Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

My so-called home yoga practice

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When I was a newly enamored yoga student, I spent many a failed morning trying to coax myself onto the mat at home. How could I create the same heightened experience I'd had at the studio when I might go into downward dog and see an overflowing laundry basket behind me? Because my yoga practice had been so influential and transformative, I felt like each time I stepped on the mat I needed to have that peak experience. I had over-exotified my practice, made it too precious, thereby ensuring that it was not my own but rather something only my yoga teacher could gift to me during a studio class.



It took time and lots of trial and error to figure out how to consistently be able to practice at home, and the most helpful thing in that process was to take away all expectations of the magic of yoga and bring the practice back down to earth. Here are a few tips that helped me when I was having trouble getting motivated:

1. Don’t change. Practice in whatever clothes you are already wearing. Pajamas, work clothes, it doesn’t really matter. You’re not going to do splits or a backbend, so there’s no need to wear fancy yoga gear. The process of changing into your ‘yoga uniform’ can put unnecessary pressure on you and gives the practice too much importance. Doing Warrior 2 in shorts and a t-shirt makes yoga feel within your grasp.

2. Keep it short. Aim to practice for 5-10 minutes at first. Pick 1 or 2 of your favorite poses, then gradually build up your practice a bit more. For most of us, a max of 20 minutes at home is plenty. You want your practice to be fun rather than feeling guilty that you didn’t do an hour and a half as you would in class. Save the long practice for your time at the studio.

3. Skip the yoga mat. Sometimes if I just sneak in a stretch or two, I find my body wanting more. That first stretch or pose is the hardest, so if you ease into it you’ll usually find the next one comes more easily.

4. Relax. Whatever poses you pick, make sure you add Savasana to the list! Lying down to relax for a few minutes after practicing will reinforce the message that yoga practice feels good and is something you want to continue. It’s a good time to observe how even your brief home practice affected your body and mind, so savor these few precious minutes of quiet and stillness in your otherwise busy day.

This concept of making yoga less intimidating, less exotic, is one of the biggest goals my husband Zach and I had when opening Bloom. I vividly remembered how as a new student and self-professed yoga fanatic, I found it difficult to reconcile the transformative experiences I had on my mat with the rest of my life. The transitions can be almost comical - one minute I'm overwhelmed with sensations of peace and wellbeing in savasana, the next I'm yelling at the kids to stop pinching each other. I love the idea of making yoga just another part of daily life. It doesn’t have to be compartmentalized, it's not some ideal state of being to aspire to only when I have time to make it to the studio.

I like to think of yoga as just another self-care routine, like brushing my teeth or eating a good breakfast. It is an ongoing process of creating health in the midst of, rather than in spite of, my daily existence. After I've done my 5 minutes I'm more aware of my posture, my breath is deeper, I chew and taste my food rather than gulping it down, and if I'm lucky I hang onto just a little of that post-savasana peace (at least until my next refereeing obligation). It may be messy, but the process of letting yoga practice filter into daily life normalizes that which I once put on a pedestal. Here's to taking it down, dusting it off, and putting it to good use.

Kerry is the Founder & Director of Bloom Yoga Studio, voted Best Yoga Studio in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, and Citysearch. As a practicing yogi, writer, and mother of three, Kerry is all about making the principles and philosophies of yoga real and accessible for day-to-day living. You can find Kerry on Google+.

Comments

  • Hanna Wednesday, 29 June 2011

    This is your best column/blog yet! I don't know if your ears have been burning, but our family has been talking about you a lot lately regarding the way you intentionally live in the city and try to make a difference in your neighborhood and in the kids' schools. You are such a wonderful role model for us!
    When I read this blog, I thought that a lot of what you said about your yoga practice integrating better into your life would apply perfectly to integrating my faith practice into MY life, instead of reserving it for a 1.5 hour spiritual high on Sundays. Great encouragement for me!
    Love you!
    H

  • Tara C. Wednesday, 29 June 2011

    Welcome back, Thinking Yogi! Great article. I was just reading the new July / August "Yoga Chicago" and having a chuckle over the On the Mat cartoon which addresses the topic of home practice. If not the pets, as you mention, the biggest challenge with home practice is spotting housework!

  • Delia Wednesday, 29 June 2011

    Excellent advice. Exotified. Great word.

    Personally, I also find the Yoga Journal podcasts helpful. Either video or just the audio -- both work well. I guess that's cheating, because that's still somebody else telling me what to do, but I need that extra guidance.

    Nothing replaces what happens in your classes. But I enjoy each day more, keeping the practice alive between trips to Bloom :)

  • Cynthia Sanders-Grush Wednesday, 29 June 2011

    After much hesitation and searching all over the city of Chicago it seems to find a yoga center where I could really explore and felt at home, my husband gave me 10 classes as a Christmas gift. Although I do not get to your classes as often as I like, Bloom has been a very pleasant surprise for me. I must say, I enjoy your writing as much as the classes. Keep it up..your an inspiration and a breath of fresh air.

  • Kerry Maiorca Thursday, 30 June 2011

    So glad the post was helpful to you, Hanna. Wouldn't it be great if we could all incorporate the things that kept us happy and healthy on a regular/daily basis? An ongoing challenge for me......good luck in your pursuit of integration!

  • Kerry Maiorca Thursday, 30 June 2011

    Thanks Tara, it's good to be back! Part of what I love about practicing at home is that there are so many other things I COULD be doing, but knowing that I've chosen to do make the time for yoga practice makes it even more enjoyable. That is, when I don't have someone sitting on my face during savasana......

  • Kerry Maiorca Thursday, 30 June 2011

    Any yoga is good yoga, that's what I always say! Podcast or not, the fact that you're practicing at home is wonderful, Delia. At first it can be overwhelming to practice in your home where there are so many distractions. Having a little help can make it possible to get started. Enjoy your home practice in whatever form it's taking right now, there's plenty of time to let it evolve!

    Thanks for the kind message, so glad to hear that you're enjoying our classes at Bloom!

  • Kerry Maiorca Thursday, 30 June 2011

    Thanks so much for the kind note, Cynthia. I'm glad you enjoy my posts, I really enjoy writing them! Hope to see you again soon.

  • Suzanne Friday, 08 July 2011

    Yeah, Kerry! I am new to Bloom, and the time I have spent there these past few weeks have meant so much. So happy you are continuing with the blog!!! I love it. (And need it--Particularly the most recent post.) :) Thank you!

  • Kerry Maiorca Friday, 08 July 2011

    Welcome to Bloom, Suzanne! Glad to hear you enjoyed the post and hope to see you around the studio again soon.

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