Saturday, June 8, 2013

Practice Log: Home Practice

My local yoga studio, The Yoga Tree, offers yoga classes five days a week, from Sunday through Thursday, with up to 3 classes per day. So on Fridays and Saturdays, I either take a rest from yoga, or I do a home practice session of about 45-60 minutes.

Practicing at home is way different than practicing in a studio, for many reasons, and it takes a little extra effort to develop a home practice.

First of all, we live in a tiny house. I mean, tiny. Five rooms plus a small bathroom, all in about 1,000 square feet. The ceilings are low, too, which is great in the winter when we have to heat the place, but it's a far cry from the high, airy ceilings at the studio.

There's a little bit of room in the living room for me to throw down my mat, and before I do, I always roll up the large braided rug and sweep the floor. (I think my husband is secretly most pleased about my yoga practice because the living room floor hasn't been this clean since we moved in 10 years ago.)

Our living room has a stone fireplace with a large mantel where I light a few candles and maybe a stick of incense on a day when I can open the windows and door.

But there's a ceiling fan right in the center of the ceiling - and if I'm directly under it, my fingertips brush the blades when I'm standing in mountain pose. (To get an idea of how low the ceilings are, I'm about 5' 3". So imagine a short person standing with her arms raised high above her head, and that's about where the blades of the ceiling fan come to. We tried putting a ceiling fan in our dining room once, with the same low ceilings, and it was a disaster. My husband, a sturdy 6' 3", nearly re-enacted the helicopter fight scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, so we decided to just buy a box fan to put in the dining room when it gets hot in the summer.)

In addition to the ceiling fan, we have a couch on one side of the room, and a large protective screen around the wood stove on the other. If I don't put my mat exactly in the center of the room, when I lay down and stretch my arms out, my fingers are either touching the screen around the wood stove or the bottom of the couch.

So, I don't exactly have the same space to spread out as I do in the studio. Even during a packed class - and I've seen that studio PACKED - I still feel like I have more space than in my itty bitty matchbox-sized living room.

Second, there are a lot more distractions at home than there are at the studio. Even when I'm surrounded by other students at the studio, I still feel like I can focus better at the studio than I can at home. At home, there are dishes to be washed, laundry to be washed and hung and folded, meals to be cooked, work to be done (my office is in one corner of our living room), dogs, kids, chickens, visitors, telephones... You get the idea.

I felt bad yesterday when Colden sat in my office chair to watch me practice, but he wouldn't stop asking me questions. He's five, after all, and he was on some kind of energy buzz yesterday. It was just question after question after question after question, until I finally told him that it was time to be quiet. He didn't want to be quiet, though, and he stomped off outside to wait with Daddy for the firewood delivery.

 One way that I try to re-create the ambiance of the studio is by lighting a stick of incense and dimming all the lights. (Which is another difference, since we have bright, open windows everywhere in this house, and since the studio is in a converted garage, the lighting is much more subdued.) My teacher was also kind enough to lend me her iPod so that I could buy my own copies of the music she has on there that she plays during class.

For me, that music is a big deal. I've always been a sensory kinda gal (I am a Taurus, after all), and having some of those same songs playing during my home practice sessions make a huge difference for me. When I hear those songs, I can travel in my mind back to the studio for a few seconds. It really helps me get into that yoga-inward-frame-of-mind that I need at the beginning of a practice.

Lastly, I always try to practice at around the same time of day - before dinner, or before bedtime. It sort of lets me know, okay, now's the time to slow everything down, relax, focus on my breath for a little while.

Other ways to improve your home yoga practice:

1. Try to practice at the same time, every day. Some days, I can get up before everyone else and do a few sun salutations on the back porch (if it's warm) or in front of the wood stove (if it's cold). Then I'll do a longer practice while dinner is cooking or just before bedtime, when everyone else in the house is quiet and asleep.

2. Try to re-create some of the same rituals that you do in the studio. Do the same warm-ups, lay down on your mat for a few minutes and practice pranayama, light some candles, and maybe burn a stick of incense. Music helps, too.

3. Try to practice in the same places consistently. Stick with the living room, or the back porch, or the den, or wherever you start. For me, anyway, consistency is key.

4. Turn off the phone, cell phone, doorbell, etc. Don't have the t.v. on, unless you're watching a yoga video to practice with.

5. And speaking of yoga videos... Sometimes it can be overwhelming to practice all on your own. At least, it is for me, unless I have a set plan of moves in mind that I want to do. This is where having a great yoga video at your disposal can come in handy. I like Tara Stiles' This Is Yoga series (even if she does move a little faster than I'm used to), anything by Sara Ivanhoe (Sara was the one who introduced me to yoga home practice 10+ years ago), or get a membership to My Yoga Online and browse hundreds of yoga videos in all levels, all styles, and numerous wonderful teachers to get you inspired! (I'll have a review of My Yoga Online in a few days, it's one of my favorite online resources for unlimited yoga videos.)

You don't necessarily have to have taken classes at a studio before you start up a home practice. Using a good yoga video (there are loads of free videos on places like YouTube and Hulu, too) can help you get started in practicing your yoga at home!

Do you have a tip for starting a home practice? How do you make a sacred space in your home for yoga or meditation?

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