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How to build (and sustain!) a home practice

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How to build (and sustain!) a home practice

Olivia Marley

*An edited version of this post appeared on MindBodyGreen

I’ve recently had a couple of questions from students on how to keep up a regular home yoga or meditation practice. I know a few people every year that set a home practice as their New Year’s resolution (including myself, more than once!) but after a month or two things that resolution has often wavered or been lost completely. I’ve made a few false starts at maintaining a regular home practice over the years. Here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way, and that I pass on to students in my classes.

1. Set TINY goals! 

I've often heard people say 'set yourself realistic goals'. And you think to yourself that 30 minutes yoga practice per day seems realistic. But then one day you get home really late from work and go straight to bed, and then the next day you feel like your resolution has failed. My number one tip with this particular aim is to set yourself TINY goals. I know at first that might not sound particularly inspiring but stick with me...(!). If you have time for a daily 60 or 90 minute yoga practice then great (lucky you!). If you don't, then don't feel like anything less isn't worthwhile. If you'd like to have a regular home practice but work/ kids/ life seems to take up all of your spare time then make this your resolution: 'I will do at least ONE yoga pose each day'. Everyone has time for one yoga pose. It could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths in a standing forward fold. Or maybe if you have space try a child's pose, or a single downward dog. It will take one to two minutes of your time. I'd guess that most people can carve one minute out of their day, even if it's just by spending one minute less scrolling through your Instagram/ Facebook/ Twitter etc feeds (I’m guilty as charged!). 

2. Don’t beat yourself up

You might find that doing one pose - perhaps downward dog - feels so good you can't help but add a couple more on - maybe a lunge on either side. If that gradually builds so you're doing 5 or 10 minutes per day then great. But if on the next day you're in a hurry and it drops down to one pose again then don't beat yourself up. In fact, it’s the tendency of people to feel guilty if they miss a day that makes this ‘setting ridiculously small goals’ tactic work. If you try for an hour per day and miss a day, you might find yourself feeling guilty. Let that sh*t go! It’s defeating your overall objective of making yourself feel better. 

3. Make your practice fit your circumstances

Fitting your practice in around your life can also be a big help. If you decide you’ll practice first thing in the morning (and you’ve space in your room) then why not keep your mat laid next to your bed, so it’s the first thing your feet touch in the morning? Or, if you prefer evenings, how about a hip opener in front of the TV? Or a down dog while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil? Also know that having a regular time to practice is nice but if it doesn’t work for you then that’s fine too. Maybe try a standing forward fold for one minute in the loos at work..? Obviously being able to practice in a quiet environment is lovely. But for a lot of people it’s a luxury they don’t have access to every day. If the only time you can take a triangle pose is while your children are in front of the TV, then don’t feel like that background noise means your practice doesn’t count. 

Same rules apply to a meditation practice

For me, exactly the same approach can work if you're trying to build a meditation practice. Set a tiny goal: maybe aim for one minute per day. Everyone can spare one minute. Even if it just means that next time you go to the bathroom you stand in there for one minute and concentrate on your breathing. 

If you prefer a seated meditation and have the luxury of space maybe try meditating in the same spot each day, again just starting for one minute. Make sure any props you might want to use are within easy reach of your chosen space and not spread around your home. You might find that if you make yourself sit for one minute per day, that after a while it feels like you may as well stay for five. But, if not, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t beat yourself up! 

You may find a meditation app can help – you can use them as a timer and to keep track of the days you meditate. There are lots out there, so if you don't like the first one you come across it's worth trying another. If the space you meditate in can be noisy lots of apps have sounds on them you can play. I personally find music or chimes distracting but like more neutral background noise like the sound of rainfall (all of which are available on a lot of apps). Make your practice fit your circumstances!