I had a my first child last summer, and for many months after, it was hard to get back to a yoga class. So I practiced mainly at home, offsetting the sleep I was deprived of with gentle restorative postures and breathing exercises, even if only for 10 minutes a day. It was a magical time, as my newborn son was learning to regulate his breathing, I lay beside him practicing the deep soothing breaths of pranayama. Eventually I felt ready to join classes again, but I’ve found it challenging to make it there with my new family commitments and part-time work schedule. So, I continue to practice mainly at home. It has become my lifeline to self care.
To remind myself to practice, I leave a mat rolled out, inviting me to do as much as I feel would be helpful for each day. The minute I can sneak away from my napping infant, before I check my email, finish a cup of coffee or starting tidying up the house, I practice. My daily practice ranges somewhere between thirty minutes to an hour. If there is time left over and he is still sleeping I start on my other tasks, but if I don’t practice, I regret it for the rest of the day.
We find ourselves drawn to yoga for unique reasons. At some point along your yogic path you’ll encounter your inner teacher. Your inner teacher is your body’s intelligence, intuition, imagination, wisdom, and curiosity. Going to yoga classes offers a great way to stay motivated, to learn from an experienced teacher and gain useful information on your alignment from an outside eye, especially for newer students. However, if that is all you do, it sets up the expectation that you will always be instructed from an external source and always be told how long to hold a pose and what to do next. In my experience it is crucial to also leave the time and space for your own discoveries. In a home practice you can check in with what your needs are for that particular moment and really listen. Your practice can reflect what you are trying to bring into balance for that day.
When I feel lost on what to work on, or unmotivated, I check back on notes I’ve made from classes or workshops with other teachers, find an online video or podcast to follow, or open a yoga book. Sometimes it only takes one or two poses from an external source to motivate me, and then I can follow through with my own design from there. I’ve also gone back to practicing with an experienced teacher about once a week, which I find very stimulating for my home practice.
Another helpful tip I can share is to think of your practice as a ritual. Turning the practice, or the time you devote to it, into a ritual, is a reminder that you are doing something good for yourself. Finding a ritual associated with your practice helps to establish it as a repeatable habit, and reduces the chance that you might skip it.
My new ritual is putting my son down for his nap. The quiet time we spend together as he is falling asleep centres me for my practice. But a ritual for yoga can be something simple like sweeping the floor before you roll out your mat, or lighting a candle. You don't need to sweep or light the candle to do the poses, but it will serve as a signal to yourself that you are ready to focus. When you're done, blow out the candle, roll up your mat and go on with your day. I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t regret it.
Meghan is an Iyengar yoga instructor, professional dance artist and a new mother. She began practicing yoga in 1998 and teaching in 2006, after completing a 200-hour teacher training program through Flow Yoga. Seeking more information on how to work with a wider range of students, Meghan began studying Iyengar yoga in 2008. With the guidance of Louie Ettling, Meghan completed the Intro 2 teaching certification in 2013. For Meghan, Iyengar yoga has become the steady path to finding stability and space in the body, the antidote to a physically demanding and busy lifestyle, and a method for moving deeper in the practice with intelligence and care. www.meghangoodman.com