5 Ways to Begin (and Maintain) Your At-Home Yoga Practice

Beginning and developing your home yoga practice, while possibly daunting at first, can bring a greater depth, discipline, and sense of independence to your practice. While nothing will replace the support and energy of being in the studio, as you visit your mat more frequently from home, you discover your own rhythm and have more time to observe what feels best in your body. 

Below you’ll find 5 tips on cultivating your practice from the comfort of your home.

#1 Don’t expect it to look or feel like taking a class in the studio

Although this might seem obvious, it’s important to remember. Instead of being guided by the voice of your teacher and encouraged by the energy of students around you, you are stepping into guiding yourself. This is both empowering and at times challenging. Let your at-home practice be its own style and format that is a beneficial piece of your practice as a whole. It can also be helpful to let go of any expectations around the length of your practice. It doesn’t need to be an hour or more to be worth it. My sweet spot is usually 20-45 minutes but each time is different.

#2 Create your space

You don’t need a lot of space but do set up your yoga area with intention. Even if you roll out your mat beside your bed, let all of your yoga supplies (mat, blocks, blanket, bolster, strap) be close by to allow for more ease and convenience when you’re ready to begin.

If you don’t have blocks or a bolster, you can use a stack of books or a few bigger pillows. Get creative and don’t let the lack of props hold you back!

You may also want to have a journal, written mantra, candle, or photo nearby for inspiration and motivation. Also think about eliminating distractions and silencing your phone.

#3 Start small and simple, focus on the breath

Begin with what you know and simplicity is the name of the game. Focus on your breath to begin with, even a few deeper breaths will do. Let your movements be steady and slow. Trust that your ability to move gracefully from one pose to the next will develop in time.

As always, ground and get into your body with breath and if you get stuck along the way then come back to something you know (cat and cow or a sun salutation). You can also stay in a pose for several breaths. Some days you may focus more on movement/asana, others you might spend more time in meditation or with breath. This is all yoga and you have the freedom to focus on what you’d like within the comfort of your very own yoga space.

If you feel like you need some guidance then begin by practicing with a yoga video and perhaps give yourself some time to find your own flow after the video ends. 

#4 Schedule in your practice

If you have a hard time committing and making it to your mat at home, consider scheduling it in your planner or making a note. Hold yourself accountable and remember that each practice, no matter how short, has a positive compounding effect. As it’s so often said, you never regret a yoga practice. 

#5 Let go of perfection 

Remember why it’s important to get to your mat in the first place – more energy, focus, calm, better breathing. The list goes on. Identify those things for yourself so when resistance arises you can quickly recall how you’ll feel afterwards.

Let go of the outcome and let yourself have a playful, experiential, and beginner’s mind!

Enjoy your practice!

We will be exploring these principles, putting them into action, and dive deeper into our practice in EMBODY: an 8 week yoga immersion and community!

Read more here and sign up here. We begin February 8th, 2021!

8 Reasons Why Nasal Breathing 👃 is Key to Health

Breath is having a moment. I’m seeing more and more breathwork being offered and talked about!

The breath is a tool that helps us manage daily stress and can be used to gain greater clarity and energy.

We breathe from birth and yet we rarely utilize the breath’s full potential. The more I learn about it, the more it blows my mind. 

There is a time and place for mouth breathing. There are times when it is beneficial, especially in yoga. But when it comes to sustained and consistent breath throughout the day and when we sleep, nasal breathing is key!

Read below for reasons breathing out of your nose is where it’s at! If this piques your interest, you may want to read James Nestor’s book Breath or at least read about his experience of breathing only out of his mouth for 10 days. It wasn’t pretty. 

Effects of mouth breathing  👎

  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Oral health decline
  • Brain fog
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Long face, narrow mouth

Benefits of Nasal Breathing 👍

Let’s breathe together! I’m hosting a FREE online meditation and breathwork class on Saturday 12/12 from 10-11 CET! It will be held over Zoom. If you can’t make the class live, you will receive a recording of the class. We will try 3 different breath techniques and finish with a guided meditation. A warm welcome to the virtual classroom! 🙂 

Email stephsandersyoga@gmail.com to register.

Try to notice today whether you breathe from your nose or your mouth. It’s never too late to make a change…and nasal breathing is a worthwhile one!

Acknowledgement: I have learned much about what I know about the breath and it’s impact on the nervous system from coursework from Kimberly Ann Johnson and Our Breath Collective.

Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

Holding Hands with Joy and Sadness

Hello again!

How are you doing?

Really? How are you?

A question we get asked many times throughout the day and the response is often the same, not straying too far from good, fine, ok, great.

