Why Start a Home Yoga Practice?
If you regularly read the blog or attend my classes, you know I am constantly sharing what the latest research is revealing about how yoga and meditation positively influence our bodies and minds. So, if you are already feeling the benefits from taking a weekly class, why start a home practice?
There are numerous benefits to having a yoga practice– improve flexibility, mobility, strength, balance and sleep– to name only a few. But the benefits “off the mat,” meaning how your practice changes how you show up in your daily life and in your relationships, are tremendous. Let me share a bit of my personal yoga journey to illustrate.
In the Beginning
My relationship with yoga began around 1988 just before the birth of my second child. I’d been introduced to yoga by a friend and found a weekly class at our local high school. Needless to say, I loved it! However, the peaceful, blissful feeling I felt walking out of class didn’t last long. Within a few hours I’d be back to my anxious, unhappy self.
Fast forwarding a few years, as an elementary school teacher I had the luxury of time off each summer. It was a time I looked forward to because I could take advantage of the daytime yoga classes being offered. Taking two or more classes a week made me feel even more wonderful. I noticed that that “post-practice” sense of wholeness and wellbeing lingered for more than a few hours.
Starting My Own Daily Practice
Jumping ahead again, in 2009, knowing how much yoga had improved my life, I decided to take my yoga practice one step further and enroll in yoga teacher training. It was one of the most wonderful (and difficult) things I’ve ever done. In many ways, it was similar to going through intense psychotherapy. Not only were we learning how to teach yoga, but we also were asked to engage in svadhyaya, or deep introspection through self-study. Central to yogic path, teacher training required us to not only to study yogic texts, but also to apply yoga philosophy to our daily lives. This included starting a daily spiritual practice or sadhana.
I won’t kid you, getting into the habit of a daily practice wasn’t easy. But it didn’t take long for it to become a treasured part of the day in which to care for my body, mind and spirit.
Rising about 30 minutes earlier than usual, I’d roll out my mat and light a few candles. Then I’d practice some asanas and meditate. I’d end my practice by reading something inspirational and then setting an intention for the day ahead.
Quickly, my daily morning sadhana became the “glue” that held me together during a very challenging period in my life. Off my mat, I noticed I was more apt to take a breath and respond to a stressful situation rather than react. I felt more ease in my body and I slept better. In the midst of a storm of personal and professional stressors, my daily practice served as a steady and dependable anchor.
My Evolving Sadhana
Although my daily sadhana looks very different now, it continues to serve me every day.
Now my practice bookends my day. Most days, I still rise early to practice. Sometimes I journal and more recently, I’ve added walking meditation. Then at the end of my day, usually before dinner, I again take time on my mat to release any accumulated tension from the day and meditate again. Even on the busiest of days or when I’m traveling or feeling exhausted, I make it a priority to find time to sit quietly, even if only for five minutes, and check in with myself.
But no matter how much time I devote, the discipline and consistency of practice serve to bring a sense of physical wellbeing and to ground me. Daily practice not only loosens the stiffness and tightness in my body, but it also reminds me to look within so I can bring my practice “off my mat” and into my daily life and relationships.
Starting YOUR Own Daily Practice
Still not convinced you should start a daily practice? In truth, the “off the mat” benefits of a daily practice need to be experienced to full comprehend them. That’s why I’m inviting you to join me over the next month as I share with you tips and strategies for developing your own daily yoga practice, including short sequences to help you know what to do once you arrive on your mat.
Look at your day and decide when you can devote 5-10 minutes to self-care. As yoga and meditation teacher Rolf Gates famously said, “Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in.” Well worth the journey. Namaste.