Yoga self practice -- it’s a daunting yet incomparably nourishing endeavor. Not only does it lead to creative and exploratory movement but it also deepens your awareness of and relationship with your body, breath, and mind as you allow yourself to be guided by your immediate needs.
However, it can be a real challenge to build a self practice. Whether at the studio or on YouTube, we are used to a teacher guiding us through a sequence, so when we step onto the mat at home it can feel tough to figure out what exactly to do. Here are some insights I picked up while cultivating my own self practice over the years:
The main thing you need to do to build a self practice is spend time on your mat. Do not worry about spending a certain amount of time there, though. 5 minutes of movement can be a fabulous place to start. Personally, I find that having a mat unrolled somewhere in my house serves as a good reminder. Even if I’m still in my work clothes, I’ll step onto the mat and give myself a few moments to simply move in ways that feel good.
If you play some good music, you’ll find it easier to let go and allow your body to move. This might mean a nice yoga playlist found on Spotify, but it could also mean a playlist of your personal favorite dancing songs. Anything that inspires you to sink into the moment and connect with your body is fair game.
You don’t need to have a preset sequence to go to as you step onto the mat. In fact, not having one will open the door for you to be more responsive to your body, breath, and mind as you go. However, it can be super helpful to have a rough template to use as you go, and thinking of strengthening and lengthening through each main zone of the body can be a great way to progress through a flow.
The main zones of the body are: shoulders, spine, and hips. These areas can move in many ways. A simple way to think about it is: side to side, front to back, and twisting / rotating.
Each of these zones can move through each of these ranges of motion in an active way (working against gravity -- strengthening) or a passive way (gravity assists -- lengthening). For example, we can extend the hip while standing by finding Warrior III. This is very active and therefore strengthens the back hip.
If we bring this pose closer to the floor - by lowering the back knee to the mat and finding a low lunge - the pose becomes passive. Gravity pulls us deeper, which stretches / lengthens the back hip through that same extended range of motion.
Self practice can be guided in this manner -- active first (to warm up and prepare the body) and then passive. Do this through each zone and each range of motion and you’ll quickly have built yourself a 30min flow. Alternatively, you can prioritize zones and ROMs to shorten your practice.
Remember that self practice should be fun. Allow yourself to be curious; maybe you try that pose you saw on Instagram, or you try to see how many different back bends you can do throughout a single flow. Whatever it is, let yourself be playful and curious throughout and you’ll soon crave that time alone on the mat.
Brooke is a contributing author for Tada Rugs. Tada Rugs is a 5x7 yoga mat disguised as an artistic area rug that you never have to put away. Tada is short for tadasana, or mountain pose, and our own backyard in the San Juan Mountains of Durango, Colorado is where we find our inspiration. Check out our new designs, enter for a chance to win a new Tada Rug, and be sure to follow us for deals and insider specials! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, or contact us through our website! Tie a room together and bring your practice home.
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