I’m not sure about you, but these days it is tricky to answer the question, “How are you?” with one word.

I know, I know…you’re not going to get into it with some random you meet in passing at the store. It’s a nicety we ask someone as we move on to the next part of the conversation or move on with our day.

I’ll cut to the chase.

I believe more than ever before, at least in my lifetime, we are being asked to embrace duality…light and dark…stillness and movement. We are being asked to let go of binary thinking. To realize that black or white thinking or way of life doesn’t really do the job for wholehearted living. The goodness is in the grey.

I’m rarely, if ever, 100% happy or 100% sad. Or 100% anything. Often happiness comes with some excitement or feelings of calm. Sadness can travel with anger, disappointment, grief. Grief can hold hands with joy. The myriad of emotions and experiences is what makes us dynamic, complex, and ever-changing creatures.

It goes without saying that these are not ordinary times and the ordinary will likely not be coming back anytime soon, if ever. We are dealing with so much on the world scale, taking in so much in a time of unprecedented speed and technology that our nervous systems are firing on all cylinders, our hearts often strained, and our bodies and minds easily exhausted.

AND at the same time, with the world and earth in pain, there is still so much room for joy, happiness, fun, and love. Love, in my opinion, is how we will start to get ourselves out of this. Love is what will create a new way. Love is what heals.

Most weeks I feel a full array of feelings.
I find pockets of joy with my family and by connecting to those I love….
Dance parties in the living room.
Time in nature with no phones.
That first sip of fresh coffee in the morning.
The last few moments of the sunset.

These are small moments but in my ripe ‘ole age of 34, these small moments have become the bigs ones. These moments are not to make light of some truly heavy and hard things happening in the world but it’s in an effort to make space at the table for the good stuff.

So when you have the energy and space to do so, invite the difficult and heavy to the table like you do the light and joyful. Embracing duality is a practice of seeing that everything is part of the whole. By holding space for all emotions, all situations, all the highs and lows, we pave the way to acceptance, not from a passive and inactive place but with recognition of what can be done. We can move forward from a place of love, creating more joy along the way if we so choose.

Let it be a practice. Let it become a ritual.

Here some things that have allowed joy to be more accessible in my everyday life:

  • take a few moments in the morning to focus on the feeling of joy, gratitude, positivity, etc, and I imagine myself moving through my day from this place.
  • share the highlight of the day with my family.
  • name or write down 3 things I am grateful for that day.
  • do things slowly, not rushing and noticing how it feels to be doing that thing….for example, when in nature, notice details about your surroundings, the sensations of the sun or breeze hitting your face
  • share joy…do something for someone…offer a compliment, bake or cook for a friend. Offer up the feeling you wish you cultivate for yourself.

So, my friend, where will you find joy today?

Let’s Get to Know Each Other…Online

One thing I’ve realized over these last several months is that I dig an internet community! According to the Myers Briggs personality test, I am an INFJ (introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging). This makes the internet/social media world a fairly natural place for me to share openly, especially when it’s things I’m passionate about. It’s rewarding for me to connect with others online who share similar interests.

In the height of Covid-19 this spring, the internet was a place for me to feel seen and understood through the words shared by others. It’s a unique and comforting feeling when someone is able to articulate exactly how I feel, especially when I haven’t quite been able to put words to it yet. I’m reminded that there is someone, or many, out there that feel the same.

These reminders are sometimes needed as the ego can be tempted into believing I am the only ones that feel a certain way when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our stories and challenges may vary but beneath it all, we experience the same root emotions. THIS is why meaningful conversations light me up! And this is why I believe meaningful human connection is so necessary and valuable.

While English is my first language, written word is my first form of communication. I can stumble and stutter over my words when I speak. Sometimes it feels like the emotion behind the words are pushing words out faster than my mouth can keep up. Written word feels like a dance for me. It’s when I feel like I can express myself in the truest and most authentic way.

So, cue the journal! I’ll share parts of myself from time to time if for no other reason than it’s therapeutic. Along the way, I hope it creates opportunities for you to feel seen and heard and perhaps one day it can shift from words on a screen to a meaningful conversation. We’ll see.

I’ll also be sharing some yoga tips and insights if that’s a bit more up your alley.

Thanks for reading…until next time.

Currently listening to: Take Five Radio on Spotify…..Jazzzzz
Recent read: Love the Fig…it’s fascinating. A friend passed this on to me. While I was pregnant and before we decided on a name for our daughter, Sam, we nicknamed her Fig. I think it started when she was the size of a fig. That’s completely unrelated to the article but it’s worth a read none the less.