Establishing a home practice is one of the most challenging aspects of practicing yoga regularly. While some people might enjoy keeping their practice in the studio under the watchful eye of a trained teacher, others may find that this is just not feasible for their current lifestyle, whether because of a strenuous work schedule, intense travel, or financial restraints.
I have had a home practice in my life ever since I began learning yoga. In fact, it’s how I got started with yoga, and I discovered a few things that might help you establish a home practice, too.
1. Separate skills from habit
Research shows that it takes 24 repetitions to make an activity or choice before it begins to not feel weird. That means that if you’re going to do yoga at home, you will have to do it 24 times before you can even think about not talking yourself out of it! That same research also shows us that you will have to roll out your mat at home for 200 times (that’s TWO HUNDRED!) before it feels automatic! So even if you don’t feel like doing yoga, get in the habit of rolling out the mat for at least 24 times before you even decide whether you can do this or not. Even if you set the timer for 10 minutes of child’s pose (it’s been THAT kind of a day!), go through the motions. You are training your brain to do something new (yoga in this place, at this time of day). The poses that you do or don’t do are not as important as the formation of a new habit.
2. Use props
Just as in the studio you are encouraged to use “props,” it’s OK to use them in establishing a home practice.....but I’m not talking about blocks or blankets or bolsters. The props in this portion of your practice are yoga videos. I began my yoga practice by meeting Jason Crandell on the mat every morning for his beginner morning yoga routine onYouTube. At that time in my life, I had NO money, 3 sons to feed, and 3 part-time jobs. If there was anyone on Earth that needed yoga, it was ME! I was determined to first establish a habit, then later I would find the money to get instruction. So every morning I had a yoga date with Jason. To this day, he is my favorite instructor in YogaGlo, and I can hear his voice in his blog posts and social media posts. Whether it’s a free YouTube video or a subscription service like Gaia or YogaGlo, set yourself up for success with the wonderful props when you feel your resolve failing.
3. Reward yourself
When you resolve to establish a new habit or routine, go ahead and set up a reward system, too. I promise, you’re going to need it before you’re 24 days in! For me (with part-time jobs and teenage sons to feed), shiny stickers on my calendar were my motivators. And then as I fell in love with my practice and began to love how my body felt after my dates with Jason, I began to reward myself with my own set of yoga blocks, or I signed myself up for a beginner series at the local studio. And the most important reward? On Day 25, put a big “X” on your calendar....a day of REST. Because rest is part of the yoga lifestyle, too.
4. Redefine “home practice”
One of my early motivations for developing a home practice was the cost factor: after all, home yoga = free yoga. But there are other places where you can find free yoga, so take advantage of those! It’s not unusual to find a yoga teacher who offers their yoga classes in the park as a service to the neighborhood or community. When you attend a session on Free Day of Yoga (Labor Day weekend) or at Yoga in the Park, give yourself permission to count it as part of your home practice. After all, the point is to connect with your body and mind daily as part of a spiritual practice. And just like any other “significant other,” your practice benefits from the daily-ness of meeting yourself on the mat as much as your choices of Instagram-worthy poses.
5. Cut yourself some slack
“But what if I can’t do it for 24 days straight?” Anyone who has ever stopped eating sugar can tell you that there’s no value in “all or nothing.” You’re going to slip up, you’re going to oversleep, you’re going to get out of your routine. Life Happens! But each day is a new day....and if you choose to establish a yoga habit by rolling out your mat for a goal of 5 days out of 7, then you will meet your 24/200 goal at the time that is right for you! No matter how those shiny stickers are sprinkled on your calendar, they’ll look great, and you’ll feel the satisfaction of a home practice that is just the right fit for you.
Establishing a home practice isn’t so much about the poses you choose as it is about the daily choice you make to meet yourself on your mat. When establishing a new routine, give yourself grace to separate the content of the practice from the habit of it -- you’re sure to meet success that will pay dividends to your health and well-being!