Have you been trying to show up to your home yoga practice under the watchful eye of a rigid internal dictator shouting ‘If I don’t practice, nothing will change!’ ‘Well, I’ve blown it again. Well done me. Another morning wasted’ ‘I don’t know why I even try?’ ‘I’ll get back to it tomorrow but I’ll be really angry at myself if I make any sort of sorry excuse one more time!’?

Sometimes, this works for a little while, but under this sort of regime there is always a coup in the end! Why on earth would you want to spend time each day with this sort of personality. This approach is no good. Not practicing would be a more mindful practice than bringing this sort of quality onto your yoga mat.

Discipline is a funny word. It has all sorts of negative connotations such as hardship and harshness but the root of the word comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil, which also provided the source of the word disciple. This is a much softer way to come to your practice. In your home practice, you are your own teacher and your own pupil. The relationship should be developed over time and with attention to what works for you. Do you know how you learn best? We all have a dominant mode of learning that is linked to our ‘body-type’. We will all have a particularly individual blend of the three modes below. Pick out the mode(s) below that reflect you most. You are likely to have two dominant modes of learning and you will probably be able to pick out one from those that suits you most of all:

  • Visual – you really need to see the practice or read the words to learn it. You want to see a demonstration from both the teacher and those around you on the mat. You can easily follow the route into a pose alongside others doing it, but get lost if you can’t see someone who is demonstrating the move. You notice if the classroom is clean, well put together and the colours around you. You may want to be challenged in your practice and find it harder to take to the softer parts of the class or restorative sequences. You can become over-heated easily and feel like asking the teacher to turn the heat down regularly, or even to open the doors and windows.
  • Auditory – you really need to hear the instructions to the practice and might even mutter them to yourself to help you move into or out of a pose. You love to hear the detailed instructions to a pose and you notice both the silences and the music within the classroom. You also notice if it is hard to hear the teacher or if there is excess noise in or outside the classroom. You may feel anxious in class or about going to class and you gravitate towards teachers that are soft and put you at ease. You can become over-worked more easily and like to have ‘stop gaps’ in between the more challenging sequences. You like to bring layers to keep warm (but you don’t always remember) and take your layers on and off often to suit the heating and cooling poses.
  • Sensory – you really need to feel your body move into the poses in class and then, for your home practice, you remember what it felt like to move in this way. You like to be adjusted. You like to have time to explore a pose for yourself under your own guidance and you are sensitive to becoming cold. You like to bring a blanket and socks and props and blocks to support your practice (and you always remember). Sometimes, you feel as if it would be perfect to just arrive, put some cosy socks on and a blanket over yourself and just lie there in total bliss….but the yoga teacher seems to have ideas of getting up and moving around. Boo!

If you are primarily a visual learner then get yourself onto a yoga website and learn along with one of your favourite teachers online. There are some absolutely fantastic sites now and the quality of instruction is absolutely brilliant. Here’s one of my favourites www.movementformodernlife.com. You aren’t getting adjusts or information that is specific to you, but if you are still able to go to your yoga class once a week, your teacher will be keeping you on track. You can also get more out of a good yoga book than those yogis that aren’t visual learners.

If you are primarily an auditory learner, there is a fantastic yoga website that is auditory only. It’s called AudibleYoga https://audibleyoga.com/yoga-class-search. You don’t need to waste your time setting up your mat where you can see your computer or ipad because it isn’t as valuable a resource for you to see the teacher. You can also go onto the yoga website above, but you won’t need to watch the teacher as much. The only problem with this is that some yoga videos are assuming that you are watching. Auditory yoga websites will be making sure that you don’t miss one single instruction as every instruction will be verbalised.

If you are primarily a kineshetic or sensory learner, you are best supported by 121 sessions with a qualified teacher. It is very hard for you to get to the right place without a little hands on and having the luxury of exploring the pose for yourself in your own time. Although it seems like an expensive way to create a home practice, a little goes a long way. Depending on your needs, you can get a home practice created and taught to you with one or two 121’s and use this practice at home for about 2-4 months (1 or 2 seasons). Please note, this is different if you are booking 121’s to manage an injury, using it as a therapy to manage a health condition or booking sessions alongside a yoga teacher training course.

  1. Getting the quantity vs quality ratio is hugely important in your home yoga practice. If you are aiming for a 1 1/2 hour yoga session every single day and you work a 60 hour week and have 3 kids…..you are creating stress not a yoga practice (probably, there are always exceptions!).

When we get the quantity/quality ration wrong we can end up feeling either like we are getting nothing out of our regular practice or that we never seem to get on our mat anymore. Both of these scenarios will eventually end up in the ‘roll up’. That poor mat will just get rolled up and stuffed somewhere that the sun doesn’t shine.

So, what are quantity and quality? Quantity is easy. How often do you want to practice? Here’s a little quantity yoga guide.

  • 1 x week — you don’t want to feel any worse than you already do!
  • 2 x week — you’re happy where you are and you want to maintain it
  • 3 x week – you want to see improvement. You want to get that feeling that your yoga practice is helping you with the things that feel ‘difficult’ to you whether that is emotional, physical or mental strength
  • 4 x week – You want to heal. You feel broken and you want to heal.
  • 5 x week – You want to put a massive effort in and create a new life.
  • 6 x week – You want to understand the meaning of life, the universe and everything and you are willing to put that time in on the mat damn it!
  • 7 x week – You need a day off. Don’t take this option. If you went straight here, read the part about a dictatorship above again:)

Now, quality. Quality is about what you are getting out of your time on the mat. You can spend an hour and a half on your mat and feel like to just got wrung out to dry or you can feel like you’ve been on a yoga retreat morning. You can spend 5 minutes on your mat thinking of your shopping list or 5 minutes in meditation in deep communion with ‘your higher Source’. The time, in this perspective, is of no value. It is the quality that leads your practice where you would like it to go.

Add in quality to your practice via:

  • OM – Free your voice and Om from your core belly 1 – 3 x at the start of each practice
  • Nadi Shodhana/Alternate nostril breathing (there are some great instructional videos online) – 3 minutes
  • Moving energy via the 5 spinal movements – backbend, forward fold, twist, side bend and lengthen the spine – 1 minute to 1 hour
  • Savasana – rest the spine
  • Meditation on the breath – 3 minutes.
  1. Get right into the benefits of the pose as they are TO YOU. Every pose, like every person, has a specific relationship to you. Just because the teacher has a ‘good relationship’ to the pose and you see it in every yoga class, doesn’t mean that it is a great pose for you.

Poses are music to the Yogi soul. Each power point in the body (7 chakra) and all the mini power points (acupressure or marma points) vibrate at a certain frequency. As we move into a pose such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), this chord of vibrations hits the nervous system and plays a tune on you at a deep cellular level. Your cells, in response, are either dancing away joyfully (creating health) or they have their hands over their ears saying ‘turn it down please!’ It is your job to notice the difference.

Start paying attention in class and seek out your ‘dance moves’. Which poses enlighten you? Which poses expand your conciousness? Which poses feel like medicine to your body and mind? Are they restful or dynamic poses? Are they backbends, forward folds, sidebends, spine lengtheners, twists or spinal rest movements? Are they requiring you to ‘up your breathing rate’ or calm down your breathing? Notice your power poses and add them into your home yoga practice. Learn what your power poses are good for (ask your teacher) and what they symbolise in ancient myth. Let this enquire your home yoga practice further.

When we remove the dictating tone from our home health care practices and replace it with a quality practice delivered in a way that is easy for us to learn, filled with poses that we have a great relationship with, it actually becomes hard to miss a practice!