This year has been wildly transformative and enlightening for everyone. From a pandemic to civil unrest to climate change effects, we’ve been trying to stay afloat since January 1. This much change has been overwhelming at one point or another and is causing us to live in our sympathetic nervous system. This system is typically described as fight or flight mode. In order to shift into rest and digest mode, known as the parasympathetic nervous system, we need to engage in activities that bring more inner peace and relaxation.
Typically speaking, mindfulness practice is easiest way to do this but with studios closed due to COVID-19, many feel lost trying to continue their practice from home. The good thing about mindfulness practice is that you don’t need a lot to actually do it.
When I first started my mindfulness practice 10 years ago, I did it solo. My mother gifted me first yoga mat and block for Christmas when I was just 14 years old. Back then, I only practiced in my bedroom, my dog was on the bed supervising, and I had my phone propped against a shoebox with a yoga video playing. I used yoga as a means to heal my body that was constantly aching from sports and to enhance my connection to the divine. In my spare time, I got into reading yoga philosophy. The 8 Limbs of Yoga helped me learn more about my own personal philosophies on life and how to find balance in my busy day to day life. Wasn’t until I went to college did I take an in person yoga class, did a retreat or even begin to think of being a teacher.
Practicing mindfulness alone versus with a community are two vastly different experiences. At home, I feel safe, confident & know my practice will cater to my body’s needs that day. Going into a studio gave me quite a bit of anxiety actually and the idea of teaching generated a lot of fear. I was nervous about being touched, called out and if I would fall on someone. I also feared that teaching yoga would make me hate yoga because it would feel like work instead of my favorite activity of all time. I was wrong!
Practicing with others is nice because you can feed off everyone else’s energy, get the correct alignment assists and get out of your comfort zone. When it comes to cultivating your relationship with mindfulness practices, I think you need to ask yourself one question: do I like yoga/meditation because of the practice itself or because of the social aspect of joining a studio & being around others? If it is the former, then you just need maybe a match to reignite your passion for the practice. If it is the latter, then it’s time to decide how dedicated do you want to be to a mindfulness practice for yourself.
I understand everyone’s sadness of not getting that premiere, in person experience anymore but I am here to say that you can create a satisfying home practice. Here’s how:
1. Create Your Space
Take up space! Yoga studios and meditation centers work hard to create the right ambience to provide a peaceful yet inviting space. Find just one corner or room you can dedicate to being your favorite practicing space. Add any and everything that feels special to you: your mat, props, artwork, crystals, oil diffuser, plants, string lights, etc. This is just for you so no need to worry about what others think. Let your creativity be free here. You can even take your practice outside and be with nature!
2. Get The Props You Need
We already know that you need a mat but what about the other props that aid a good practice? Depending on your skill level and the types of mindfulness practices you like, determines how many props you might need. I definitely suggest investing in 2 yoga blocks at the least. But some other ones to consider buying are a bolster, straps, a thick blanket or even a meditation pillow. Get what is in your budget only. Also consider using whatever is laying around the house you can use as support too.
3. Pick A Yoga Series to Follow
There are many apps, YouTube Channels & streaming services that provide a wide range of class styles. The nice thing about on demand classes is that if you want to do a 90 minutes flow at 4am, you can. If you want to learn how to build your chaturanga, you can. If you need to ground yourself after attending a protest, you can.
I suggest first looking at what your local yoga studio has to offer because it’s always best to support local businesses. Here in Charlottesville, we have FlyDog, The Women’s Initiative and UVA Contemplative Sciences Center with virtual offerings for low to no price. You can also look to more popular apps like Alo Moves or Insight Timer to get access to even more options. On both apps you can choose from all kinds of teachers and varied durations. Take the time to find the right series for you.
4. Log Your Practice
This is super simple journaling activity. After your practice, just jot down these 3 things:
What did you learn about life?
Favorite pose of the day
That’s it. Nothing fancy, just a quick reflection that over time develops into a nice log to look back on.
5. Get an Accountability Buddy
Having an accountability buddy isn’t necessary but it is fun to have. You get to gush about your practice to them and you support one another’s growth. It’s a way to feel connected to someone else and bond in the same way you did in the studio. This buddy can be your best friend, partner, pet or parent! Just anyone who is going to hold you accountable in a loving way.
In essence, developing your home practice takes intentional effort and can be just as fulfilling as attending a live class. During these times, we have to be positive yet realistic. I know that I will flowing side by side with another kindhearted spirit one day in the future. But I can’t get caught up in that desire. We must remember what Buddha taught in the Second Noble Truth; we create our own suffering by desiring for things to be what we want. In this case, desiring to do yoga in person is creating a great deal of suffering inside because we can’t get what we want. So do yourself a favor and accept this new reality, adapt as best as you can and appreciate that you are still able to be on this beautiful Earth practicing mindfulness.
Just breathe and be.