The beauty of yoga is that it exists inside the practitioner so it’s always readily available. It’s an individual practice, but in our society and studio culture it has also become a collective experience. We’ve all experienced the amazing energy of practicing in a full room of yogis, everyone flowing with the breath and synchronized movement. There is something to be said for your personal experience within that universal energy, knowing that you contribute to something larger than yourself, but a home practice has the potential to bring into focus those specific elements of your physical and emotional world in an even deeper way than the big class experience.
A home practice doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes we don’t have the space, the time, or the motivation. My yoga mentors at Sonic Yoga used to discuss their home practices very frequently during my teacher training and I was always confused. I couldn’t imagine doing yoga by myself in my apartment. Weird. But they always talked about it with such a sacred tone and as such an important part of their lives. They talked about the freedom of moving exactly as their bodies informed them to move, listening to exactly the music they wanted to listen to, and letting the rest of their worlds fade away.
After those first couple weeks of training we were sent home with a daily candle-gazing meditation assignment and instructed to view this as the beginning of our home practice. Candle gazing meditation is simple: observe the flickering flame of a candle, close your eyes and watch the lingering image of the flame until it fades away, open the eyes to look at the candle again. Repeat. You’re only focusing on that image of the flame and on your own breath. It’s just five minutes a day. See how it feels, see what reveals itself to you. I began with that meditation but the first time I was actually motivated to practice by myself was over our Christmas break. One of my teachers was doing a special Winter Solstice class of 101 Lunar Salutations. I wanted to attend but I was going to be out of town for the holiday. I hated to miss the class, so she emailed me the exact sequence and told me to do it on my own starting at 8pm the night the class was scheduled to take place. We’d all be together in spirit. I was at my in-law’s house in Naples, Florida but I set myself up with a mat and a bunch of candles on their screened in porch facing the waterway and just started moving. If I remember right it took me a full, sweaty 90 minutes. It was awkward at first, but once I got warm and started moving with my breath everything else fell away. It was empowering to feel the practice I’d started in NYC follow me on my vacation, and very liberating to understand that I could fully own my expression of yoga no matter where I travelled.
My home practice has waxed and waned over the years. Sometimes it’s very active and other times I am completely reliant on my studio environment. Both are completely acceptable. What’s most amazing and important about a home practice is the knowledge that it’s always there for you and you can take it with you or use it for whatever you need at that specific moment in your life. For me, sometimes that means just propping myself in a supported Supta Baddha Konasana in front of the television for twenty minutes at the end of my day, and other times it means practicing for a very disciplined 60 minutes per day while I’m camping in the woods for a week without access to a studio. Sometimes a studio schedule doesn’t accommodate my weekly schedule so I’m forced to either practice on my own at home or miss my yoga entirely, and I’ve done both before, but it’s nice to have the option either way.
Your home practice can look however you want or need it to look. It can be a simple meditation, a long hold in a restorative pose, or an active sequence based on what your body feels like it most needs (i.e. heart opening postures and hip stretches after a long flight, etc.). Find a space in your home, hotel room, in-law’s screened in porch, and lay down your mat. Have a seat. Begin with the breath. See if and how you’re inspired to move and be open to whatever rises to the surface from both your body and mind. Know that your yoga is inside you and it can manifest wherever and whenever you like.