Cultivating A Home Practice

As a busy New Yorker, it can be challenging to make it to the studio as frequently as you might like. We asked Karli, one of our Bikram Yoga Park Slope teachers, for some tips on how to bring your yoga experience into a home setting so that you can realize the benefits you’ve grown to enjoy. Here is what she has to say: 

Like most worthwhile disciplines, a home practice is a tough thing to cultivate. In theory, it is the most convenient way to fit your yoga into your day without the commute to the studio, or the cost of a class. This theory is similar to the one we tell ourselves about hemming our own jeans, or painting our own walls and making our dream DIY Pinterest projects. To some, these things come easily, to others, actually getting around to it is a pipe dream.

It is worth the reminder that the most important part of your home practice is steadiness. Not your designer yoga clothes, not your essential oils, not even your favorite playlist. You showing up consistently for even two minutes to sit with your breathing is the most important part of your home practice.

Consider this quote from Sri Dharma Mittra:

In dealing with meditation, it is always worth mentioning that you don’t have to be sitting to practice, but you have to be steady in one thing. For example, I have a student who came to my class every Saturday for over ten years, but every Saturday without fail. That is the very definition of steadiness. So, to meditate is more about steadiness than it is about how you sit or the quality of your concentration, or anything else. Let’s say you remember G-d once a day even for just one second, but every day. That is concentration. This steadiness in concentration brings fruits (results). It’s not that you concentrate on G-d for one whole day, and then you forget about Him – no, that’s not concentration. The secret is to have firm regular concentration on one thing.

The same can be applied to your yoga practice (considered by some to be a “moving meditation”). Steadiness is key. You do not have to put unreasonable pressure on yourself to practice seven days per week. Choose a consistent routine that fits easily within your schedule be it five times per week, once per week, once per month. What matters is the regularity of practice, whatever “regular” is to you.

Whether you are a home practice warrior with beautifully draped tapestries and flowing Zen fountains, or if your mat just barely fits snugly in the space between your bed and your dresser, the practice is the same. You are showing up to be with yourself and to enrich your life mentally and physically, regardless of the setting.

Sometimes we need a little extra motivation; this is where triggers might be helpful. Aromatherapy is a lovely way to settle your mind and your nervous system and prepare you for practice. As an alternative to essential plant oils, try infused herbal oils. According to internationally renowned herbalist, Susun Weed, “Infused herbal oils use a small amount of plant material; essential oils require tons of plant material [read: unsustainable]. Infused herbal oils are safe to use internally or externally; essential oils are poisonous internally, and problematic externally.” Best to embrace natural scent therapies such as growing live aromatic plants, or using dried aromatic herbs.

Music or soothing sounds from nature could be another way to create a vibe of focus and being present. If you have a go-to favorite playlist or Pandora station, or a favorite recording from nature, save them! Listen to them only during your home practice so that you’re excited for your next time spent on your mat. This habit will also train your mind that when your specific sound current begins, it is time for focus and mindful breathing or movement. I find that I end up dancing to the music instead of moving with my breath, so keep an eye on your pace to make sure it is yours, not your favorite band’s.

If you have one space dedicated to your practice, plants are a nice addition because they work symbiotically with your own breath as they purify the air. Also, the soft green tones are relaxing to the eyes all too often strained by back-lit computer screens.

Running late? A five-minute meditative breathing break or a quick asana warm-up can reset you as effectively as turning off your phone for a few minutes will reboot the operating system. The quality of your practice will change day to day, and it’s the days when it seems least likely to get on your mat that you probably need it the most.