This is a guest post by Heather Ashare. Heather has been a dedicated practitioner and instructor of Ashtanga yoga for the past six years and is a staff member of the website, Diets in Review. Read her previous guest blog: Yoga: Not Just For the Flexible.
OK, so you love yoga, but perhaps you have a difficult time getting to a class or maybe, the group dynamic is just not your thing. Rather than trying to rearrange your schedule for the hundredth time or testing out another yoga studio to see if you connect with it, you have made the firm decision to start doing your own self-yoga practice at home.
A self-yoga practice can be rewarding for many reasons. Self-practice engenders a tremendous amount of discipline and motivation. It also prevents the potential of numerous distractions that can easily sabotage any hope for a good yoga practice, like chatting with other yoga buddies or comparing outfits of your fellow classmates.
But it also poses some challenges as well. Making the decision to practice yoga at home should only come after you’ve received significant instruction inside the yoga studio under the guidance of trained yoga teachers. Developing your self-practice at home too early without proper basic instruction, can lay seeds for injury or burnout.
So before you start to roll out your yoga mat on your living room floor, here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you to get the most out of your home practice.
- Commit to a time: Just like yoga studios have a set schedule of classes that all students adhere to, do the same with your self-practice. Make a regular class time and stick to it. Mornings are a great time to get in your yoga practice. Many of the Indian sages regard morning as the most optimal time to complete your yoga practice. Your mind is at its clearest and practicing in the morning, ensures you that you’ll get your yoga in before the day’s distractions gobble up your freedom.
- Choose an Open Space: Even if you live in a small, one-bedroom apartment, do your best to clear out as much clutter as you can for a space large enough to fit your yoga mat and about three feet of open space behind, in front, and to the sides of your mat. Don’t practice near the television set or your computer. Even if they are turned off, they will serve as subtle reminders of things to do or watch as they tempt your mind to wander. If possible, practice on a hard floor, which will give you more support and footing than carpet.
- Provide the Right Setting: Even if you’re pressed for space, your objective is to create a sacred space for yourself. Light a candle, burn some incense, dim the lights, the idea is to create a setting for yourself that cultivates a sense of peace and tranquility similar to the quietness of a yoga studio.
- Set the Thermostat: Maintaining a proper temperature is key to a successful self-practice. An appropriate amount of heat will help to soften your muscles and joints, making it easier to move in and out of postures. But too hot of a room can give you a false sense of your flexibility and can inevitably lead to injury. Too cold a room will make it hard to assess your body completely. Space heaters are great for heating up a small area, but be careful to not set them too high and make sure to turn them off once you’ve completed your practice.
- Pace Yourself: One of the potential dangers of having a self-yoga practice is that you miss the expertise of a trained teacher who can safely monitor your practice and correct any misalignments. Often, when we’re left to our own privacy, we push the envelope and perform advanced movements and postures that we may not be prepared to do. This can lead to injury and sometimes, a very serious one. In order to prevent this, always use caution when you practice at home and move slowly. When you feel ready to take on more, consider heading back to the yoga studio to receive important direction and instruction from a qualified yoga instructor.
Maintaining your own self-yoga practice takes a good deal of discipline and motivation. Even though nothing can take the place of learning yoga from an astute yoga teacher, a self-practice offers many rewards. As long as you exercise caution and sound judgment, those rewards can be yours for the taking.
You can read more from Heather at the DietsInReview.com Diet Blog.