Om at Home: Beginning a Yoga Home Practice, Part II

In case you missed it yesterday, read part one here! Let's just jump right back in, shall we?
5. Learn child's pose. Child's pose is a rest pose that you can find at any point during your workout. If the video/instructor is demonstrating a pose you are not comfortable in, find a child's pose. If you tried a posture and it hurt, find a child's pose. If you feel dizzy or short of breath, find a child's pose. If you need a rest, find a child's pose. Even if the person on your screen or the mat next to you is making revolved half moon look easy, you can find a child's pose. It's not hard to learn, so learn it first.

Understand that you don't have to do everything every time. Some days my balance is just not there, and I can't work my body into the full expression of a pose. After 10 years! It happens. It's okay. Some days I can hit warrior 3 like what, and other days I can't even lift my fingertips off the floor. Every day is different. Do what your body is capable of today. Don't be afraid to push yourself, but know your actual limits.
Warrior 3
6. Do and don't look at others. There is nothing wrong with finding motivation in other, more advanced yogis. Instagram is absolutely lousy with impressive yogis (I love @badyogi, @twofitmoms, and @yogaslackers) who can really light a fire in your belly and keep you aggressively working toward your yoga goals. Follow them, interact with them. Find a yoga buddy who just nails a pose you're working your way up to and use him/her as inspiration.

Do not look at a yogi who's been practicing for years and feel inferior because you look different than s/he does. Do not look at someone who practices for an hour every day and feel that your practice is inadequate. Do not look at someone's flexibility and give up after you decide you'll never be at that level. Do not watch people throw scorpions in the air and feel like you're not working hard enough.

Like I've said, your practice is YOURS. Your body is capable of different things at different times than other peoples. I can spend days in a headstand, but I nearly fell over the last time I attempted warrior 3 in class. I used to be a master of the full front split, and I'm not anymore. But, I can twist like a champ. Do not become so preoccupied with what you can't yet do that you forget about the amazing things your body does do and will soon become able to do.

7. Find your yoga community. Maybe you're One Bad Yogi, like me. (#badyogiarmy) Maybe you pledge your allegiance to Adriene and interact with her and her followers. Maybe you have a group of friends to discuss yoga or practice with. One principle of yoga is connectedness, and I personally find it fundamental to have someone to connect with when it comes to advancing your practice.
I have a few friends who do yoga who inspire me. I have people to share technique with and share horror stories with. My chiropractor is a yogi, and having that in common has been a huge asset when assessing my issues and how to remedy them. A few weeks ago we talked for 20 minutes about yoga and I went into lifted lotus on his table while we chatted. Ya know, for funsies. The point is, there's no reason to be alone in your practice, even if you practice alone. Ask for advice, or critique, or help. If you move on to practice inversions, a spotter or assistant is crucial. Your community can be virtual (hi!) or in-person and can look like whatever you want it to. I just really believe it should exist.

8. Make it yours. Once you get into the good stuff, that's when you really get to make it your own. You can practice in the morning or evening. You can wear socks until you warm up (like I do!) or do yoga naked. You can start in cat/cow and end in lotus, or you can start with sun salutations and end in savasana. You can do a headstand in the middle or a child's pose in the beginning. You can practice for five minutes or 75 minutes. You can skip weekends or go all out on Saturdays. You can dim the lights or blast Metallica. You can follow the same video every day for a week or create a new series for yourself every time you hit the mat. Your practice should serve you.

9. Know that it will never be finished. Your practice will never reach a stand-still, unless you let it. There will always be a pose you're working to find the full expression of. There will always be more groundedness you can find. There will always be chakras to balance. There will always be a way to advance your practice. There will always be more to explore. There will always be room to grow and there will always be more benefits to reap. There is no end-point to your practice.
10. Explore outside your home, if you'd like. Once you're comfortable, I do recommend exploring outside of home practice. There are a few different ways to do this:

(a) Festivals like Wanderlust (anyone want to go with me to Vermont?! Or maybe WV?) and others I'm sure you can find local to you. Some studios host great big sessions in local parks or even arenas. In my town, one studio shuts down a block in the summer and sets the yogis loose in the street. (It's awesome.) This is great for people who can't or don't want to commit to a studio schedule, but want to take their practice out into the world and meet fellow yogis.
(b) Workshops and retreats. Most studios offer them. Sometimes it's in the form of a three-hour workshop on arm balances; in other instances it's three days on secluded property. Great immersion for people really looking to get into the thick of their practice.
(c) A studio class. Don't get me wrong — I love my home practice. But the flow and exchange of energy that takes place when you practice with others in a studio really can't be matched at home. You also have the benefit of a teacher to correct your posture or help you reach a fuller expression of a pose that alludes you. It can be pricy, but it can be an investment in your health. Also, keep an eye on Groupon and Living Social; they usually run great deals for new customers. You may also be able to participate in work study, where in exchange for services like cleaning, signing in members, etc. you can practice for free at a studio.

Remember: You do not have to be a pro before you go into a studio. If a class makes you feel like that, it's the wrong studio for you. If you don't want to join a drum circle, you don't have to. If you hate green juice, you can still be a yogi. If you never want to take your practice upside down, you're perfectly fine staying right-side up.

