By Louise Applebome
We know that the arrival of COVID-19 and the pandemic changed people’s habits and lifestyles. More time at home. Fewer opportunities for going out or gathering with friends and family. Working from home.
So, a natural deduction might be that many folks would have used that bonus time to ramp up their solo, home-based exercise and yoga routines.
But, the reality is, whether before, during, or after being forced into lockdown, getting disciplined about a solo home yoga practice can be a challenge. This has been an age-old dilemma and quandary. How do we find the motivation to practice yoga at home, away from a classroom setting, without the guidance of a teacher? I would expand the criteria to include without any recorded or live stream classes, too.
Even at the height of isolation, there were still plenty of activities/interests competing for your time. Now that restrictions have been relaxed and lifted to some degree, there’s even more to divert your attention and concentration.
Many of us would rather hightail it into the kitchen to bake or to cook. Lounging with a good book can be hard to beat. Getting lost while surfing around the web or looking at Instagram and/or Facebook can keep us riveted for more hours than we’d probably care to admit. And, there’s no limit to 24/7 podcasts, online courses, movies, television series, etc., etc.
Group classes, virtual and in-person, are all essential to grow and learn. So, I understand that if/when you do get yourself to the mat, sans an instructor, you can get stymied by not having a clear path about what to do.
Again, these are common obstacles for many or most.
So, here are a few ideas:
#1. Schedule time for yourself on the mat and put it in your paper or digital calendar. Don’t have thirty minutes or an hour? Ten minutes is better than nothing. How much time can you spare? Decide how many home solo sessions you want to commit to and lock in the days and the times. You wouldn’t stand up friends, family, or business associates without a good reason. So, you’re certainly worth that same respect and consideration.
#2. Have a good supply of yoga props. That includes, minimally, a yoga mat, two yoga blocks, two or three yoga blankets, and a 10-foot yoga strap.
#3. Arrive at your mat on time for your scheduled solo sessions. Start by sitting. Sit in a cross-legged position up on blankets on your mat (or sit in a chair); pay attention to your breath and begin “letting go” of distractions, “noise” and “clutter” that has followed you to the mat; find a peaceful and quiet internal essence/energy, and what comes next may easily reveal itself to you.
#4. Follow your instincts and intuition as you move from pose to pose.
#5. Or, if you struggle and get frustrated because you don’t know what you should do, then have a backup plan. You might try a sampler…a yoga “pu pu platter” of sorts. If you include a forward bend; a back bend; a side bend; a lunge; a twist; and resting at the end of class, you’re set! It’s not very complicated. Granted, all of those categories are chock full of possibilities. You might start by selecting poses you know and like.
#6. Or, you might focus on a region of the body and curate a series of poses to relax the lower back; or tone the hip flexors and hip rotators; or strengthen the oblique/core muscles in the abdominal cavity, as a few examples.
Then, as you get more comfortable in your solo home practice, you might deviate more. Maybe you dedicate a full session to just one group of poses, like forward bends, for example. Or, maybe there’s a pose you struggled with in a recent class and you let it be the star of the curriculum on a given day.
The key: GET TO THE MAT. Sit, and trust your instincts. Show up.
Other reminders: Always warm up properly as you explore an assortment of poses (asanas). Approach all poses with care and competency. Stay smart; stay safe. And, the personal and private time “on the mat” may be the perfect way for you to find the modifications that work for you in a pose; and to figure out which props are needed to maximize the benefits and pleasure.
There can be such liberation in not being confined and limited to a teacher’s curriculum and timing. You get to determine the pace of the session and when and what to do next and for how long.
Also, stay away from mirrors if you can. The two-dimensional reflection (and/or fixation) is counter-productive. Yoga is an inside-out exploration. As difficult as it often is, it’s helpful not to obsess over what a pose looks like from the outside.
And, know that the more you show up for your appointments with yourself on the yoga mat, the more confident and comfortable you will be in those alone sessions.
And, please pardon and forgive yourself for any reluctance you have to practice yoga at home on your own. Cut yourself some slack. You are not alone.
News flash!: This is not a contest or a competition.
But, as you feel better and better in mind, body, heart, and soul after your solo forays onto the mat, you’ll not only show up for your appointments with yourself, you may even want to increase their frequency.
And you might also discover elation and joy and revelation on your own that’s different from that which you experience under the guidance of a teacher.
Getting into closer touch with your authentic self; listening to cues and prompts from your body; negotiating how long you stay in a pose or how many times you repeat it; finding your natural rhythm and flow…That’s yoga.
Louise Applebome, 68, is a Certified Yoga Instructor in Dallas. After “retiring” from a vibrant and varied professional career, she became a yoga teacher. She teaches all her classes on Zoom right now and accepts students, young or older, from wherever they are, both geographically and in their pursuit of a yoga practice. Louise will help you stay fit and flexible, and release tension, aches & pains from the body…and the mind. Her yoga studio in Dallas is del norte yoga. You can reach out to her at [email protected].