Home Practice: It’s up to you.

You will encounter various obstacles in starting a home practice.
You will encounter various obstacles in starting a home practice.

This is one of those posts that might cause some to feel angry with me; of course, I don’t write here to be popular.  I teach Yoga in my classes.  You attend my classes to learn Yoga.  Part of the learning process is practicing what I teach; however, my classes are not there to be your practice time.  Confused?  My intent is for you to come to class, learn something about Yoga—a new posture or a bit of philosophy or get a better feel for kabalbhati or ujjayi breath—and then take what you learn home and incorporate it into your own sadhana.  I absolutely do not want your time in my class to be the only time that you step on your mat.  My classes exist to support your practice, not replace it.  Do all teachers feel this way?  I honestly have no idea.

So, how do you go about having a home practice if you’ve only ever practiced in class or in a studio?  The first thing you need is determination.  As the title says, “It’s up to you.”  This is the single most difficult task you will face as you start your practice, be brave!  The second thing you need is some space.  You’ll need enough to accommodate your mat with a little extra space at the top to keep you from bumping your head in forward bends.  Having space to the sides so you can extend your arms to the sides is nice but not required, you can always extend your arms forward instead.  Finally, a quick word about carpet.  Thick carpet is wonderful to walk on and difficult to practice on.  If you have very thick carpet, you might consider making a practice floor or buying a portable floor such as LifeBoard.  Having a stable foundation is a very helpful thing and thick carpets are hard on the wrists!

Opening Meditation and Warm-up Breath

Once you have your space, sit down to begin your practice, close your eyes and breathe.  Listen to your breath, feel it moving in and out of the lungs.  Fall in love with your own breath.  Stay here for five to ten minutes or even longer if you like.  Notice that during this time, your mind will wander.  When the mind starts wandering, gently guide it back to your breath.  Focus on the nose and as you inhale, feel how cool the breath is, and as you exhale, feel how warm the breath is.  If it feels right for you, chant a little during this meditation time and feel the effects of chanting on your meditation.

After your opening meditation, slowly stand and separate the feet hip width, ankles directly below the hip joints.  Now begin warm-up breath.  Inhale through the nose into the belly as you extend the arms straight forward with the palms facing each other.  Inhale through the nose into the middle of the chest as you extend your arms straight out to the sides.  Inhale through the nose and up under the collar bones as you bring both arms overhead (like a referee signalling a touchdown).  Exhale forcefully through the mouth as you swing the arms toward the floor and come down into a squat.  Repeat 6 more times and then gently fold forward after the last one.  After a few moments, stand slowly, close the eyes and feel the effects of this breath on your body.  On an exhale, open your eyes and repeat.  After you complete warm-up breath, continue your practice or lie down in shavasana.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll write about Surya Namaskar, the Sun Salutation.

Jai Bhagwan!