It’s my pleasure to introduce yoga teacher and writer Kara-Leah Grant. She’s the publisher of The Yoga Lunchbox, and the author of Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice.
This is the second article in a series she’s writing about home yoga practice. Mostly, Kara-Leah looks at the psychological barriers that prevent us from getting on the mat every day, but in this article she’s looking at how we gain from a home yoga practice.
Paired with some of the other great free resources on this website – like the Hatha Yoga Galleries, the Yoga Sets Collection and the Online Yoga Classes – you’ll have no excuses for not practicing yoga at home every day – and therefore reaping the benefits that come from daily practice.
Benefits of a Home Yoga Practice
by Kara-Leah Grant, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve looked at whether or not you really need a home yoga practice and what counts as a practice.
By now, you should relies that yes, you do need a practice because it connects you to your inner teacher and what that practice actually looks like will depend largely on your life and your lifestyle.
But you may still be wondering – what are the benefits of practicing yoga at home? Sure, you get to connect to an inner teacher, but so what?
So what indeed. Here’s some more direct and immediate benefits of practicing yoga at home.
1. You can fit a home yoga practice anywhere into your day, practicing at the best time for you.
If you’re going to yoga classes, you’re limited to the time slots available, and the length of class put on. While you might make suggestions to your teacher or local studio, you don’t really have any control over when classes are available. When you practice at home, you can practice at the perfect time for you – that might be at 5am, it might be at 9pm. It could be for twenty minutes at 11am. Whenever it is, you can make it happen.
This helps to deal with that old excuse:
‘Classes aren’t at times that suit me.’
You can always find a time that suits you when you practice yoga at home.
2. You don’t have to factor in any travel time to get to your yoga.
When you go to class, it might be only a sixty minute class, but by the time you travel to the studio, check in, get changed and then travel back again, it can be a 90 minute or even 2 hour turnaround. You’re only getting 60 minutes of yoga, but it’s costing you two hours of time.
When you practice yoga at home, you can roll out of bed and on to your mat. there’s no time wasted travelling, and if you sleep in comfortable yoga-style clothing, you don’t even have to waste time getting changed. This can be a huge benefit when time is limited.
Back when I worked a city job, not only did I use my commute for mantra meditation, but I also kept a yoga mat stored under my desk. On sunny days, I would walk five minutes outside to a grassy park and do a half hour practice before enjoying my lunch in the sun. There was no rushing about, and I got to soak up the outside world too.
3. You can do exactly what it is you need in your home yoga practice.
Our bodies and minds are all different, and can be different from week to week and day to day.
Right now, my right hip is playing up and feels touchy. If I was to go to class, I wouldn’t know if the class was going to aggregate the injury, or improve it. However, practicing at home, I can tune into my breath and move with awareness, going slowly and seeing exactly what it is my hip needs to restore itself to health.
This is one of my favourite benefits of practicing at home – the ability to respond to exactly what I need. Sometimes it’s strong asana, sometimes it’s a long meditation, sometimes it’s intense pranayama. Sometimes I just need yoga nidra. Whatever it is, I can give it to myself. I can take responsibility for my own practice.
4. Practicing at home strengthens our intuition and discernment.
This relates to our ability to do exactly what we need – the more we tune into our bodies and our breath and respond to what arises, the stronger our intuition gets.
There’s something magical about taking the time to breath in stillness before moving. Sometimes, I might sit in Hero’s Pose for five or more minutes feeling my breath in my spine, allowing my pelvis to tilt forward and back and seeing how my hips feel. Only after sinking deeply into my current experience do I then begin to move – and I’m motivated to move from a place deep inside.
In yoga class, we don’t get this luxury. The teacher knows where they are taking us, and we don’t have to tune so deeply into our own experience. We just let go and go with the teacher.
Conversely, when we practice at home, we can be lazy and avoid those postures that we find uncomfortable and difficult.
But on some level, we know that we’re doing this, and as we continue to practice at home, our greater levels of intuition mean that eventually we can’t avoid what we’ve been avoiding… we have to start going that way. We start to become our own dispassionate teacher – not just doing what we want but also what we need.
Now this can take years to develop, which is why it’s always a great idea to go to class once or twice a week. then we’re guaranteed to go into the postures or practices we’d rather avoid. And every time we do them in class, we’re reminded that we’re avoiding them at home.
5. We may find ourselves going places we’ve never been to in yoga class.
About two years or so after I started practicing regularly at home, I discovered that when I played loud dance music and danced in my living room, my body would naturally lead me into yoga postures. I’d always loved dancing, so often danced at home. These dance sessions invariably started giving way to more and more yoga. It meant that I was practicing at home more.
At first I felt guilty – real yoga wasn’t done to music! But it felt so good, and my practice started taking on a more fluid, feminine nature. It started to melt my rigid, controlling self.
A couple of years after that I discovered my yoga teacher, Shiva Rea. She teaches to music – not just as a distraction but as something that induces a state of trance and helps one let go and let the inner teacher take over. I discovered that what I’d intuitively been doing in my home practice was… just what I needed. And it’s something I never would have discovered going to class. At least, not until I finally discovered Shiva Rea.
So when you practice at home, and you learn to tune deeper and deeper into your own intuition, you also learn to let go and trust where your body is taking you. Even if where it’s taking you is somewhere you’ve never been in class before. Even if it doesn’t look like any posture you think you’ve seen before. You never know – it might be exactly what you need.
6. You can practice anywhere at all – yoga begins to bleed into your life.
When we go to class, there’s a definitive container that holds our yoga – we’re in a special room with a particular person doing a particular thing.
When we start to practice yoga at home, that container begins to soften. At first this can make home practice more difficult because we have to get more motivated to roll out our yoga mat. But over time, something interesting begins to happen.
We don’t bother rolling out our yoga mat and instead just practice on the floor. We start to use the kitchen chairs and table as props.
We’re standing in the kitchen doing the dishes and feel like doing a backbend… and discover if we grip the basin with our hands and our elbows to our ribs, we can do a wonderful standing backward bend.
We’re watching TV with our children and decide to sit on the floor instead and move mindfully through a floor series of asana.
Suddenly, yoga isn’t just fixed to our yoga mat, it’s the way we move our bodies and connect to our breath whenever we need to. We notice when there’s tension in our lower back and we take time right where we are, using whatever is around us, to free that tension up. We’re waiting in the doctor’s office and notice we feel anxious so we sit mindfully and meditate ourselves into relaxation.
These are just a handful of the benefits of practicing yoga at home – but you can see that they all centre around the same themes. When we practice at home we have the freedom to practice exactly as we need to, and as a result, yoga becomes a part of who we are in each and every moment.
Now that’s yoga – freedom in every moment!
Kara-Leah is a writer and yoga teacher who has always been infinitely curious about the make-up of the human psyche and body. Regular yoga helped her heal and recover from chronic back issues, including a spinal fusion at age 16, and two episodes of psychosis at age 29.
Her daily home yoga practice began in earnest when people kept asking her to teach them yoga. She’s since trained as a teacher with Shiva Rea, and immersed herself in practicing, teaching yoga and writing about yoga. Kara-Leah lives just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand with her son Samuel.
She’s the publisher of The Yoga Lunchbox and has just published her first book, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice. She’s also a regular contributor toElephant Journal.