Lucy Lucas

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Yoga & Mind Blog by Lucy Lucas

How to Have a Home Practice

rsz_lucyyoga-240I’ve just started a Mindfulness group where home practice is a key component. In addition, I get asked at least once a week about tips on practicing yoga and meditation at home from students. As we move into winter, having a home practice becomes even more essential to help balance out our moods as the days darken, and to help ground and centre us. So here are a few pointers around developing your own yoga and/or mindfulness meditation home practice.Build it in, don’t fit it inOn my Mindfulness Teacher Training we were encouraged to practice meditating up to 45 minutes a day. Cue slight shock from everyone, as we all sat madly trying to work out how we might squeeze that into our already busy schedules of work, family, socialising, and various other commitments.Our teacher reminded us: build it in, don’t just try to fit it in. Intentionally make your yoga or meditation part of your daily schedule. This means being sensible about when the best time is for you to practice. If you have children and are responsible for the school run, then early morning might not be the best time, unless you are a very early riser. Likewise, later in the evening or before bed, you might be more inclined to relax and sleep rather than practice. Finding time that works for you and making it part of your schedule is crucial.IntentionYoga and mindfulness can teach us to become one pointed. That is, focused on one thing. NOW I am going to practice. The brain is a funny thing. When we set an intention to do something, even if we don’t necessarily feel like it, we set down neural pathways which make it much more likely that we will do it.We can help this situation also by taking some practical steps.  Being intentional about practice without distraction, without having the phone switched on, not in front of the TV.  Multi tasking is a lie. Our brains cannot focus on more than one thing at once, so we can help ourselves and gives our minds a break, by allowing ourselves to practice without distractions.RitualWonder why yoga and meditation feel so much, well, ‘nicer’ when in the studio? How it’s so much easier to slip into the right frame of mind with the warmth, the cushions, the lovely music, the energy of the other people around you?You can’t do much about the other people, but you can re-create all these things and make your practice a ritual. Have a special space where you practice. It might be a separate room if you’re lucky enough to have that large a space. It doesn’t matter – designate your space. Light candles, play yoga music (you can follow me and other teachers on Spotify for some yogic tunes!), get out your mat and some cushions and a favourite blanket or scarf. (PS I’m selling mats for £10 each….). If you’re using an app to guide your meditation or for your yoga, then turn off other notifications and the ring.Recreate as best you can, the environment that best helps you practice. When you do this, your mind will start to think ‘aha, practice time’, in the way it does when you go to the studio. It might not be the same, but you can start to create your own special ritual space and time. A ritual might also include showering before practice to cleanse the day or night away, or drinking some hot water and lemon first thing before you start.A ritual might also refer to the structure of your practice. Maybe a devotion, or setting an intention. Some stretching or using a foam roller, especially if you are injured. Warming up with simple hip lifts, or cat and cow stretches. Maybe some sun salutations, standing poses. Then a cool down, sitting, twists. Savasana for a couple of minutes. Then sitting for meditation.If you are not practising yoga but more meditation, then your ritual might include some gentle mindful movement before sitting, to wake up the body and be more comfortable sitting for a long period.Do what feels rightYour home practice might start with some stretching, cat, cow and child’s pose and down dog. Followed by using the Headspace app. This might take 30 minutes maximum. This would be a fantastic place to start!Home practice won’t be the same as going to a class or meditation group. You are practising at home, maybe daily, with other things going on, so maybe aim for 30-40 minutes to start with. This can be some movement, meditation or even a combination of both.If you are injured, you can use your practice to complete any exercises you’ve been given by your physio or osteo. Working with the breath, completing each movement mindfully, is as much yoga and mindfulness, as is jumping around in a vinyasa class or doing a 40 minute sitting meditation.Pay attention to your body! Some days, you may feel energised and want to do several rounds of sun salutations. Other days, you might be tired or under the weather, in which case, use cushions to come into various supported poses, and use these for some mindful breathing.Pay attention to your mood and what is going onNo matter the intention or ritual, there are days when forcing yourself to sit on the cushion or get on the mat will just result in more distraction, more frustration – especially towards yourself. If you’re really busy and just seeing your practice as one more thing to do; or lying there in a Body Scan silently reciting the rest of your To Do list, I’d argue it is more compassionate to just go and get on with the chores and tasks in a mindful way, and return to your practice another time.It’s OK to skip – occasionally!If something comes up and you miss your practice, which is will, pay attention to your inner critic. Notice any self criticism or feeling guilty. Also notice any feelings around striving or goal seeking; this might be inadvertently setting yourself a goal of daily practice everyday for a month, then feeling bad when something comes up and you can’t meet this target. Yoga and mindfulness are about where we are today, not about achieving goals or gains, or getting ‘better’, or any of those things that come from our very human reward seeking urges.However! There are various studies claiming that habits are formed over a period of time (a month, 66 days, depending on what you read). So skipping too often can and will break a good habit of practice. Make your intention to stick to your practice and it will become something you have to do, for yourself – not just another chore on the list.Self compassionWhen we’re busy, we often prioritise other people over ourselves. Children, partners, parents, friends. Their needs come before our own.But the truth is: we cannot give if our cup is emptySo your practice is not selfish. You are in fact helping them by taking 30 minutes to prioritise your physical and mental health. So notice any self criticism or judgements about taking this time for yourself.So what do I do?This is what I do, but it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. I am also single with no children and I don’t work 9-5 in an office.Morning – I allow an hour for showering, making hot water and lemon and my practice. At the moment, I have a knee injury, so I use my foam roller, stretch and do some exercises given me by the osteopath. I then do some gentle sun salutations or practice a short section from my weekly class plans. I do some twists and gently hip openers to cool down and breathe. Then I get the cushion out and sit for 20 minutes in meditation. When I am physically fit, I would do a more vigorous practice, including some gym moves such as squats and lunges, and maybe even use hand weights during the yoga poses.Evening – An hour before bed, around 9.30pm, I aim to switch off my phone completely. This is not always successful! I shower, then write in my journal and then meditate for another 20 minutes. Then I tend to fall asleep straight away.If I’m busy, have to leave early, or running late, I will shorten either the physical or meditation practice in the morning. I always use the foam roller and stretch, and always have at least 5 minutes of quiet. If very tired at night, I might use a relaxation exercise instead of meditation, or maybe do some restorative yoga poses with mindful breathing. I always do something though.Let me know if you have any questions!Mats available to buy for home practice - £10 each. Contact me to buy: info@lucylucas.comHave a private yoga class at home to start your own practice! Contact me for details info@lucylucas.com

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