Practice definitely does make perfect, integrating daily home practice into your routine is at the core of yoga. If you are serious about wanting to progress in yoga then developing and establishing a consistent a home practice is essential. When you begin to practice at home you truly learn and experience the transformative effects of yoga on body, mind and spirit.
How to develop a Home Practice? Get up tomorrow and practice, then do it every day after that. It is that easy, if you are a disciplined soul! However for most of us we start off with good intentions which get quickly eroded. Here are some hints and tips to help you develop your home practice.
- Build up slowly – don’t be too ambitious to begin with start with a few poses you know well. Often students think they have to do an hour practice and just the thought of it can be an obstacle before they’ve even put a foot on their yoga mat. Instead, put aside just ten minutes. When you’ve finished, lie down for a five-minute Savasana.
- Be disciplined – Make Home Practice a priority. Make an appointment with yourself every day and keep to it. Do home practice for two weeks, then see if you feel better, physically and mentally. See if it gets easier. Very quickly your 10-minute practice will grow to half an hour. Give yoga some space and time, like you would if you were learning a musical instrument or training for a race and it will become a regular activity you look forward to.
- Time and place – Choose a time of day and a place where you won’t be disturbed. If you can, set aside the same time each day. First thing in the morning is often good because if you wait until later you might miss your practice as other things get in the way. In the morning the body may be stiff, but the mind is quiet and receptive which is important. If another time of the day works better for you, practice then.
- Do what you know – Start with a familiar asana like Adho Mukha Virasana, (Downward Facing Virasana). Follow with a few standing poses: Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle), Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose) and Virabhadrasana II (the second Warrior Pose). Finish with a seated forward bend, maybe Paschimottanasana, or lie with your legs up the wall. Then rest for several minutes: even if you’re short of time, always practice Savasana (Corpse Pose). Ask your teacher for a practice sheet.
- Be your own teacher – Initially you will hear your own teachers instructions but eventually you become your own teacher listening and acting on feedback from your body. If you’re not sure about something, ask your teacher later. If it doesn’t feel right, stop. Don’t do poses you don’t feel confident about, do them in class with your teacher.
- Invest in equipment – Buy a mat and five blocks, one blanket and a one belt (you’ll need them for Salamba Sarvangasana, Shoulder Balance which is an essential to your practice). Two bricks are also very useful. Time yourself in inversions start with one minute and build up from there.
- Follow correct sequencing of the poses – You will find correct sequencing in courses in books. Follow them don’t launch into home practice in an haphazard manner, sequencing is very important as it opens the body progressively to do the poses. Generally start with standing postures, then go on to inversions* (such as Sirsasana (Head Balance), backbends, twists and forward bends. Sarvangasana (Shoulder Balance) is done towards the end of a sequence. If you do Sirsasana (Head Balance), it must be followed with Sarvangasana (Shoulder Balance) or another pose such as Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) to balance your practice. *Note women should not do inversions during their menstrual cycle.
- Be guided by books, DVD’s etc. – there are lots of resources out there but ensure that they are genuine Iyengar materials. Recommended books include:
- Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar – the bible of Iyengar Yoga
- Yoga in Action: Preliminary Course by Geeta Iyengar – has step-by-step instructions and drawings to help you through the poses
- The Iyengar Way by the Mehtas’ – filled with large colourful photographs and is very accessible
- Yoga – The Path to Holistic Health – has great sequences which are easy to follow and 360 degree photographs of the poses
Finally, enjoy your practice!