A teacher’s perspective with Evelyn Mizell
Years ago, at a studio in Montgomery, Alabama, where I had a membership I frequently heard a teacher comment to students, “You have a beautiful practice.” At this point my asana practice was just a couple of years old. When I couldn’t get to a studio, I popped in a DVD and set out my mat. Hearing a teacher comment on the beauty of practice I wondered what does a ‘beautiful practice’ – or even a ‘practice’ – really mean? Did these students just go to a ton of classes? Was I part of the ‘beautiful practice’ club?
I racked my brain, subscribed to Yoga Journal, and researched the heck out of this ‘practice’ thing to find out that part of a yoga practice can be self-guided and at home. But where to start, and how would I keep it going without a teacher or a DVD to follow? At first upon embarking on a home practice I felt completely overwhelmed.
I’ve learned a lot through years of sustaining a home practice – some things learned from teachers but a lot from personal trial and error. My hope with the list of suggestions below is that they spur you to engage in a meaningful practice – a beautiful practice as YOU define it – in a place you call home.
Practicing at home is tricky because there will always be household chores or other needs that require your attention, and there is more temptation to step off your mat and attend to them. Find spaces that are further away from those chores. Worry about how clean the kitchen is constantly? If your kitchen is on the main floor of your house, practice in the basement or on the second floor. Shuffle around until you’ve found the right space. When you do, if you are able, make it your own. Like incense or the smell of lavender? Set a stick or candle next to your mat or props and consider this your special place.
An Iyengar teacher once turned her head and told me, “This is a yoga practice.” She lifted her arm overhead and said, “This is a yoga practice.” While I think yoga can be more nuanced than that the point is that starting simply with only a couple of poses at a time can be profound. Consider poses you enjoy doing in the studio. If Cat/Cow speaks to you in a group class because it warms the muscles along the spine and helps you move efficiently – or maybe you just think it feels good – bring that to your mat. Stumped by a pose that you saw in class? Explore it further in your own body? The ability to mess around on your mat at home will allow new poses to feel more familiar the next time you step in the studio.
Don’t Set Time Limits
One of the easiest ways to kill a home practice is to insist that it be as long as a studio class. Only have 20 minutes? That’s completely fine. Consider what your body craves that day, and then step on your mat and move your body through those poses. You can flow, or work on one type of pose, or even work on mobility and ease in a single joint. The more pressure you put on the time and the aesthetics of your home practice the less likely you are to practice.
Anything Can be a Prop
Worried your home practice won’t be as effective because you don’t have fancy props? Many household items can bridge the gap. Neckties, karate belts, and hand towels used in the kitchen or bathroom can take the place of a yoga strap so that you can perform those seated forward folds from class. Thick books serve as great blocks. Use them under the hand to come into Triangle or under the sacrum for Supported Bridge. And you’ve got a wall, right? Use it for Legs Up the Wall or a series of hip openers like Cobbler’s Pose, Wide Legged Fold, or Supine Pigeon.
Change it Up
When starting a home practice, it makes sense to practice the same pose or sequence of poses over and over. It’s a good way to see results and progression. But after awhile, it can become a bit of a crutch. Consider shaking things up. If you find that you are constantly doing a “flow” practice whenever you step on your mat give Restorative or Yin a try. Had an extremely stressful or busy day? Why not work with pranayama or meditation? Through exploration you might find another type of yoga to love.
BONUS TIP! Ask Questions
A yoga teacher’s relationship with their students does not end the moment the lights come back on after Savasana. We are here to support you in both your studio and home practices. If you need help picking poses or setting up sequences, don’t hesitate to ask. We would love to help!
Having completed her 200HR training with 532Yoga in Alexandria, VA, Evelyn provides an engaging and creative flow while setting her students at ease.
She is interested in yoga for mobility and injury prevention and enjoys focusing on the anatomical aspects of a physical practice.
She is currently in her 500HR Advanced Teacher Training.