The most important part of defining your yoga practice is defining it on your terms: Advance your practice as slow or as fast or as little or as much as you feel comfortable. Do not compare your practice to another person's. Remember that our bodies and minds are different. Remember that your yoga practice is yours and yours alone, and it should serve you and your goals and your needs.
Terms to know (for all yoga types):
*Note: These are not, like, literal translations of Sanskrit terms. I'm just telling you
what you need to know if you hear these terms in a yoga class or video. Or read them on this blog.

Asana — A yoga pose or a posture. Most Sanskrit terms for postures end in"-asana," like savasana (corpse pose), virabhadrasana (warrior pose), and bakasana (crow pose).

Vinyasa — Both a type of yoga (flow, see here) and a term used to describe a sequence of poses (generally plank > chaturanga > cobra/upward facing dog > downward facing dog) that flow together with pranayama in a Sun Salutation.

Drishti — A spot or focal point to focus on during a challenging pose to help you keep your balance.

Pranayama — Breath control, essentially. In yoga, we generally breathe in and out through the nose (unless we're talking about breathing exercises, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish, as my mother would say). Vinyasa yoga asks you to match one breath to one motion. Most instructors will indicate this, ex: "Inhale, push up to cobra; exhale, take it back to downward facing dog."

Namaste — The literal translation is I bow to you, but it's generally accepted to mean "The light within me honors and celebrates the light within you." It's not always spoken in class, but I've never seen a class end without the motion that accompanies "namaste:" Bring your hands to prayer in front of your heart ("the heart space" or "heart center") and bow your head slightly. The movement can be substituted for the verbal expression of namaste. My current class usually begins with the gesture and ends with the gesture and spoken acknowledgment, but every instructor is different.

S(h)avasana — Shavasana or savasana, corpse pose. My yoga teacher calls it the most challenging pose in our practice, and I agree. It's a restful meditative pose. And sometimes, meditating is really damn hard. I don't always get there. Sometimes I get so deep that it takes me a long time to get back out. Sometimes it puts me to sleep. This isn't a post about meditation, but I'm more than happy to elaborate on meditation if people are interested. Let me know!

Sun Salutations — A series of poses (with pranayama) usually used to warm the body up at the start of a practice. There are a couple of different sequences (denoted as Sun Salutation A, B, etc...) but here's my favorite and the most common one I see, in simplest terms: Mountain > forward fold > flat back > forward fold > plank > chaturanga > cobra > downward facing dog > forward fold > mountain.

Chakra — Essentially, an energy center, of which the body has seven from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head. I can go into more detail in that meditation post, if you'd like.
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I really hope you found these posts useful and maybe even inspiring! If you have any questions, I am more than happy to answer them. (And if I don't know the answers, chances are I know a good yogi who does!) Want a virtual yoga buddy? Want to chat yoga? I'm here for you!

Do you practice yoga? Are you interested in starting?

Comments

  1. Yes to all of this! Especially not looking at others (except for inspiration!) and making the practice your own. I'm still working out what fits me-doing-me, but that's the exciting part right? It's like in downward dog when you pedal but then you let your body move you and not your mind moving your body.

    Savasana is my most inconsistent pose because it really is that challenging to meditate. It's getting better as I continue to check out of my stresses of the day when I'm on the mat, but needs to be with more intention to make it mine. <3 all of this!

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  2. i love yoga!!! i'm not the best at certain poses but it's such a great way to work your body and stretch those muscles.

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  3. Thank you for this! I definitely fall into the category of the intimidated ones. Maybe one day...
    I admire your commitment and obvious passion for this topic. :)

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  4. Definitely sharing this with Gary my little yogi!! Love that headstand pose! xo, Biana - BlovedBoston

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  5. love this so much: Don't be afraid to push yourself, but know your actual limits.
    i might have got a bit teary when you said there's no need to be alone even if you practice alone. kinda eye opening, you know? i like to do things alone, but i really needed the running community when i first started and it really helped.. the yoga (yogi?) community was a bit harder for me to find (not including you, duh!) because it can feel intimidating.. thank goodness for Erin!
    What you said about the studios and not being the right one if you feel like you should be a pro.. I am so weird and I am always intimidated and always scared of things like that. I go to planet fitness, their whole thing is no gymtimidation and i still get intimidated and scared and just stick to my treadmill. i went to the gym with KC the other day, he goes to a much more 'guy' gym and even though he was RIGHT there I was terrified to walk out of the locker room and up to him. It's really a bit ridiculous.
    Anywho. My yoga blocks just arrived, yay!

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  6. and I would totally do Wanderlust with you.. one day.. I think it would be a bit before I would feel comfortable going to something like that. See above. sigh.

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  7. Loving number eight and knowing that it doesn't have to always be this super quiet tranquil thing for it to work or be comfortable. I'm really liking the sound of Sun Salutations-- it just sounds so nice. Thank you for explaining all of the other terms too- most of them I've never heard of and probably would have been super intimidated by, so now I feel a bit more informed :)

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  8. I, for one, found these useful and inspiring! Thanks for sharing your seemingly infinite yoga knowledge :)
    I strongly prefer a studio class than practicing at home, but since I moved away from my studio I've just been afraid to try to find a new one. I know I shouldn't be, but I am!

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  9. You know I love the pants off this post right??? I was going to email you to ask you about a mat I purchased. Ill send a picture for you at some point. I really love yoga now and cant believe I didn't like it when I first tried it.

    I'm intimidated by studios but also afraid of doing it alone as I have been. Also the time for the studios and location of the best studios are inconvenient for me right now so home is probably best. Its hard to therefore find a community. I do the YouTube videos and I read her blogs and I love it.

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