Moving to a new city and being short on cash, I realized it was time to establish my home practice. I was spoiled for the last 3 years with CNY Yoga Center (Dharma Yoga) in Syracuse, New York, literally down the street from me. However, last May after finishing my Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training, I knew it was now or never.
After almost a year, I find myself at a happy medium. I enjoy my solitary practice and it’s become a habit in my life. I’m still far from the ideal practice I have envisioned in my mind, but I’m satisfied with the direction it’s going in.
Here is what I learned:
1. Have clear goals
Why do you want to establish your own self practice? What sets it apart from your classes? What do you want to learn? Having defined reasons and goals before setting out helps you keep yourself focused and motivated.
2. Practice even if you don’t have the ideal space
I like to practice in quiet, but sometimes my partner comes home earlier than expected. Sometimes the kids in the downstairs apartment are screaming. Sometimes it’s extremely hot in my apartment in the summer. These are not excuses. They are challenges. Don’t make your practice so sacred there is no room for regular life to come in. Strive for a quiet, peaceful, and comfortable space to practice in, but take what comes in stride.
3. Hold poses for three counts longer
Because you’re not in class, waiting for the teacher to make adjustments before the next pose, it is easy to speed through your practice. Slow down, breathe, and take at least three extra counts.
4. Change up your routine
Although repetition can be an important part of yoga, boredom is a quick way to make quitting a new goal all the easier. There are literally hundreds of yoga poses and their variations, dozens of breathing techniques, and several mantras & meditations Dharma Yoga offers. All of these offer different benefits. Depending on your abilities you may be limited to certain poses, but there are still ways to change things up to offset tedium.
5. Don’t forget pranayama and meditation
When time is short and you’re trying to fit in your practice, don’t skip breathing exercises and meditation! With yoga, we sometimes get so caught up in all the poses that we forget the incredible benefits of the other limbs. I like to remind myself what the ultimate goal of yoga is—stillness and union. Pranayama and meditation are essential to that final goal.
6. Keep your mat by your side
I try to always bring my yoga mat with me when I travel. Sometimes it’s hard to find time and a space. Sometimes you’re surrounded by people. However, I look at this as an opportunity to share yoga with others by including family and friends in my practice, even just for sun salutations. They are likely curious what you’re up to—this is a great chance and a way to fit in your practice.
7. Add yoga practice to your exercise routine
I took up running recently and find that yoga and running complement each other very well. They particularly fit together in my exercise routine. Consider how you can include your asana into your other exercise. I find that a post run yoga practice is perfect for me.
8. Do something, not nothing
If you have an hour—practice. Thirty minutes—practice. Fifteen—practice. Five—practice. Even a few sun salutations, a breathing exercise, and sitting quiet for a moment can be beneficial.
9. It’s okay if you miss one day—just don’t let it become habit
Sometimes my day passes so swiftly, I realize I forgot to practice yoga. Sometimes things will be really crazy and I’ll miss two or three days. The important thing is I try not to let that become a habit. The more days pass between your last and your next self practice—the harder it will be to pick it up again.
10. Remember ahimsa, have compassion for yourself
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you run out of time or are simply too exhausted. Start the next day afresh and enjoy the time you do have to practice yoga.
Jessica Gale has practiced yoga for nine years and studied Ashtanga, Kripalu and Dharma Yoga during this time. She spent the last three years studying intensely at CNY Yoga (Dharma Yoga) in Syracuse, New York and completed her LOAY 200-hour teacher training at the Dharma Yoga New York Center in May 2012. She is currently completing her internship hours and hopes to achieve full certification soon. Jessica lives in Toronto with her husband and is pursuing a career in environmental work along with flower farming, garden design, and, of course, yoga.