Since my first yoga class, a few years ago now, I have taken many classes, in a lot of different studios and in various parts of the world. I have had the pleasure to be taught by many teachers and, while some of those classes were challenging at times, the hardest practice by far has always been my home practice. It is not more challenging in terms of sequence or postures, although it can be if I want it to be; it is simply the most challenging to maintain and cultivate.
I have been lucky enough to have access to yoga studios/rooms because they were very often part of my training or work environments, therefore taking classes in a studio was, most of the time, the best and most convenient option for me. I still would practise things that I was working on, before and after class as well as at home but, up until recently, a studio practice was my prevalent form of yoga. Then, last year, I began to practise at home more and more.
Studio Practice versus Home Practice
I love both and I believe that they both offer great benefits. Practising in a studio can really open the mind and body to do things that perhaps we shy away from when practising on our own. Students may feel more at ease and safe in a group environment, especially when starting out or they may feel more inspired when witnessing the progress of fellow yogis. Another positive aspect of a studio practice is the teacher/student relationship; the teacher’s encouragements and corrections can deeply affect one’s understanding of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). A studio also has the advantage to have everything at the ready to facilitate relaxation and motivation. Nowadays most studios take care of everything for you; the hardest part of taking class is often just to get there as, once you are there, in the room, with the teacher and other students, you have committed to your practice for whichever length of time it may be. You always have a choice to stop at any point, in any given class of course but it is much harder to give up on something you 1.are paying for and 2.have made the effort to travel to. I have had classes when, due to whatever personal challenges that day, I wanted to leave as soon as I walked into the room but dedcided against it and I always, always felt better for it afterwards. The voice of the teacher, the focus on the breath and postures would always carry me away from my worries, at least for little while if not for the rest of the day.
In comparison, maintaining a consistent home practice can be extremely difficult at times when the main source of motivation is yourself. Being in charge means that you’re the one who has to manage the many distractions which can present themselves at home such as a tempting sofa after work, kids, housemates, TV, food, a partner and the list goes on. However, when you do put all the distractions aside and make space (physically and mentally) to care for yourself, that little time of practice is every bit more rewarding. Practising at home develops many skills such as discipline, mental strength and self-awareness because it puts you in control of your practice. As much as I love to let a teacher take me into their own practice and sequencing, the big plus about home practice is that I can stay in postures for as long as I want to and change things up according to how I am feeling at the time. At home there is room to fully listen to your inner voice and really go with your flow and become “your very own best teacher”. The latter is a phrase I have heard a few times in class and, to me, it tells students to follow their instincts, to listen to the voice inside all of us which guides us and, ultimately and more importantly perhaps, it encourages students to not limit the yoga practice to the comfort of a yoga room but to take it everywhere else with them.
Start Slow & Simple and Build from There
Make time for yourself: that is what yoga is about, self-care, so any window of time you have in your day will do to start with. It is good to work on creating a ritual in the long run but, at the beginning, taking any opportunity that presents itself to practise is probably best so that you are not too hard on yourself in the eventuality you miss a day or two. Let it build organically.
Keep it simple: create a basic sequence of 2 to 3 postures (or more if you feel like it) and a breathing exercise to begin with. The more you do it the more your body will open up so that, over time, you will be able to incorporate more postures as your body will start to crave the practice and you gradually dedicate more time to it.
Invest in a good mat: a mat is a very personal part of your practise and really is the only thing you need to transform your room into a studio. It is also a bit of an investment which gives motivation, as long as it’s not tucked away out of sight in the lost causes closet.
Explore & play: read books, magazines or blogs, watch videos (there are so many on youtube to choose from), take studio classes to find inspiration if you feel stuck then experiment on your own. Have fun discovering what your body can and cannot do and challenge it.
Give yourself a goal when ready: once you start practising regularly then make goals to keep things interesting and demanding.
Acceptance & Growth
I have learned something about myself in every class I have taken in the 16 years I have been practising, be it in a studio or at home but, in the comfort of my own space I know that I allow myself to be that little bit more accepting of my body’s challenges and abilities. Practising yoga is a life journey on and off the mat and I see home practice as the bridge that connects what I learn in a studio environment closer to my work, social, family and love life. It is fairly easy to meditate or find relaxation in a room full of like-minded people and away from our everyday world, it is much harder to remember to take deep breaths the next time someone invades what you think is your personal space or tests your limits.
Raphaelle Romana is a yoga teacher who has been exploring the wonders of yoga for almost 16 years now. She is passionate about health, well-being, creativity and movement among many interests; some of which she shares on www.arcenciel-therapy.com