I can honestly say without hyperbole that yoga has changed my life for the better. My yoga practice has kept me sane and stable through difficult times, and has improved the way I feel on a daily basis, physically and mentally. But I've been practicing yoga for more than 10 years, and I find it very difficult to maintain a daily home practice. I find it difficult to do anything every single day, other than eat and sleep. I've heard from runners that they have the same problem – once they get a few miles in, they love it, but getting out the door is always a struggle.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to give you a simple program for starting a home practice. I'll outline it here, and then post updates as we go. This is a fluid program, so please give feedback in the comments and I'll try to work it in.
First, though, let me start with a disclaimer: home yoga practice is not for complete beginners. There are hundreds of yoga DVDs and websites that offer sequences, and those are great, if you already know what each pose is supposed to feel like and you just don't know what order to put them in. However, having a teacher who can watch you and make adjustments is very important in the beginning. There are many common mistakes that can cause injury, especially if you're watching a DVD and trying to force your body into a shape that's not structurally possible for you. Everyone's body and fitness level is different, and just because you can make your pose look like the Yoga Journal model's, doesn't mean it's safe. (If you're a beginner and want to start a yoga practice, my Monday night class is very beginner-friendly.)
That said, a home practice is important if you want the many non-fitness benefits of yoga. Going to classes is great, but they are never going to be tailored to your personal practice style. For example, I hold poses much longer than most asana classes, so I find it difficult to get into a meditative state if someone else is telling me when to move to the next pose. You may want to move with each breath, and find classes too slow. Either way, taking ownership of your yoga practice will deepen your experience and connect you to your body in ways a group class just isn't set up for.
The first thing that needs to happen to start a home practice is a change in routine. Making big, fast changes works for some people, but most people won't maintain them unless they are built in gradually. So, for the first week, do 5 sun salutations every day. That's it, just 5, followed by 1-2 minutes of savasana. It'll probably take you 15 or 20 minutes, depending on how you time your movements. I usually time sun salutations this way:
inhale, arms overhead
exhale, forward fold
inhale, lift halfway
exhale, step back to plank
hold plank for inhale,
exhale, lower to chaturanga
inhale, cobra or upward-facing dog
exhale, downward dog
hold for two full breaths
inhale, look forward
exhale, step up to forward fold
inhale, stand, arms overhead
exhale, lower arms
That's this week's homework. To give you an idea of what's coming, here's an outline of the program:
Starting next Monday, I'll post a list of daily sequences. I'll post several at once to give you options, and of course feel free to modify them as needed. I'll give you both breath cues and timer cues (I like the insight timer app because you can set it for regular intervals, and it doesn't sound like an alarm clock). Your practice will be more fluid if you memorize the sequence, but you can also write it down and put it at the front of your mat to start. The first week's sequences will be 15 to 20 minutes long, depending on how long you hold each pose, and they will gradually increase to 30-45 minutes over the following 4 weeks. Along the way, I'll give some tips for creating your own sequences. By the end of the 4 weeks, you will have a variety of 20 to 45 minute sequences to choose from, and a method for adapting them to your own preference. By gradually building a yoga practice into your life, it becomes much easier to maintain. You'll still have to force yourself to get started, and you'll probably skip a few days, but don't give up! It's worth it!
So, this week: 5 sun salutations per day, every day.
If you have any questions or special requests, leave them in the comments or send me an email.