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Building a Home Yoga Practice

Tips for incorporating yoga into your daily life:

*Note: Where I give names of poses or breathing techniques - if you are unfamiliar with them, please learn them from an experienced teacher! 1) Finding Time: First of all, determine what time of day works best for you and your schedule. Traditionally, yoga is a great way to start the day, but if that doesn't work for you - squeeze it in when you can - lunchtime at work or evening when you get home and unwind. It doesn't have to look like anything special. It doesn't have to be 60 minutes or 90 minutes. It can be 10 or 15 minutes a day if that's all you have - studies show that developing a regular practice of 10 minutes a day yields better results than doing a 1-hour yoga class once a week. (Check out this article: 2) Finding Space: Find space or create space in your home or office - wherever you will be practicing where you have peace, quiet and space to move. A space where the cat or dog won't bother you (unless you enjoy yoga with pets!), and let your spouse/partner/roommate/children know not to bother you! Turn off your cellphone. Try to leave this space set up so that you don't have to spend time making space when you want to practice. Roll up your yoga mat and leave it there along with any props you need (I suggest blocks and a blanket to start, maybe a bolster or some stiff pillows and a strap or belt or beach towel), music if you like it, and any other things you like to have like candles or aromatherapy (you don't need any of that - but if you like to use those things, leave them in your yoga space - it may help you set the mood or tone for your practice). 3) Finding Purpose: What are your personal goals for a yoga practice? To be more flexible? To be more centered? To get stronger? Find balance? Ease anxiety? Be more mindful? It could be any or all of these or something else entirely. Discovering your purpose or intention will help guide you towards how to build your practice. Also, knowing your goals will help you to see how you continue to progress and will give you a reason to keep showing up on the mat! 4) Where do I start? I typically do my personal yoga practice in the morning. I start by focusing on my breath. Usually, seated in sukhasana, I close my eyes and begin by noticing how I feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Just that. This guides me towards how I want to begin moving. I will typically do a short pranayama practice and then move to the floor, but sometimes I just lie on the floor and start moving and do my pranayama practice after my asana practice and before meditation. I LOVE to start lying on my back in the morning. But if you're doing a lunchtime practice or evening practice you might start standing or seated with some basic warm-up stretching and breathing. I like to start with Bellows Breath or Breath of Joy in the middle of the day to uplift me....In the evening, I enjoy a calming practice with lots of forward folds (balasana, paschimottanasana, upavistha konasana, and viparita karani) for winding down. My warm-ups often start with stretching the body long, hugging one knee to chest and then the other, apanasana, simple side twists and then rocking to table - Cat/Cow and Sunbird poses, and then DownDog or lunges. I might spend more time on the floor if I'm tired then move into Standing Half Moon - side stretches, and go through a series of sun salutations. That might be all I have time for before coming back to the floor. I almost always do some shoulder stretches in Tadasana and include shrugs and circles because I have shoulder tendonitis - so if there's a certain body part you know you want to work on - be sure to include that everyday.... When I have the time, I include a few standing poses, a balancing pose and an inversion - usually either downward facing dog or shoulderstand for me and some backbends in the morning. If I have the energy I'll prep myself for wheel pose. But if I want to keep it mellow, I'll do a Bridge flow, Shoulderstand, and end with some twists or sleeping pigeon before savasana. I do not take a long savasana in the morning. I will lie for only a few minutes and then come up to seated. I may do an additional pranayama practice such as Nadi Shodhana, and then sit in meditation for 10-20 minutes depending on how much time I have. That's it! That being said....There are days when I wake up with no energy or feeling sick. As I said earlier - the FIRST thing I do is notice how I feel physically, mentally, emotionally. One day (recently) I had a migraine headache. I set up my bolster for Supta Baddha Konasana (one of my favorite restorative poses) and reclined for about 15 minutes and THAT was my practice. So, while it's important to have a regular practice, it's also important not to beat yourself up if you have to skip a practice, or if your practice doesn't look the same or feel the same everyday. It's a living practice. The important thing is that you are learning to listen to your body. A home practice should also NOT take the place of studying with a teacher. It's more like daily maintenance. Especially when you are just starting out, it's important to learn the poses and breathing techniques and to have a teacher guide you into correct alignment as well as inspire you to grow and expand your practice. Even as a seasoned practitioner, I try to attend at least one practice a week to learn from others - not just how they teach but to grow my own personal practice. And sometimes, it's just nice to not have to think about what comes next but to listen to a "coach" guide you through until you land in savasana! This way you can just be present and tune into your body, mind and breath. I hope this helps inspire you to start a home practice - whether it's daily or 3 times a week - or whatever you set out for yourself. But I encourage you to try even a short practice of 10 minutes every day for one month and see how you feel in 30 days! Namaste!

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