Though I am not new to offering yoga classes on Youtube, I know practicing at home virtually is new territory for some of my dedicated students. The comment has come back to me that “ I just can’t practice at home”. Here are a few suggestions from my years of home practice trial and error that may help you.
Asana is the physical limb of yoga, so pay attention to what your physical body is saying. Sensation is communication. How loud it is your body talking? You always control the volume dial. Depending on the posture modifications you choose, how long you hold a posture, etc, that volume dial can go up or down. Getting the right volume is part of tuning the station in your practice. It may not be “easy listening” but its not something so disdainful that you want to shut it off or tune out. Pain is not the only way our bodies talk to us. There is pleasure. And there is absence of sensation. Notice when the station changes. And if you want easy listening to lighten the load right now, try a replenishing practice like yin or restorative yoga.
If you are concerned about the safety of practicing yoga at home without the teacher watching, write a body contract with yourself. Create a corridor of safety and healing; be curious and explore within that space. The yoga term for good sensation is sukha, which translates to sweetness. Yoga can be intense at times, but it moves you in the direction of strength, greater mobility, and comfort in your body. The sanskrit word for pain is dhuka; it means suffering or bad space. Bad space is typically felt as localized sharp pain, often in a joint. It might restrict the breath, cause a flinching reaction or anxiousness. Instead of freedom, bad pain brings us closer to long term limitations.
You are not the same as anyone else and you are not the same today as you were yesterday. When we walk in a studio class, we see bodies that look somewhat similar on the outside. That changes the moment we come into a posture. Even though we may technically have the same bones, muscles, connective tissue etc, we are all put together differently and unique in our adaptation of the posture. In a home practice, you have no one else to compare yourself to – take advantage of that! Explore comfortable alignment for your body, or skip a pose altogether and do what your body is asking for. No one can see you!
Space invites you in. Boundaries keep you out. Those can be both physical and mental. Bump up to your boundaries but don’t go beyond them. Some days you are unstoppable, conquer the the yoga class curriculum and should hi-five yourself. And other days, you may feel sluggish or even sad. Be vulnerable. Be strong. Cry. Sweat. Let whatever bubbles up on your mat float away and explode into non-existence. But learn to know what boundaries are physical and which are mental. Mental limitations are boundaries that may need to be explored when you are ready.
Distractions happen, especially at home. We can’t all have sound proof, home studios with Himalayan salt block walls; maybe just a spiritual trinket or two in a community room without decaying plants. Some environmental factors can be controlled and others you need to absorb into your practice like a zen master. Birds chirp and dogs snore when I meditate, so I say hello to the birds and send love to the dogs. I have had students willfully attend goat yoga and tell me they didn’t like it because they found the goats to be too distracting and couldn’t take their practice seriously. Seriously??? Lighten up! If you vilify outside distractions as the bane of your mindfulness (particularity sweet furry animals), there is work to be done. Because guess what? That’s the real world; its what we are training for, unless you plan to live in a cave. Have kids? Let them sit on you in a plank pose or crawl under your down dog. I’m not kidding. I used to do this with my twins. Now I just hip check 180 lbs of three dog lovin’ off my mat occasionally – or use them as props. But don’t use distractions as an excuse not to practice. The real yoga starts when distractions come knocking. Just like in the actual world, you can let them stress you out, get angry or quit or let go of expectations and thrive.
Hold yourself accountable. As a yoga teacher who has had a regular home yoga practice for several decades, I know how easy it is to start emptying the dishwasher, or get side tracked into cleaning the sock drawer even when your mat is laid out. If you suddenly have so much time that you feel lost, sign up for classes ahead of time and put them on your calendar.
Please remember to take a savasana or relaxation pose at the end of your home practice to allow all of your systems to absorb and integrate the benefits of your practice. The physical practice of yoga asana teaches us about how we interact with ourselves and the outer environment, and is hugely important. But as spiritual beings, savasana gives us the opportunity to perceive our inner environment through the felt sense and the subtle body. Intuition is a source inside yourself that needs to be nourished with time and love. Notice what gets loud when you get quiet and still.
And most important right now, remember you are not alone. Contact a friend and sign up for a virtual class together. Intimacy comes in many forms; some as simple as sending a blessing to the other students who might normally be in your class.