In this section I will post some ideas on how to start a home practice, sequences for practicing at home as well as some notes about interesting poses. Watch this space….
Home Practice: Starting Now
Home Practice is the core of yoga. Class is great, but there is more, much more to yoga. Practicing on your own one could say is starting the real practice of yoga. When you begin to practice at home you really learn, really experience the transformative effects of yoga on body, mind and spirit. In class there are many distractions. as well as a lot of talking often. Practicing at home can give a a glimpse into the silent sate of mind that is true yoga.
How do you begin a Home Practice? Get up tomorrow, practice, then do it every day after that. Mr. Iyengar use to say: the hardest thing about a yoga practice is laying out your mat. So start with that….
Start slow. Don’t set the bar too high. Instead, do a few poses that you know and feel confident with. When you’ve finished, lie down for a five-minute Savasana. Ten minutes and you’ve got a Home Practice!
Be disciplined. Make Home Practice a priority. Do it every day. Keep with it for two weeks, then see if you feel better, physically and mentally. See if it gets easier. Pretty soon your 10-minute practice will grow to half an hour. Give yoga some space and time, and it will make a place for itself in your life.
Time and place: Choose a time of day and a place where you won’t be disturbed. If you can, set aside the same time each day. First thing in the morning is really the best time; wait until later and you might get caught up in your schedule and toward evening we all say we are too tired!. Trust me on this, I Know! In the morning the body may be stiff, but the mind is quiet and receptive — very important. If however the afternoons or evenings work better for you, practice then.
Do what you know. Start with a familiar asana like Adho Mukha Virasana, (Downward Facing Virasana). Follow with a few standing poses: Utthita Trikonāsana (Extended Triangle pose), Utthita Pārsvakonāsana (Side Angle Pose) and Virabhadrāsana II (2nd Warrior Pose). Finish with a seated forward bend, maybe Paścimottānāsana, or lie with your legs up the wall. Then rest for at least 5 minutes, even if you’re short of time, in Śavāsana (Corpse Pose).
Cultivate the voice inside, the teacher inside yourself. (Maybe at first you’ll hear your class teacher’s voice reminding you to lift your kneecaps or extend your elbows.) If you’re not sure about something, ask your teacher at class. If it doesn’t feel right, stop. Don’t do poses you don’t feel confident with; save them for class, when you can be supervised.
Work with a book. The Mehtas’ Yoga the Iyengar Way has big color photos and in my mind a great place to start. It has short sequences in the back of the book to help develop a feel for how to put poses together.
When you’ve been self-practicing awhile, you might try this: After your next class, try to remember the poses your teacher taught and write them down, in order. If you don’t know the names, describe them or draw a little sketch. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. Then next day, recreate the sequence, or part of it,at home on your own. See if you can remember the points your teacher made. When you do poses a second or third time, when you become your own teacher, the learning deepens; the experience becomes more profound, and more truly your own.
Props: Buy a mat, a belt and a block or two are very useful. Use a timer to build up time in your inversions. Remember your primary prop is your body!
Sequencing the postures: begin with standing postures, then go on to inversions(head balance, forearm balance), backbends, twists and forward bends. Often Sārvangāsana (shoulder stand) is done towards the end of a sequence. If you do Śirsāsana (Head Balance), it must be followed with Sārvangāsana or another pose (such as Setu Bandha).
Do the pose different ways. For example, do Utthita Trikonāsana with your front foot up the wall, with the back heel at the wall, with your back to the wall. The goal isn’t to find the way that works best for you, then always do it that way. Experience the pose from every angle. Learn all about it. We want to be as familiar with these poses as with a room we know so well that we can walk around it in the dark, without bumping into the furniture. In time, the poses become a template we can use to explore our minds, our senses, our emotions, our place in the world and our relationship to something greater than ourselves.