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How I started my Yoga home practice.

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Most of my students ask me for advice on how to begin a Yoga home practice

Unfortunately worrying about remembering poses, or if we’re going them badly, tends to keep our mats firmly rolled up – and by the front door. My own home practice came out of necessity, in slowly evolving stages and it wasn’t easy.

In the beginning I would just throw a few spontaneous poses at home, most often when doing something else, like stirring a stew or frying onions. Just bits and pieces I’d remembered from class.

And that was OK, but I knew if my Yoga was going to get better (and I’d decided I wanted that because Yoga made me feel so good) I’d need to learn how to practice at home more skilfully.

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When we moved to Taipei fifteen years ago I couldn’t find a good Yoga teacher so I gradually developed a collection of DVDs and books from Amazon (Namaste Amazon). I read a lot and practiced to DVDs everyday, sometimes for 20 minutes, sometimes 90. So I nurtured a good and pretty disciplined guided home practice. Incidentally there are now loads of great teachers in Taipei.

When we moved to Spain I bought fresh Amazon supplies and subscribed to Yoga Journal. A reasonably regular guided home practice (we were building a house and little Bruno was on his way) combined with weekly Iyengar classes was good enough.

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When my boys were a little bigger I started going to workshops and retreats where I badgered teachers for advice on how to advance my practice. Those tips combined with the then memorised sequences I’d learned from the DVDs helped me do more on my own.

Incidentally one of those nuggets of wisdom was to do poses on holiday– have fun, take photos, get other people involved! These are photos here are from just last year at Telunas, Indonesia.

Soon after I discovered YogaGlo.com. Loads of different styles of Yoga were at my fingertips in a multitude of classes. It was bliss. I discovered great teachers and new styles of Yoga. Those 100s of hours in front of the screen combined with going to classes gave me the confidence and knowledge to do more on my own.

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The next big step for me was training to be a teacher- not very useful info for you right now maybe – but learning how to create sequences to teach to others forces you onto the mat to experiment – for many, many hours. Great learning.

So your home practice will evolve in stages and, like learning a pose, it isn’t always easy and can go in fits and starts.

Stage 1: The odd down dog or warrior 2 in the living room/ kitchen/ on holiday – which may then lead to a few more poses being thrown in as they come to mind. This is great.

Stage 2: Following a 20 minute class from a DVD or a teacher on YouTube. There are also some great 30 day challenges on Instagram, doyouyoga.com and online Yoga magazines.

Stage 3: Committing to monthly subscription on an online platform like YogaGlo, Yoga international, Gaiam.com and cody.com. There are lots of these sites where a bank of classes can be streamed. Yogaglo.com is good value at $18 US a month. I subscribe to three as my three favourite teachers are scattered on different sites, but I’m a Yoga junkie. (Christina Sell is one of them, she’s wonderful.)

Stage 4: Practicing without a screen: Bring paper and pencil to class and write down some of the sequences as soon as class is over. Or do sequences suggested in Yogajournal.com. Have that piece of paper by your mat. Crank up your favourite music. A 20 to 30 minute sequence is long enough to start.

Stage 5: Go to workshops and maybe even do a good 200 hour TT course. Then you will learn how to write your own sequences and practice what you want to work on intelligently. If you want info on good TT programs please ask me, I know a couple of good ones.

Keep a look out for workshops. I teach several a year. They're a great opportunity to deepen your practice.

So even if you have a fabulous Yoga teacher to regularly learn from, if you have decided you love Yoga and want to really reap it’s benefits, practice regularly, mindfully and with a sense of fun at home, whatever your stage and soon you will fly!

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