When I first started yoga, I’d go to class every week at my college gym… sometimes more than once a week. It was great! Then, I graduated and got into the “real world.” I had a job (go me!), but I didn’t have the convenience of being able to take a yoga class out in town --- especially when town was thousands of miles away. My job was in the Navy. I worked on a ship and got to visit far off lands and collaborate with people from different countries in their home territory, but we didn’t have a yoga class available.
I went without it for a while, but found myself craving that time where all that was required of me was to move and breathe. I chose to adopt the motto that every toddler gaining independence has: I do it myself. And so began my trial and error journey of crafting a personal practice. I chose where, when, and how to practice. Some stuff worked and some stuff didn’t, but it was all a learning experience.
You might not be in the same situation as I was --- not many people get the opportunity to travel around the world on a 24k ton warship --- but the desire or curiosity of practicing on your own is still alive within. After years of moving, trying, constantly changing schedules, and a whole bunch of other stuff; I’ve learned a thing or two about starting and keeping a home practice. Here are some tips to make starting your own practice a little easier.
1. Start small. If you’re new to running, you wouldn’t start off by going 10 miles. Why would you do that with your yoga practice? You don’t have to practice for an hour, but do practice on purpose and with intention. Try doing 10 sun salutations a day.
2. Make your practice a habit. I have a little practice that I do every morning before I even get out of bed. You don’t have to do that, but do try to build it into one of your routines that you already have. (In my case, it’s waking up in the morning.) If you tack your practice onto something you do every day, there’s not as much effort that goes into remembering to do it. You’ll find it gets easier to get in the zone and feel like you want to practice.
3. Find a buddy. You know the saying, “misery loves company”. While practicing on your own isn’t miserable, company is still welcome. If you’re not the only one going through the process, it’s not as hard. You have a support system. Plus, according to a study done by the American Society of Training and Development , people are 95% more likely to complete a goal if they "have a specific accountability appointment with a person [they've] committed to."
4. Find some way to celebrate your progress. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes anywhere from 18-254 days to get a new habit to stick, depending on how hard the action is. Why not reinforce every time you practice with a mini celebration? You could very well be celebrating every day :) And after you celebrate, why not track it too? If you’re a visual person like me, it’s pretty rewarding to actually see how many days in a row you’ve done something or watch the hours add up.
5. Let go of expectations of how your practice should be. Your practice is an extension of you. Since you’re a person who changes every day, your practice will also change. What didn’t work before might work now, and vise versa. Sometimes the day will be hectic and there won’t be much time to practice… and that’s ok too. Maybe try a five minute savasana instead.
6. Try… and keep trying. In the words of Amelia Earhart, “the most effective way to do it, is to do it.” You can get inspiration on what to do from what you learned while going to class, Pinterest, YouTube, or a host of other sources; but in the end it all comes down to getting on your mat and doing the work. Keep in mind that as you grow and explore, this is a practice, not a perfect. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten upset at myself for “not doing something right” or decided that having a home practice was stupid only to come back to it later. The thing is, there is no “right”. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll fall down. You’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t as you go on, but the only way to know for sure is to try.
As you continue practicing on your own, you’ll find that you discover more about yourself than you would in a regular public class: things like how to better take care of yourself or how you really see the world and your place in it. There’s a reason a home practice is also called a personal practice. Enjoy the journey.
Be on the lookout for my next post on what to do in your home practice!
Do you have any tips on starting and keeping a personal practice? Share in the comments below.