If you’re going to maintain an Ashtanga yoga practice over a lifetime, then you have to figure out how to practice on your own. No matter how much you like practicing with your local student community or getting support from your teacher, eventually, something will create a situation where you need to practice at home. I’ve written variations of this post many times over the years. But it is still the question I get most often: How do I practice Ashtanga yoga at home? So I’ll answer it again.
First, let me say that over my 20 years of practice, I have mostly practiced at home. It is not always easy, but I have created routines and rhythms in my day that make it easier. And that is part of the ripple effect of doing practice. If you want to practice Ashtanga yoga at home then you may need to shift some things around to make that possible.
Here are my suggestions for creating a routine to practice Ashtanga yoga at home
First, set up your practice the night before
The most memorable thing that I heard Sharath say in Mysore was this: “Your practice doesn’t start when you step on the mat. It starts the night before.” What does that mean? Well, the simplest part of that is, if you’ve never practiced at home before, then you need to figure out where you’re going to put your mat down. Don’t think you’ll figure that out in the morning. You won’t. Decide the night before. Be creative about finding a space to practice Ashtanga yoga at home. I’ve practiced in kitchens, hallways, a large bathroom, and living rooms. In Florida, where it was warm enough, I’ve practiced on decks, porches, and even in a garage.
Decide where you will practice Ashtanga yoga at home. Then do two things. One, tell your household that you’re going to do your Ashtanga yoga practice at home. Tell them when and where you’re going to practice. This lets everyone know that you’d like their support in using a particular space at a specific time. It also gives you a little accountability. Once you’ve done that, do something else. Put your mat, towel, rug, blocks, and/or anything else you’ll use during your practice in the spot where you’re going to practice.
Prepare for your morning routine
Once you’ve decided where you’re going to practice Ashtanga yoga at home, get out the clothes you’re going to wear for practice. Think about what morning routine you need that will make home practice practical for you. Do you need to take a hot shower to wake up and warm your muscle up? Plan for that. Do you need a cup of coffee or tea to get started? Plan for that. Set your alarm for when you want to get up. And finally, go to bed early enough to give yourself time for eight hours of sleep.
Start with small practices
When you’ve done everything you can to set up your practice the night before, eventually you’ll be on your mat. If you are struggling with establishing a rhythm of practicing Ashtanga yoga at home, then start small. I repeat, start with small plans and expectations. Maybe you’ll just do sun salutations. Maybe you’ll do sun salutations, some standing postures, and a little bit of closing sequence. Whatever you do, start with something that is truly realistic for where you are right now—not where you imagine you would like to be—where you are right NOW. If you start small and build a positive association with your home practice routine, it will be much easier to sustain. When it’s easy to sustain, then you can add more.
If you find that you are still struggling to practice Ashtanga yoga at home, look closer at your routines to see what’s getting in your way. Then be honest with yourself about what that is and what changes you’re willing to make. If you find a way to practice at home, you’ll have the benefit of being able to practice forever.