No Place Like Home by Isabelle Casey
The first major lesson that I was taught by my teachers was the importance of a home practice.
Though having a teacher guide for beginners is invaluable, the goal of yoga is to be still and to be able eventually do so independently. Even the yoga sutras of Patanjali (which most schools of yoga make reference to) are modeled in a such a way where we work from the outside in. The philosophy points to taking a look at our world, how we relate to it, developing awareness of all actions, working out the ‘kinks’ or obstacles through the body (asana), creating energetic clarity through pranayama and finally, moving into stillness.
Eventually, the yogi practitioner becomes seasoned with the skills of self discipline and daily routine. Initially this discipline may be gained through the guidance of a teacher. The word for this is ‘tapas’ which can be translated as: discipline, heat; the burning away of excess, ‘austerities’, to get to the core of ourselves. With practice and refinement, the training wheels of a teacher set the stage for the yogi to be able to hold space for themselves in the form of a home practice. But it takes time, and time is not something that can be rushed. Just like preparing a meal, the proper steps should be considered.
It took me years to really establish a home practice. Aside from having the details of time and place, I also knew that a key to a successful home practice would be to enroll the people in my life whom I shared a space with. When I first began to practice at home, I shared a home with a house full of guys, all of whom were in a band and practiced every day when they were randomly home. I would practice every evening in my basement bedroom that neighbored the jam room. I would set the tone - smudge my room, dim the lights, light a candle and get on my yoga mat. Most times my practice was accompanied by the complimentary new tracks my roomies were rehearsing on the other side of the wall.
Not the best setup for a serene, peaceful home practice. We eventually worked it out so they practiced at a consistent time, and I was also able to establish a time to do my own thing. Win, win!
My husband and I recently moved to Boulder and are living in a flat while we house hunt. Much smaller quarters could’ve presented a challenge with our work as we both telecommute. Right away, we discussed our needs and starting working on our own individual routines that not only supported our work schedules, but more importantly, supports our own personal practices. My home practice is quite strong. I practice daily - same time more or less.
I am often asked about my own home practice and how I got it to where it is today. This is also a theme that infiltrates my teachings. When we take the time to practice, it means that we are putting ourselves first. It is the ultimate way of displaying self care. It is just you and the space you are holding. A home practice provides the opportunity to take a look at yourself. See yourself and all of your habitualized tendencies. Developing a home practice also comes with its own challenges. There will be days when the last thing you want to do is practice, but the best thing to do is do it. I’ve had days that all I did was drag my butt to my mat and lay down. Savasana is a pose, right? So many days where my mind was just time-traveling - remembering, planning, and projecting. I eventually learned that it didn’t matter what I did, it was the experience of the effort that was my biggest teacher. Eventually, my practice became less about being super physical, but more about cultivating discipline. Though I thoroughly enjoy being physical, I’ve learned so much about myself through the practice of becoming still and having a routine. A home practice also encompasses the bigger picture - it's not just getting on your yoga mat. It involves proper sleep, nutrition, and surrounding yourself with an environment that is conducive to your goals.
I’ve laid out some basics for creating a successful home practice. The key is consistency!
1. Be consistent. Make a date at the same time, every day - no exceptions! If this means you have to get up earlier,then make the adjustments in your day so it happens. Work with the time that is available. If you only have 15 minutes, then 15 minutes it is. Focus on the fact that you had 15 minutes as a gift for yourself, rather than it not being enough time. Its about quality versus quantity.
2. Sleep! If you are going to bed late every day, it’s unrealistic to get up early. We all need sleep. You may be able to get away with minimal sleep for some time, but eventually it will catch up with you.
3. Nutrition. Don’t just look at what you are eating, but when you are eating. Most yogis have gotten the green kale smoothie kombucha memo. We know how good our greens are for us. The one area that gets missed is when we are eating. We tend to eat the heaviest at night during dinner. Eating so close to bedtime often times messes with our sleep because we are digesting when we our bodies are repairing and fasting. We wake up lethargic due to inefficient digestion and food rot in our gut. Moral of the story… eat light, well, and early. Wake up bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to go!
4. Set the bar low and keep it simple. Yes, you read this right. In my experience as a get-shit-done-goal-setter, I have failed miserably by setting the bar too high. There were a few hot moments where I had great goals that never came to fruition. They were too big. Breaking down bigger goals into smaller, bite-sized ones will lay the proper foundation for the ultimate goal. If you want to train for a marathon, you got to learn how to walk before you can run! Take a look at where you are right now in your practice. It is unrealistic to bust out an hour and a half practice if you can’t sit still for two minutes. Maybe start with just two minutes and go from there. Your two minutes might look like a down dog, or just closing your eyes and breathing. Once you become accustomed to this, increasing the time you practice or what you are doing when you practice comes organically. Now when I meditate, ten minutes feels like one, and twenty minutes just happens. If you get stuck on where to begin, this is where your yoga studio is invaluable. Take a class or a workshop for inspiration. Schedule a private yoga lesson and ask your teacher to help you create a personalized yoga practice that you can work on and with.
5. Enroll your household. Share what you are up to and be transparent with your practice. Let everyone know when you would like to or when practice, and get on the same page. My hubby and I have our own little system. From 7-10am, he works at the cafe while I do my home practice. Afterwards, I transition into my work day and he comes home from his and then does what he needs to take care of himself. This works for both of us and only works because we created it together. No, we don’t have children - at least the 2 legged kind - and I know child rearing can pose an obstacle when you are managing yourself and little people. I totally get it! But my push back is that there are so many people in my life who are raising kids and make self-care a priority. It all goes back to getting everyone on the same page and being committed to it.
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live”. -Jim Rohn
I hope that this encourages you to not only take the time to practice, but more so to take the time to make yourself a priority. Let go of what you don’t need in your life so that the space is created to nurture yourself. Peace. Love. Yoga.
Isabelle is a full-time traveling yoga instructor teaching weekly classes, workshops, teacher trainings, and retreats. She also serves the yoga community as an editor, volunteer through yoga website, My Yoga Scene owner. She is honored to hold ambassadorships for Asha Patel Designs, Aurorae Yoga, and as a KiraGrace Warrior. She spends her free time outside hiking, running and biking with her hubby and fur-children, and experimenting in the kitchen.