretch your arms overhead and out to your side. The mat is your yoga location. )
- Decide how many days and hours it is important for you to practice: if you are a beginner, perhaps three days out of seven is fine, or two; being on your mat for 15-30-40 minutes each session feels right. Be realistic. More advanced yoga practitioners will opt for 5 to 7 days a week and 60 to 120 minute sessions. Accept that the days and hours will change from season to season. ( …season being both a subdivision of the year and a time period in your own life.)
- Plan ahead days: On Sunday plan what days during the upcoming week you will be doing yoga and at what time. Note these times on paper, on your iPad Notes, or on a chalkboard…whatever schedule tracking system works for you. You might include the days you take yoga lessons on your schedule, too, but these days are not home practice time. I like to write down everything–yoga, work, time in the studio, appointments– that I want to do during the week when I plan my yoga schedule so that I am realistic about what can happen on my mat. I may not end up doing EVERYTHING but I have an ideal vision for the week that guides me.
- Imagine what you might want to practice. Notice the conditional tense “might”. Do you want to work on strengthening your shoulders? A particular pose? Repeating the lessons you learned in your yoga class? Don’t worry about doing everything right. We are not perfect; or people who do perfect poses. If we were we wouldn’t need to do yoga. Practice what you know. I once did a standing pose practice against a stairwell bannister for 6 weeks. It was marvelous. I learned so much. Plus, I never thought about what other poses to practice since the standing poses seemed just right. Then one day, I moved onto to working on full-arm balance and forward bends.
- Wash your feet. This ritual is both purifying and relaxing and over time acts as a way to heighten your focus and signals all systems that it’s time to do yoga.Plus it begins to move your seat of consciousness out of your head
- Get on your mat. Welcome! Once you’re there you will be so happy to be there. Because of planning, you’ve visualized your practice, You’re looking forward to your practice. It pulls you rather than pushes you.
- Accept what happens with gratitude. Even if you miss a day or don’t do what you planned, give thanks on your “magic carpet.” Yoga is not how good you do a pose but developing the power to move mind into the body. Everyday, when I step on my mat, I am grateful to the wonderful Iyengar teachers who have strewn flowers on my yoga path: Karin Stephan, Dassa Oppenheimer, Zoe Stewart, Arthur Kilmurray.
NOTES ON SEQUENCING: It’s a good idea to have yoga books that inspire you to practice and lift your vision.Here are two good books with pictures that tells you which poses to do in what order. I practice and teach Iyengar yoga so I find my inspiration in that particular school:
- Yoga: The Iyengar Way (Knopf, 1990) by Silva Mehta & Mira Mehta
- My personal favorite: B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health (DK Adult, 2007)
- Website: Yoga Art & Science: http://www.yogaartandscience.com/practice/practice.html