As the 8 Limbs 28 Day Commitment (February 1-28) nears, I’d like make sure everyone knows that we at 8 Limbs consider this daily practice support program an opportunity to dive into the breadth of practice. While practice in a studio can be wonderful (and is what we have built our business and community on!), it’s not the only game in town.
You may have heard talk about the elusive “Personal Practice” or “Home Practice” in yoga circles. The label Home Practice refers to a practice done in one’s own home; Personal Practice is just another moniker. It refers to your personal and individual practice, as opposed to a group led class experience. Personal practice can be done in a group, as done in a traditional Mysore Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga class, but the main component is that you are following your own pace and progress, and tailor the practice to the time and circumstances of the day, your stage in life, and what you individually need from practice.
I honestly alternate between the two names, but you might consider for yourself which word makes this kind of practice feel more alive and inspiring. For some home is a cozy, comfortable, great place to be, for others it doesn’t allow space or quiet, and a yoga studio is an oasis in comparison.
To me the key is that you claim some practice time, maybe daily, maybe a few times a week, when you are drawing from your own awareness and knowing and guide yourself in a yoga practice. This helps to cultivate a sense of one’s inner teacher, called “Satguru” in Sanskrit. It’s great to learn from an outside teacher but also important to be able to listen within, to trust that we already know quite a bit and can put it to use.
There can be a lot to consider when designing a practice. Practitioners go to Teacher Training to learn how to sequence a practice, to understand what poses to use for what situations or people. 8 Limbs Teacher Training Instructor Melina Meza has three terrific books on sequencing and posture modifications that are a great support tool for home practice (and available at 8 Limbs studios).
But we can also just keep it simple. I work with lots of pregnant women and new moms. My regular suggestion to them is: “during this class, notice a pose that feels good, that helps your body be more stable and at ease.” I then suggest that they do that one pose at least one time before our next weekly class. Chances are it’ll feel good and they’ll do another, and yet another pose. That is the start of a home practice!
Another approach is to ask the simple question: What do I need today? Do I need to do five strong sun salutations to get my body moving in the morning? Do I need to sit and breath in and out for ten minutes to help my mind calm down at the end of a workday? Do I need to strengthen my lower back and core so that I have less pain?
If you don’t know how to address those answers, a private with a favorite yoga teacher is one way to go, but you can also be a yoga scientist. Experiment! Take notes! Notice what the effects are of the poses and practices, and use them to manage your body and mind.
Whatever you think about Home/Personal Practice, my main suggestion is that you just try it! Like cooking delicious healthy food or knitting your own sweater, a home practice is a creative and nourishing enterprise. Pull out your mat and get started!
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer, Founder