Going to a yoga class is a great opportunity to learn from a teacher and to be in community. It also doesn’t require much initiative—you get a place to be and a time to be there, and someone telling you what to do.
All of this is lovely.
However, going to a yoga class requires some expenditure: of time (90 minutes, usually, plus transportation and changing time), and money ($20 for an average drop-in class here in New York City).
Perhaps you can’t afford to do this every day.
Yet to really reap the benefits of yoga, you must practice “for a long time, without break, and with all earnestness.” (Yoga Sutras I-14)
A home practice allows you to put in the time, focusing on consistency over quantity. A few minutes every day is better than a few hours once a week (or month). If you're a teacher, this time at home on your mat is crucial; your own body becomes your laboratory and you can then share what you've learned in class.
But developing a home practice can seem very daunting. Our days are already so full. When would we have time to practice at home? How will we know what to do?
Here are 5 principles to help you get started:
1. Make it short.
Can you commit to 15 or 20 minutes? Experiment until you find a time of day that works for you. After you wake up and have a cup of coffee, but before you shower? Before dinner after getting home from work? If you're tired and hungry, have an apple or a juice, and then do it. When you find a time that works, stick with it. The routine will become self-reinforcing.
2. All you need to do is get yourself on your mat.
Meet yourself where you are. If you're very tired, or not feeling great, you may never get up and off of it! You might just roll around and stretch a bit, then rest. Often the days you feel the worst at the beginning of practice are the days you wind up feeling the best at the end.
3. Keep it simple.
One of the great things about going to class is that you don’t have to think too hard. Give this to yourself as you begin a home practice. At first, it helps to have a sequence you stick to every time (modified as needed; see step 2 above). Search the internet for yoga sites that provide a simple daily sequence for your level. The general order should be: