During my 14 years as an Ashtanga yoga teacher, the topic of having an at home yoga practice has come up often.
When we practice, our lives are simply better, more organized, and happier.
Who wouldn’t want more of that?!
Yet, even my most committed students become frustrated when they can’t seem to create a routine that allows them to practice regularly.
They get it together for a few days and then become confused when things fall apart. Often, this leaves them feeling like a failure and practice goes downhill from there.
Then you are in the right place.
I’m sharing the 5 most common ways even the most dedicated yoga practitioner is sabotaging his/her self-practice.
1.Your Schedule is Haphazard
You’re practicing at different times of the day, taking a different day off each week, without any rhyme or reason.
Whenever you can get on your mat, you throw it down and get on it. While I absolutely applaud your efforts, this provokes a huge range of issues in our life because our nervous system thrives on consistency.
When we practice at different times of the day, we’re probably also eating at different times every day, going to sleep at different times every day, and waking up at different times. This makes our normal sleep-wake cycles fall off the wagon.
It creates digestive disharmony, as functions become hard to predict. We don’t have a pattern. Our adrenal system gets wacky for the same reason. Are we going to sleep at 8pm or should we be revving up for our practice instead? Our poor bodies are getting mixed messages and we feel the brunt of it.
When we lack a set practice schedule and reliable rest day each week, our minds become consumed with how, when, and where to squeeze in our practice. If you’re in this situation you know it provokes a little anxiety . . . or a lot! Instead of enjoying our meals we worry about eating at the “right” time to accommodate our practice. Ditto for sleeping, socializing, working, etc. Our monkey mind is running amok trying to nail down our practice.
Self-practitioners don’t have to worry about getting to a class, so it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll practice on Friday this week and take Saturday off. Next week I have some commitments to attend to, so I’m going to take Monday off and then practice Tuesday through Sunday instead.” It sounds like a good plan . . . until it isn’t.
Things come up in our schedule, so days we had intended to practice end up becoming off days and we create this constant cycle of trying to make up for lost practices. Because we end up taking too many days off, we try to change around the moon days to make up for it, as if we could plan better than Mother Nature. Guruji used to say, “moon day practice, pain is coming!” The man wasn’t kidding.
Instead of enjoying our practice and what it brings to our lives, we live in a constant state or “are we there yet?”
2. You’re Not Setting the Mood for Your Practice
There is nothing like tossing your mat down at home amidst a pile of dust bunnies to kill the ambiance of a nice practice. Better yet, set up next to your desk which is overflowing with work you to remind you of all the other things you should be doing instead of getting on your mat. Your mind will be flooded with all these seemingly more important things while you should be focusing on your yoga practice.
Additionally, I can’t tell you how much feedback I get from students saying they hate practicing in a cold room, yet it never occurs to them to invest in a heater or a humidifier. Hello?!?!
Imagine you were invited over for a romantic dinner at your beloved’s, but when you showed up and the kitchen was a mess, the food was cold, and your honey was distracted doing work calls all night.
Would that feel romantic to you?
No, it wouldn’t.
It certainly wouldn’t for me.
The reason setting the mood is crucial is because our yoga practice is a spiritual practice. This implies we feel a certain level of devotion/sanctity every day as we get on our mat.
If we don’t treat our practice as an act of reverence, how can we expect our practice to then give us what we’re looking for and allow us to reap the benefits we’re really seeking?
What we put in is what we get back, right?
We have to put forth the effort in creating that sanctity, that sacred space, every day.
Bottom line: if we don’t put the energy in, we can’t expect that our practice will really feed our souls on a deeper level.
3. You’re Following Too Many Teachers
This is a huge issue for most at-home practitioners, yet it starts with good intentions. When we’re alone it is normal to want to feel the inspiration we have when we are with a daily teacher. It’s a hole we want to fill asap.
So, we hop onto YouTube and binge-watch every video about pose XYZ in hopes of learning technique and bringing inspiration to our mat.
Don’t get me wrong, the occasional YouTube tutorial can be really, really helpful. But if we make a habit of this, we’re flooding our minds with tons of conflicting information.
The same is true if we are jumping around from workshop to workshop with whatever teacher happens to be in town. We are so desperate for inspiration that we end up overdosing on stimuli. The result? Confusion.
Why? Because each teacher can only teach from his or her own personal experience. Each of us sees the practice through our own lens.
Everybody will have a different take on how to approach the practice. We become overwhelmed, which is what we were trying to fix by taking up yoga in the first place.
Should we jump through with crossed legs or straight legs?
Should we hold a headstand for fifteen breaths or fifty breaths?
These are small nuances that don’t seem like a big deal, but it turns our practice into an act of analysis and sometimes even judgement. What began as a desire to learn more has actually brought more questions into our mind than we previously had.
As our mind becomes more and more confused, we get more attached to the pose and trying to do it right, wondering…
Am I progressing or not? Is this pose good or bad? Is that way the right way or the wrong way?
All these questions take us further and further away from the true goal of yoga, which is samadhi.
4. You Lack Boundaries
We promise not to look at our phone, so we leave it in the same room we’re practicing in.
This seems innocent enough until we hear our phone ring and wonder if it’s our kid’s school nurse telling us they have some terrible malady and need to be taken to the emergency room.
While we’re checking our phone to make sure our kid is fine, we decide to look at the 100 work e-mails we’ve gotten in the last hour. When return to our mat we’re more distracted, have less internal heat, and we certainly have less excitement about our practice because, instead of thinking about what we’re doing right now, our mind is thinking about what’s awaiting us after we finish.
We feel rushed. Practice has become an item on our to-do list.
If you have a family and you have to take extra care to draw a line in the sand.
I know how hard this is.
It might mean locking the door to your practice room; I’ve certainly done that. It might mean asking your partner to take over parenting duties. f you don’t do this, things start to spiral out of control. Once others in your life know you are willing to budge on your boundaries, they will test you. You can bet on it. Boundaries are tough. You have to learn to develop them if you want to sustain an at-home practice.
5. Your Mindset
When there is no teacher around to keep you in check, you’re far more likely to lose your focused, positive mind. Feelings of “I can’t do it,” or “Why am I not progressing faster here?” or “I’ll never be able to do this anyway, so why should I bother?” can take over.
They can leave us feeling frustrated and victimized. I can promise you will never move forward in any pursuit when you’re playing the victim.
The good news is I can help you through all these self-practice struggles. Make no mistake, there will be effort involved on your part. There always is, but if you have awareness and you’re willing to put in the work, I can guarantee a smoother self-practice experience.
Click the link below for my seven quick tips to improve your at-home Ashtanga yoga practice.
Have a beautiful day. Get on your mat. Namaste.
Get my 7 Quick Tips to Improve Your At-Home Ashtanga Yoga Practice by clicking below:7 Quick Tips to Improve Your At-Home Ashtanga Yoga Practice