The Art of Home Practice

Originally, I’d intended to write this post about the home practice blues.  When you’d rather stay on the couch than unroll your mat.  When you have dinner to make (and you’re hungry).  When you worked late last night and can’t find the energy to get up early and squeeze in a practice before rushing back to work.  Home practice can be a challenge just to fit into your schedule – and this is supposed to be easier than getting to a studio class!

If you create a beautiful space, have your props on hand, cue up some tunes, (and forgive yourself when you don’t have the yoga in you), you can develop a home practice.  I started my home practice because studio classes were too expensive and inconvenient.  I get to class once or twice a week and try to keep up my home practice another two or three days.  Like everything else, it’s a balance.

Here are my tips for developing a satisfying home practice.

Set up a sacred space.  Well, ‘sacred’ is subjective.  I practice in the living room because that’s where I feel most comfortable.  I tried the logical places:   my office or the finished basement, but it just never felt right.  I like to be where the action is, where the big windows are, where the fireplace is, on hardwood flooring, etc.  Find a space in your home where it feels right.  You might search for a space with a hard floor and an empty wall.  Don’t give up – try new spaces if the most obvious ones don’t work.

Have your props ready to go.  It’s a good excuse to say, “Well, I can’t practice Revolved Triangle because I don’t have the blocks I need.”  Not good enough though.  Get yourself the basics:  2 blocks, 1 strap, 1-2 Mexican blankets, and a mat.  Keep them out in plain sight, not hidden where you’ll forget about them.

Amuse yourself.  When I’m setting out for a serious practice, I’ll put on music or work it out in silence.  Check out my Top Ten Sexy Yoga Tunes.  But if I’m just interested in fifteen minutes of quick sun salutations before dinner, I’ll admit to practicing in front of the TV.  I know, y’all hardcore yogis are gonna be pissed, but it’s the truth.  Roseanne, Trailer Park Boys, Parks and Recreation, AbFab, 30 Rock, whatever.  True, you should embrace silence and use pranayama to stabilize your breath, but it’s YOUR home practice.  Do whatever works to get you practicing.  Also, the consistent, glowing telly makes rolling off the couch and onto your mat a little easier.

OK, you got your space, your props and your tunes.  Now what?  If you’ve never had a home practice, it can be hard taking what you know from class and applying it all by yourself.  That can be remedied by doing A LOT of yoga in classes.  Eventually you’ll learn what sequences you like and you’ll have a mental encyclopedia of go-to poses ready to pull from.  Plus, you’ll understand alignment so you can keep yourself safe when you practice at home.  Some people like using yoga videos to bridge this gap (lots of people seem to like Shiva Rae’s videos), but they’re not for me.  Books are more my style.  I like Gary Kraftsow’s sequencing in Yoga for Transformation.  And you can do what my teacher Tom does and just try to cram as many poses from Light on Yoga as you can into an hour and a half.  Web-wise, there’s a new crop of sites providing online video yoga classes, some with well-known teachers.  Yogaglo is one of the best.  Since I’m a total Type A, here’s my nerdy yoga organizational secret:  I keep a three-ring binder with clear page sleeves filled with sequencing, pose breakdowns, target area exercises (core work!), poems, mantras, articles, photos of beloved teachers, etc.  I tear out the “Home Practice” section from Yoga Journal magazine, or print out stuff I like from the internet.  It all goes in the binder, which I keep right at the top of my mat during practice.  This keeps my asana flowing.  When I finish one pose, I know exactly where I’m going next.  I don’t need it called out.

Give yourself Savasana.  Don’t skimp on Savasana (or any pose) because you know you can get away with it.  In class or at home, yoga is not about competition or achievement.  It’s about love.  And sitting with what’s uncomfortable, even when it sucks.  Try not to shortchange your breath, even in a challenging pose.  Keep your holds as long as you can.  In class, you’d keep that hold – why shouldn’t you at home?

Practicing at home brings yoga into your personal life.  Your husband walks by when you’re in Wheel.  You have to move framed art off the wall to work your Handstand.  You have this amazing opportunity to listen to your body’s wisdom.  It’s like eavesdropping on the natural universe, and at home, you can keep yourself even more grounded.  Relinquish the need for external approval.  Free from criticism (or flattery), you can practice freely and cultivate witnessing awareness.  Take with you only what you need.  And relax, ’cause you’re at home.

What are your secrets for a successful home practice?  Any sequencing resources you care to share?


13 Comments on “The Art of Home Practice”

  1. YogiCrystal says:

    Great tips for home practice! I like practicing at home, but so hard to get myself going somedays.
    Also… so awesome you like Trailer Park Boys, I just have to say :) (it was filmed in my hometown, so I love hearing others that like it – esp since it’s a special kind of humour haha).

  2. […] away lately.  Recent posts include topics like yoga and asthma, the Yoga Journal conference, cultivating your home practice, the experience of teaching the first yoga classes, and that’s just a few from the last […]

  3. Liz says:

    Great post, as always! I have started doing a little home practice myself lately but I still need to follow a DVD. I’m eager to get to a point where I can go through a flow series on my own though.

    My biggest road block in my home practice is feeling comfortable in my space. I practice in the living room but struggle to find enough space to practice comfortably and not feel inhibited by furniture, distracted by everything in the room, distracted by noises outside, etc.

    How do you remain focused when in a more cluttered/active space than a studio?

    • Start thinking about your drishti, or your gaze. Your focal point is an important aspect of your practice. I use the windows, a mirror, the spine of a book, a burl in the wood floor, etc. Put your intentions there, and try not to be a looky-loo. You can even make a little alter for yourself. A couple of candles, incense, a meaningful photo or small statuette is enough. It’s also something comforting and lovely to practice towards.

  4. Christianne says:

    I love this! Thank you. I’m reading this the day after I had to cancel my yoga membership at the local studio (for money reasons), and I’ll be stepping up my home practice. Perfect tips!

  5. Amanda says:

    Great post! I will admit it too I sometimes find myself in front of the TV during home practice. Since we RV my space is limited but I use the space I have and occasionally venture outside.

  6. keishua says:

    home practice is so nourishing. at one point that was all I had because of budget and location. It really made me get creative. great suggestions.

  7. Priscilla says:

    Thanks for inspiring me. I tend to diminish the importance of doing yoga on my own at home, even though I can see definite rewards from just 45 minutes in my front hallway. Your tips are very helpful.

  8. madyoga says:

    Really thoughtful post, thank you!

  9. Think about it if you were in a crowded class. You’d only have your mat, and maybe 3-4 inches around the perimeter. When I lived in a smaller apartment, that’s how I thought about it, and it worked. I practically had piles of books and furniture toppling on me, but the mat is enough space. The trouble is getting an empty wall….


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