Thailand: the land of picturesque beaches, intoxicating night markets, and pad thai for breakfast. It only took a few days for me to get into the rhythm of Bangkok. I worked hard to move past the typical tourist destinations and experiences, walking at least ten miles a day through the city.
When I did venture into the more touristy areas, I often heard the expression “Same same, but different.” It was often used to try to convince you that the knock-off Prada back was close enough to a real one.I would simply smile and move on, vaguely entertained by the common sales pitch.
Later in the trip, I ventured to a temple outside Chiang Mai where you can climb thousands of steps to the top of a mountain–in the company of hundreds of monkeys. I took one look at the monkeys (who are much more aggressive than you might think), and opted to explore a different part of the compound, where a series of caves held smaller shrines.
Before reaching the caves, I came to a large, open area where numerous tortoises crawled around. A solitary monk was hand feeding each turtle. He invited me to join him, and we both laughed over one turtle’s incredible enthusiasm for a banana. We looked at each other and smiled, and the monk said, “Different, but same, same! Everyone loves a banana-face turtle.”
As we unexpectedly transitioned to home yoga practice, the monk’s words have taken on new meaning. Yes, our home practice is different, but so many things are also the same. Maybe we miss the heat, or the scented candles in the lobby, or the cute leopard print shorts (okay, maybe that’s just me!). It’s so easy to get attached to those trappings of practicing asanas in a group setting.
But practicing at home gives us an opportunity to see how things about our practice can be the same, no matter where we are. It’s also an opportunity to explore new aspects of yoga.
5 Tips for Making the Most of At-Home Yoga Practice
These five tips can help you maximize the benefits of practicing yoga at home.
#1. Do your best to disconnect.
It can be tough to ignore emails, texts, and Instagram notifications when you’re watching class on a computer or listening from your phone. But the more you allow these things to take you away from your practice, the more difficult it can be to “get back” to your stillness. Give yourself permission to set aside your yoga class as time for you. If possible, turn off notifications. Set your Slack status to “Do not disturb.” Before class, take five minutes to proactively eliminate as many potential interruptions as possible.
You can even go one step further and block the time on your calendar. After years as a full-time remote worker, I have found that I can often get away with a “busy” hour right around lunch time, so sliding into a noon livestream class is a terrific option.
#2. Say hello to your fellow yogis.
In this time of social distancing, it’s natural to feel isolated and seek connection with other people. But it’s also natural to hate the way you look on Zoom video. Half the time, when I sign into livestream classes, I look at myself and wonder what on earth is happening with my hair. (The rest of the time, I already know it’s been unbrushed for a few days…) However, sharing smiles with fellow yogis before class is worth also sharing bad hair. It might sound silly, but seeing familiar faces is truly refreshing. The next time you take an online class, turn your camera on for a few minutes to say hello. You can always turn off the camera when class starts.
#3. Use the time to observe, rather than to compare.
According to David Surrenda, CEO of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, “the original context of yoga was spiritual development practices to train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of their own nature.” We’re used to observing ourselves one way, in the mirror, and that’s certainly very useful for focus and alignment. But at home, without the mirror, you have many opportunities to observe, without getting caught up in physical appearances. You can observe what each asana feels like, changes in your heart rate and breath, etc.
The same goes for practicing without the heat. Although it’s easy to focus on what we feel like we can’t do without the heat, I’ve sought to observe what my body and mind can do without the heat. It’s been surprising!
#4. Boldly go where you’ve never gone before.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about livestream and video-on-demand yoga classes is that you can do them anywhere, anytime! Yoga in your living room? Yep! Yoga in the front yard? Go for it! Yoga in the park? Absolutely! Yoga on the beach? …Eventually, in the future! Practicing in a new place helps you remember that you’re not bound to any specific set of conditions (such as 105-degree heat and 40% humidity) to practice. That environment might be nice, but it certainly isn’t necessary. All you really need to practice yoga is a little bit of space and an open mind.
#5. Find a new point of focus.
At Pure Yoga Dallas, we have truly glorious floor-to-ceiling mirrors that stretch across two sides of the room. You can see yourself pretty much all the time. And that’s quite convenient when the teacher invites you to focus on one point. You can look yourself right in the eye, focus on that locked standing leg, or even gaze at (the reflection of) your own navel. But what do you do without that reflection? Where do you look?
You look inward. Yes, physically focus your eyes on one point that makes sense for the posture you’re doing. But focus your mind inward. Bring your attention to your breath, to your heartbeat, to the way your body feels in the posture. Maybe focus on what you hope to achieve with your practice that day, or focus on surrendering to each asana.
Ready to dive into your own home yoga practice? Check out our livestream membership option, which includes unlimited access to more than 30 yoga and fitness classes each week!