I couldn’t choose Iyengar at 2 o’clock, Vinyasa Flow at 3, or Ashtanga at 4. Instead, I could choose Hatha at 8:15 AM—or nothing at all. All too often, I chose nothing at all. Soon, my body protested, and I knew I had to begin a home practice.
The words “home practice” strike fear even in the fiercest warrior’s heart. What is it? We all wonder. Is it like a whole class? I find that it’s entirely different from taking a class, but can be just as informative and invigorating.
When I’m feeling sluggish or uninspired, here are five methods I use to ignite my home practice:
Choose an Occupation.
What does you mom do for a living? Your dad? Your husband, wife, or best friend? Choose a pose that you think would benefit that person. Since my day job is knitwear design, I know a lot of knitters. Our shoulders get tight, our fingers get sore, and we tend to hunch while we work. To counteract this, I created a simple sequence that helps knitters open their shoulders and relax their wrists. In this way, I became familiar with mudras—yoga for the fingers!—and added a new element to my practice.
Choose an Animal.
Our house backs up to state-owned land, so I see deer and raccoon, and the other day, I noticed fox prints in the snow. Still, at any moment and in every season, large groups of crow are our most frequent visitors. During the summer months, I played outside on the deck, listening to the crows in the trees above, thinking of their bodies and the way they carry their weight forward—not up—and eventually, I was able to tip into bakasana, or crow pose, which had never before been available. By imitating the real thing, the pose didn’t feel as forced. and that when I fell, there was no one to see but the crows.
Embrace a Prop.
I love the three B’s: Blocks, belts, and blankets. Props help deepen and expand and already accomplished pose. Play with Adho Mukha Svanasana, or down dog, by elevating your hands with blocks. Practice springing forward, trying to land between the blocks and with your feet together. Use blocks for Urdhva Dhanurasana, or wheel, by placing the blocks at the wall and pressing your palms into them as you rise up. Move your chest towards the wall and then straighten your arms.
When I feel balanced and fully integrated into a pose, I try to stay in it for as long as I can. I think about what each part of my body is doing. What is happening in my feel? My legs? My hips? Can I press more through my big toe mound or rotate from my core a little more? Am I overworking one part of my body while relaxing another? Afterwards, I make a few notes about what a pose feels like. The next time I enter the pose, I find that I am able to adjust and move more freely.
There is nothing so satisfying as giving yoga to another person. One of my first home practices involved putting my husband (then boyfriend) into child’s pose when he had trouble sleeping. Since then, I’ve given—er, forced?—yoga on to many friends and family members. Yoga always requires a bit of demonstration, and if you are asked to show it once, you will probably asked to show it and explain it again. And then there is the question of how one can move safely into and out of a pose. Once you’ve shown all that, there’s your home practice for the day—and you got some teaching experience to boot.
When we don’t have a class or a teacher to turn to, we must become our own mentors. For that, it is important to identify our own inspirations and interests, and once you know what inspires and interests you, there is little that you cannot accomplish in your own practice—and in your life.
Beth Hahn is a writer, illustrator, and knitwear designer currently living in Mount Kisco, New York, with her husband and two cats. She trained with Jenny Aurthur and earned a 200-hr teaching certificate through Yoga Works. At the moment, she is working on a novel and investigating local teaching opportunities. For more information about Beth and her work, visit www.missflitt.com