Benefits of a Home Yoga Practice
With 36 million Americans practicing yoga and over 300 million practitioners worldwide, it is needless to say that the teachings of yoga have traveled around the globe, evolving and assimilating accordingly on their way. In 2018 there were 6,000 yoga studios in the U.S. and this number continues to grow rapidly. With yoga on every corner and yoga pants in every shop, yoga has become a part of many people’s daily lives. Studios offer classes from all lineages and some even offer wine and goats. Whatever you’re looking for, the yoga industry can probably deliver. However, when asana is stripped of its fancy frills and latest fads, at its heart is an organic practice of breath and movement. It is a journey into ourselves, more and more personal the deeper we go. Amidst all the trendy studios, pop jams, and industry, it can get hard to hear your own heart and mind, which are the seat of sadhana. This is why home practice is at most crucial for dedicated practitioners and at least hugely beneficial for everyone.
When you practice at home you can tailor your sadhana to suit you. While studio classes with a professional teacher are definitely amazing, it is doubtful that you’re going to get exactly what your body needs every time you go to class. Many classes move too fast, and don't provide adequate time to breathe and embody the poses. When you’re enjoying a personal yoga practice, you can move from your intuition. What is your body calling for? How deep is too deep? Where is the balance between sukha (ease) and stirrha (steadiness)? In a large class full of diverse posture expressions from other students and teachers, sometimes we step outside of our personal peace and become very aware of our surroundings. The ego may kick in and push you too far, the many sights and sounds may distract you from your breath and body, and the sequence may just not be in tune with your level of energy. When practicing at home, we can greatly minimize distractions and pressure to ‘perform.’ You can move from your intuition and nurture the body and mind with a practice that is aligned with your current mental, emotional, and physical state. You have the freedom to explore whatever you want for as long as you want and the peace to notice the arising sensations, mundane and profound. By remembering cues from your teachers, you can fine tune your alignment and take the time to really embody the asanas, you can fall without worry, and breathe as deep as you want. The body really will guide you in your practice.
Within the peace and tranquility of solitude in a comfortable place, the mind is more free to release the worries of the day and melt into a meditative state. You can set up your space to be calm and soothing to the senses. Light your favorite incense, open a window, do anything that makes your environment feel special and sacred, allowing you to find this peace within as well. Without the guide of a teacher, you are free to breathe at your own pace, drinking in deeper breaths and enjoying them without worrying about the ‘next turn.’ There is nothing like dictating your own rate of breathing to make your practice more personal. You may discover with this calmness, that you wish to sit in meditation or savasana for longer. There is no rush to move to the next pose, to take the next breath, or to get up off the floor. You may bask in your inner peace for as long as you like.
Let’s recall the idea of intuitive movement. The body is very intelligent and will guide you in your sadhana. Breath and heart beat provide rhythm, sometimes strong and sometimes subtle. When we truly link our movement to breath, we enter into a meditative rhythm that makes yoga feel like a beautiful dance, no matter how slow or fast you move. Maybe all you do is two poses, maybe your whole practice is an energetic, rhythmic vinyasa. It will change every time you dedicate time to the mat. If you think of the breath as the animator and dancer, filling your body with life and igniting movement, the mind can further soften and allow for your movement to be even more intuitive and spontaneous. When we express ourselves with body mudra in a meditative state, it is unlikely that we will go too deep into a posture. We are called to what will nurture us. Free expression leads to greater embodiment and joy. Breathe your breath, move your body the way you want to move. Such a simple pleasure, yet so potent!
Thank you for reading and I hope you find your way to your mat for some quality you time!
They do say that we are our own best teacher after all!