Getting along with Home Practice (part one)

While we tough out the social distancing required at this time we have to make do with home practice.
If you are new to this it can seem a little daunting. Here are some tips which might come in handy.
The most important qualities of a home practice are exactly the same as those I would recommend to you in a Shala or studio.
Practice needs to be sustainable and nurturing.
Little and often the best way to start. Ten minutes a day is better than one intense practice per week.

The space 

It doesn’t have to be big or fancy, just room enough for a mat. If you think being seen by your housemates will put you off , try to find somewhere private – ish. Test a few places before deciding which one is “the spot”.

Augment “the spot” with something that isn’t incidental. Tea lights or candles are good and lighting them just before you start adds a sense of ritual. You could include incense. In smaller rooms it can be overpowering so burn just a little rather than a whole stick). Flowers are a positive addition as are images of people or things which inspire you.

The time 

See if you can start your practice at roughly the same time each day.

Contrary to popular myth you do not need to practice early in the morning for it to be ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’. Evenings are fine. I teach many people in the evenings. If you switch from ‘am’ to ‘pm’ You might feel more supple but less energetic than usual. Be careful not to over do the stretchy aspects of each asana. Focus on maintaining breath, stamina and core strength. Go easy on backbends, inversions and second series asana at night as they can affect the quality of your sleep.

Designate your “Rest” day (or days) as well. Try to ring-fence at least one day (as in 24 hours) when there is no practice and no work to do. This is really important for your overall well-being if you’ve switched to working from home. Don’t let all the days become the same.

Distractions

Don’t procrastinate! If you plan to start the day with practice avoid anything which is going to come between you and the mat. The most likely culprits? You don’t really need me to tell you. Keep away from your phone and anything else which takes you online. The news, the weather and the latest gossip can all wait until you’re done. The best things to do between getting out of bed and practicing are bathing and sitting quietly. If you read anything make it practice related. It doesn’t need to be a yoga text. Inspirational poetry, self help manuals, your favourite song…be creative.

A hot drink can also be a tonic (whether it’s caffeinated or not)! Have it when you get up and leave a little time for it to settle before practice. Whatever you choose, don’t drink gallons of it (especially if it’s coffee).

Being surrounded by other yogis can really motivate us. When we are alone, all our practice gremlins can come to the fore. The one which is most likely to haunt us is a lack of ‘oomph’. This is totally normal (it happens to me all the time)!

The best cure for feeling flat is to do one sun salute. Just the one. If that feels okay, do another. And so on…and so on…

Once you are moving with the breath your energy might build. You might find yourself doing ‘everything’ before you know it. On the days when it doesn’t happen don’t get frustrated with yourself. To quote my teacher: “the only bad practice is no practice”.

Here are some suggestions for structured short practices. 

Surya namaskar (the sun salutes) followed by the last three seated postures of the finishing sequence. If you’re doing this because you feel really flat, take rest with your legs elevated.

Surya namaskar and the standing sequence, followed by the full finishing sequence including some backbends or supported ‘bridge’ if it feels right. This is quite an energising practice and very good for restless legs if you feel cooped up. Take extra long breaths in the inverted, finishing poses for tiredness. Or hold them for a longer count than usual.

If you usually practice a full series, splitting it in half can be restorative. Classic “half primary” usually means everything up to and including Navasana (boat posture) followed by the finishing sequence.
“Half second” usually means everything up to Pincha Mayurasana and the full finishing sequence.

These are just suggestions. You are the best judge of when it’s right to stop and take rest on any given day.

Just remember to always include the three final seated postures.
Yoga Mudra (bending forward over crossed legs)
Padamasana (sitting upright with crossed legs)
Utplutih (lifting) go on, admit, it’s secretly your favourite!

Last but not least, lest we forget the reason why we are having to practice at home. If you have a fever do not practice asana. Once it has passed you can start again but take it easy.

Be kind to yourself.

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