I’m kinda embarrassed to admit it, but here it is: I haven’t been to yoga class in over a year.
And I’ll confess this too: I’m actually a bit proud of this fact.
You see, it took me about a year from my first yoga class, Seattle in 1996, to do even one down dog at home.
I’d leave class feeling SO tall and so light. Then I’d go home to my apartment, light up a cigarette and wonder what happened to that “yoga feeling”. Then I’d forget all about it, until next week’s class.
Cut to five years later, 2002. I’m a teacher. I love yoga. I’ve studied cadavers and spinal cord injuries and I’m applying yoga to people’s pains in grad school, watching the astounding effects (and yes, I quit smoking by switching out cigarettes for organic peaches, but that’s another story).
At this point, I was still not doing much at home, but some forward bends and other things that felt good. I was going to 4 classes a week and I felt better than I’d ever felt in my life.
When I had my baby, I felt lost without my yoga classes. After 6 weeks, I’d leave once a day to teach a private yoga session (which would just about pay for the nanny a few hours a day). That was all I could manage, and I was excited to see my baby again, so it worked for us.
But I longed to get to class. My body didn’t feel good, no matter how much walking we did. There weren’t any mommy and me classes near enough to get to.
When my daughter was about 6 months, I finally got to a yoga class. I was so happy to see everyone. And you know what? After that, I spent the entire time longing to be home with her. I was distracted. I skipped savasana and left.
Finally, I understood: it was time to create a home yoga practice for myself. To become my own teacher. My kula – or heart-filled community – had changed. My peeps were now mamas, and I wanted to be with them more and more. I wanted play dates in the park and “mommy and me” movies, and with teaching privates and going back to school to complete my Masters, time was too limited to fit yoga classes in. But my body and my soul wanted the feeling of yoga. I had to learn how to find it by myself.
I Created a Home Yoga Practice
So, for the first time since having started yoga 8 years before, I started a REAL home yoga practice.
A home yoga practice that maintained my strength and my alignment; that challenged me; that left me feeling ready for my day.
Now, although I recognize that I do need a teacher to see the misalignments that I can’t see for myself, and I plan to get back to class soon, I love my home yoga practice.
I love that my kindergartner knows how to do a sun salute and knows that’s how we start the day. I love that I can do for myself what once only someone else could do for me.
I love that I can keep myself out of pain with a daily practice plus hiking or doing the elliptical 3 times a week (no, yoga alone is not enough to keep us strong and healthy!).
So, if you’re interested, here’s how to start your own. Always move in a way that feels good, remember to move with your breath, and use the basic principles you learned in class:
Move with your breath, in and out through the nose
Hug/engage/fire up your muscles
Draw into your center, from feet to core
Make exhales twice as long as inhales
To start, pick one or two poses you remember from class and do them EVERY MORNING, such as Cat/Cow and Downward Dog. Trust that once you start this, your desire will empower you to keep adding more, but you want to start something you’ll do EVERY DAY. It should feel good. They don’t even have to be “real” poses. Move in a way that feels good to your body. Practice listening in and discovering your own poses.
If you want more, do 5 vinyasas, or flows. Get the blood/prana/energy flowing. You might even experience this as “letting go” of your resistance to the flow of well-being. It feels great.
Below are some more suggestions for a home practice, if you have been taught optimal alignment for these poses in class. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program. If anything doesn’t feel good to you, don’t do it.
Here is a nice vinyasa, or flow, for moms-to-be:
Down Dog – start with bent knees, use legs to lift butt high and stretch spine. Then, extend heels toward earth. Keep lifting arms away from floor to strengthen shoulders.
Chatturanga – Inhale come forward, Exhale knees to floor and lower shoulders to elbow height. Keep shoulders and head lifted.
Backbend – Push back to sitting on heels (you can untuck toes) and bend elbows behind. Lift heart and draw shoulders back.
If you feel comfortable, you can root down through your knees and lift your hips. Ahhhhh!
Childs Pose. Keep big toes together and actively root hips so your middle back stays full, not collapsed. When you’re ready, go back to Down dog and start again. Wait til breath is smooth and easy.
Once you’re a mom and you’ve gotten the OK to exercise from your health care provider you can retun to the regular vinyasa.
If this doesn’t look familiar to you, please return to your Basic Yoga Practice or set up a One-on-One with your teacher to go over alignment. It’s meant to be a reminder of what you learned in class.
ADVANCED HOME YOGA PRACTICE
If you have been doing yoga for years and you’re familiar with poses and optimal alignment, it’s time to empower yourself Mama! Here is a list of the pose categories in a nice order. If you have extra time, you can do a bunch of poses in each category. If you’re in a rush, just do one of each.
Warm ups – 6 vinyasas (see above)
Lunges – add a twist, and a hip opener, thigh stretch if you like
Standing poses – side angle, warrior II, triangle
Back bend/abdominals – 3 rounds of each
Optional Inversion – handstand/forearm balance
Forward bends – janu sirsasana, firelog, seated twist
Meditate or savasana
If the practice you choose doesn’t feel super clear to you, PLEASE DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. You can overstretch your joints, increase your misalignments, and miss out on the gift that your home practice can be without a guide to help you.
Instead, join us for an online class!
BTW, I do miss class, and just last night I was talking to a yoga teacher friend about maybe joining her class. And now that my daughter’s settling into school, I am getting close to being able to fit a weekly class in again.
But I’d never give up what I got from my home practice. What I learned from not being able to go to class, and finally having a steady home practice, is it’s the yoga that connects us all, not being in the same room.
By going inside, deep into the back of the body with the breath, we find ourselves held, embraced, and loved by the one flow of well-being that is connects us all, as it beats all of our hearts.