My teacher often compares regular home yoga practice with flossing. He jokes that you should only floss around the teeth that you want to keep. When I first heard this analogy, I understood it on the mental level: you floss to both get rid of the waste (food particles) and to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Similarly, regular home practice helps you let go of things you don’t need (tension, sluggishness, restlessness, etc.) and keeps you healthy and more content.
At the time I was not in a habit of flossing regularly, so the analogy remained abstract for me. Fast forward few years and nowadays flossing is an integral part of my self-care routine. The other day I had a visceral experience related to it. We ran out of floss. The first feeling I got when I discovered it, was dread. I could not imagine going to bed without flossing. The images of food remnants stuck in my teeth were overwhelming as I rummaged through my husband’s travel case and “hallelujah!” found brand new floss. First I experienced great relief, but then couldn’t help but laugh at my mini-drama. And then I really understood my teacher’s analogy. By establishing a consistent home yoga practice we come to a place where we cannot go without; when it becomes such an integral part of life that we cannot imagine skipping it. One of my peer teachers put it this way: “I’ve arrived at a place where I could not NOT meditate”.
We all have different ideas about what our home yoga practice SHOULD look like, and often those ideas can become a hindrance. If I believe that my practice should be at least 1 hour long, I will be less likely to do it, since it’s not easy to carve out an hour every single day. There is a saying: “Doing nothing changes nothing, doing something changes everything”, which is very true when it comes to a home yoga practice. If you resolve to do something (no matter how small) every day, you are more likely to continue and turn it into a healthy habit.
What is it about regular home practice that makes it so important?
If you are a yoga student, how do you want to feel when you start your day? I have yet to meet a student who PREFERS to feel grumpy, stiff and restless in the morning. You would probably want to start your day feeling comfortable in your body, energized and focused. Even a very simple yoga practice (example below) can do that for you.
What if you are dealing with a specific issue (tension, a health problem, an undesirable pattern of behavior)? Then an appropriate regular yoga practice becomes even more important. Remember Einstein’s definition of insanity? It’s “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. If your previous patterns of movement or behavior got you in trouble, how are you going to replace them with a more desirable pattern if you don’t practice?
If you are a yoga teacher, a regular home practice becomes more of a necessity. As yoga teachers, we are not only responsible for our own sense of well-being, but also for the kind of energy and attitude we bring to our students. Your home yoga practice is an opportunity to:
- Take care of yourself (physically, energetically and mentally)
- To experiment with tools and techniques that you might eventually teach to your students
- To inspire you
- To keep your teaching fresh, potent and versatile
- To help you connect to your students
- To remind you why you are doing yoga in the first place, and many more.
It’s not just about “limbering up” for the day ahead, but about setting the tone for the entire day. And your practice doesn’t have to be perfect; in fact, it doesn’t have to be anything. As long as it’s mindful, it matters.
I love how Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras always has an answer to everything. Remember Sutra 1-22? The speed of your progress on the path of change is in direct proportion to your faith and the effort you put into it. Meaning that if you are only mildly interested in transformation and attend to it occasionally, it will take you a lo-o-ong time to get there. If your interest is strong and the practice is consistent, then you will progress faster. And of course, if you are completely committed to your goal and practice your yoga on and off the mat all the time, the transformation will be rapid.