Our new regular contributor Kara-Leah continues her home yoga practice series, looking at how our concepts of a home yoga practice can get in the way of us actually practicing.
by Kara-Leah Grant, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice.
One of the major reasons most people never start a home yoga practice, even though they want to, is that they have this concept or idea that a ‘proper home yoga practice’ is 90 minutes of hot, sweaty asana practice.
With that idea in their head of what it means to practice yoga at home, they already resign themselves to failure. Who has time in today’s busy, modern world to fit a 90 minute yoga practice in?
There’s this idea that anything less than 90 minutes isn’t worth it, isn’t real, and doesn’t count, so why bother?
None of this is true.
First, a home yoga practice is a many and varied thing. It may be asana, but it might also be meditation, pranayama, mantras, kriyas or any combination of these things.
Second, when we practice yoga at home what we’re actually practicing is our ability to drop into a state of Yoga – not our ability to do trikonasana pose. The tools or techniques we use to drop into that state of yoga – like trikonasana – are not the yoga themselves.
This is an important distinction.
It totally shifts our home yoga practice from being about getting x, y, & z done so we can say “I did yoga today’ to being about dropping into a state of being.
And what is this state of being?
It is yoga – in the broadest, most real sense. Yoga as in cessations of the fluctuations of the mind – or at the very least the ability to observe those fluctuations without being identified with them.
That’s yoga – it’s presence, it’s a state of being, and it’s something we can drop into in as little as seven minutes.
Yes, seven minutes. That’s how long it takes us to connect to our breathing, bring awareness to our bodies, and drop out of our minds. In that seven minutes we might be doing a kriya, we might be chanting, we might be doing five sun salutations, we might be sitting in meditation. It doesn’t matter. What we do doesn’t matter. It’s how we do it. And we do it with awareness and presence.
That’s yoga. And that’s what a home yoga practice is about.
Now, I know, you’re thinking…
And you’re be right – it is nothing. Which is why you can easily fit it into your day, every single day. And that is something. That is a regular consistent home yoga practice. With that consistency, great things can grow.
It’s like planting a seed. Say a carrot seed. it’s tiny, it’s nothing, what is that? But plant it and nourish it with the right conditions and it grows into something beautiful.
So too will your seven minutes a day home practice.
First you build the habit of practice. You get in the groove of finding time to practice every day because anyone and everyone can find seven minutes.
Then, out of that habit and out of that groove something magical begins to happen. You discover that you don’t want to stop practicing after seven minutes. It’s too short, you’re just getting started, you want more, you want longer. So you stay. And you start planning your seven minute practice into time slots when there’s the option of staying longer. Soon your practice becomes ten minutes, and then fifteen minutes. Some days you stay for an hour.
Your practice expands to fit your lifestyle and your lifestyle makes room for your practice. On those days when you really don’t have any time to practice at all, you still find you seven minutes because you know you can, and you know it counts.
It counts because it shifts you into a state of Yoga and that state might remain for an hour or five hours or into the next day.
It counts because it maintains the habit and the consistency.
It counts because you’ve become a yogi, someone who practices yoga every day, no matter what.
It counts because it’s just you and your breath taking time to be in your body.
Now, there’s no denying that the results you obtain from a 90 minute sweaty asana practice are different from the results you may attain from a seven minute asana practice.
At least, the results in the body are different. Knowing you only have seven minutes has a way of focusing your intention and your mind so you’re right there, in your practice, from the very first breath. You only have those seven minutes so you make them the very deepest most present seven minutes you possibly can. You can attain a level of being in seven minutes you may never reach in a distracted, half-hearted, 90 minute sweaty asana practice.
And if you truly desire the results of a 90 minute asana practice you can still work toward that. Just don’t let the concept of it stop you from getting on the mat at all. It’s the effect of those concepts that block us, distract us, and keep us from practicing. That’s what we want to become aware of. That’s what we want to inquire into.
So ask yourself, does your concept of what you think a home yoga practice must look like prevent you from having a consistent home practice?
If it does, toss out the concept. Allow yourself to expand your mind and let the yoga be something different. Let it be only seven minutes. Let it be meditation, pranayama or chanting. Let it fit into your lifestyle any way that works.
I’ll give you an example.
Once upon a time, when I worked in the city as a speechwriter for Ministers of Parliament, I had to ride a bus 40 minutes each way every day. That’s almost 90 minutes on public transport every day – 90 minutes when I could have been practicing yoga.
So you know what I did? I turned it into 90 minutes when I was practicing yoga.
Ever morning, I would sit down on the bus and check in with my posture – feet flat, spine erect, hands folded in my lap, gaze soft. And then I would chant a mantra – silently, in my mind – for the entire bus ride. If I got distracted as people got off and on the bus, I’d gently bring my attention back to my posture and back to my mantra.
Suddenly my 90 minute commute had turned into a perfect opportunity for uninterrupted yoga time. And boy did I reap the benefits – by the time my bus pulled up at the Beehive (New Zealand’s version of the Pentagon), I was feeling clear, centred and grounded. It was the perfect way to start my day.
If I’d had a fixed idea that yoga had to be asana practice on the mat, I would never have considered using my daily commute for mantra meditation. What a wasted opportunity it would have been?
So what counts as a home yoga practice?
Anything that drops you into a state of Yoga.
And if you’re ready to start that home yoga practice, there’s no better place than on this website. There’s a mountain of resources including the Free Online Yoga & Meditation Classes, the popular Free Guided Meditation Techniques Series & the Free Yoga Videos Library.
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.