Hello dear friends!
One of the toughest things I had to let go of, when I got sick many years ago, was my hard-core yoga practice. In the months before my illness hit, I was practicing regularly, attending advanced vinyasa classes, and really feeling good about the poses I was mastering. However, once I was struck down with mysterious symptoms, I could barely muster the energy to take a shower, much less devote an hour or more a day to strenuous practice.
I distinctly remember the first time I attempted yoga after my forced hiatus: it was a 5-minute chair yoga sequence I found online. As I sat in my chair, in my living room, I found myself frustrated and on the verge of tears as I got out of breath, muscles shaking, after only 90 seconds. It was just one of many moments of grieving during that period, and the years to follow it. However, I’ve never given up on my yoga practice.
Today, looking back, I am thoroughly convinced that yoga saved my life. Having something to come back to, a way of moving my body (especially on the days I spent 8+ hours in bed), and a method to connect with my breath again, was such sacred medicine. No, for the first several months, my practice wasn’t “impressive.” It was nowhere near what I used to do. There were no handstands, no chaturangas, no difficult poses at all. But this was really where I found what true yoga was.
When I was young and healthy, I took a very Western, secular view of yoga. It was a way to stretch, to sweat, and to cross-train for my running and cycling events. Now, I have such a rich, deep understanding of yoga, and how it can change your life, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I’ve learned that yoga is not just asana. It is breath. It is intention. It is compassion in motion. And that it doesn’t have to be difficult to “count.” Anyone can do yoga. Regardless of body shape or size, of ability or disability, of spiritual leaning or non.
These days, I’m back to practicing on a regular basis, but now with a temperance and self-inquiry that I didn’t have before. And I’ve come to really see the value in a home-based practice. At first, I was hesitant to practice at home. It didn’t feel “real” to me. I wasn’t surrounded by people, in a big fancy studio, wearing my nicest spandex (eyeroll, I know…). Honestly, I think it was the fear of being at home, alone, with my thoughts, that was underpinning this resistance. The fear of truly seeing myself, acknowledging my body’s limitations, and showing up, over and over, broken-hearted, on the mat. But it was those moments that truly transformed me.
I confess, I haven’t been to a yoga studio in several years. It honestly doesn’t appeal to me much anymore. I’ve gotten to the point where I am so accustomed to my body, my space, and my pace, that it doesn’t seem worth it to pay lots of money and drive a long way, to show up and not even know if I’ll like the class or be able to follow the poses. I’m sure I will find a home studio again one day, but in the meantime, I am relishing my own home practice.
I’ve come to enjoy the benefits of home-based yoga, which include:
- Temperature control- most yoga studios feel too hot for me, and tend to exacerbate my symptoms.
- No dress code- I’ve practiced many times in my pajamas, or even in my underwear- something that’s definitely frowned upon in public!
- Flexible start times- my energy levels tend to fluctuate during the day, so I have the freedom to practice exactly when I feel ready.
- Personalized level and/or theme- I love being able to choose exactly what I want to work on, with the theme and difficulty level of each practice. I can find a yoga class to perfectly match my mood and my energy every day.
- Freedom to stop or rewind- yoga is so much nicer when I can click a button to pause or rewind a practice. Perfect for those of us with nervous bladders, blood sugar issues, or distractible minds.
- For me and me alone- practicing at home releases me from having to worry about anyone else, infringing on anyone’s space, or being self-conscious of how I look.
- Saving money- I won’t lie, yoga studios can be expensive, and I’d rather spend my money elsewhere most of the time. There are tons of videos for free or for only a few bucks a month.
Obviously, the benefits of practicing yoga at home go beyond this list, and can be deeply personal. Maybe you have struggled with a disability for a while, and you only feel comfortable doing yoga in your own living room. Or perhaps being a studio brings out your competitive side, causing you to lose touch with your body in an attempt to “excel.” Maybe you don’t have the typical “yoga body” and you feel intensely ashamed or judged when you practice outside of your home. Perhaps money is really tight, and at-home yoga is one of the ways you can afford your self-care.
No matter what you’re dealing with, there is something sacred about practicing yoga at home, fully present, in tune with your breath, not worried about what anybody else is doing. It can be incredibly freeing and empowering to build your practice in the spaciousness of your own habitat. And for those with chronic illness, this can be such a healing investment, even if it comes in just 5 or 10 minute increments. I have never once regretting rolling out my mat in my tiny living room, and I have a feeling that you won’t either, once you really feel the benefits of a fully autonomous, personalized yoga practice.
If you want to get started with a home practice, here are some things that I’ve found helpful. Of course, go at your own pace, and make the investments that feel right to you at the time- no need to push your financial boundaries just to do some yoga! Here are the yoga tools I currently have at home:
- Gaiam yoga mat (no need to spend $100 on a mat, unless you really want to)
- Thick blanket
- Bolster (soooo good for those with chronic illness or pain)
- Massage balls (totally optional, but nice for myofascial release)
I used to practice exclusively with YogaGlo, and if you like to have TONS of choices, classes from some of the top teachers in the nation, and tools to track your progress, this is a nice option. I also really adore Adriene, and her YouTube channel, Yoga With Adriene- she’s got lots of nice videos in a variety of lengths and themes. And nope, I don’t work with either, and they’re definitely not paying me to say this!
So friends, I’ll put it out to you- have you ever done yoga at home? What did you like/not like about it? Who out there has a stable home-based practice? Share some of your tips!
And until next time…
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~
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