FOUR WAYS TO SET UP FOR SELF-PRACTICE YOGA
I am one who thrives in a class setting. Even in college, I'd attend all classes to soak up the content, but at home I'd have trouble digesting the reading unless it applied directly to an assignment or paper. I can't fake it. I need to feel it, touch it, hear it, use it, in order to fully get it.
However, the benefits of self-practice yoga can not be understated. It allows certain freedoms -- luxuriating in postures you love, connecting the dots on a challenging pose, falling over where no one can see you. The wonderful thing about self-practice yoga is that this is that opportunity, to fully engage with it in a flexible setting.
Setting up strict time goals can be a bit tricky. Initially, it may motivate you to commit to an hour-long sesh on the mat, but take into account what might work for you. Make it five or forty-five minutes; it really doesn't matter. What does matter is putting it on your schedule. Set out a few flexible appointments with yourself throughout the week, and then stick to it.
SET YOUR ENVIRONMENT
There's a reason why yoga classes feel special. There's a routine -- a ritual -- that grounds and connects you to the space before practice. Maybe your teacher prefers to guide you through a short meditation at the beginning, dim the lights or turn up the heat on the room.
Explore what creates the specialness of the space for you. Light your favorite candles each time before you start. Create a dedicated space in your home where you can comfortably move and stretch. This could go without saying for some, but get into your yoga clothes. (There's nothing more motivating to me than athletic wear.) The way you feel in the space will affect how the practice moves.
Make sure it is a space where you can shut out distractions from your partner, roommates or family. Ask them to respect the time your taking for self care. Sink into a sacred routine.
CHOOSE YOUR SEQUENCE
Each class has a general flow that it follows. Warm-ups, sun salutations that evolve into complexity, balance poses, challenges, cooling poses, and savasana for final meditation. Find what works from your favorite moments on the mat, and use these as inspiration for your own practice.
Start off by taking a silent moment with eyes closed, to slow down the ebb and flow of the breath. Follow with a few sun salutations. The middle of the practices is really where you have the opportunity to focus on things that interest or challenge you. Pick a few poses that you want to work into, and spend some time here. Remember the breath. Link it with movement.
SELECT A PLAYLIST
I personally love putting together playlists for the mood I'm currently rockin'. For yoga, create a playlist that motivates you. It's ideal if it has an arc, a certain rhythm that follows the pace of your practice. It could begin with something slow, pick up the pace in the middle, and wind down for final meditation. I assembled a list of my personal self-practice favorites at the moment (I, like many yogis, love Spotify).
For me personally, a yoga playlist serves two purposes beyond setting a mood. It can act as your timer so that you don't have to stare at the clock and fill time. When the playlist ends, you know you're done.
Secondly, it can help to keep your mind clear and focused. Music gives your brain something to hang onto, instead of wandering into your normal pattern of thoughts. Yoga is not anything if not an exercise in being present.