‘Tis the season of yin. So what better time to create an at-home yin yoga practice than right now? Ashley McEachern, yin yoga teacher extraordinaire, offers some tips to take your yin yoga practice home. Zen Den, anyone?
Doing yoga at home changes everything. If the discipline is there and the setting is sacred, a home practice can show you things about yourself you never, ever knew. I will never forget the day I did my very first at home yin yoga practice. I blasted THIS, cozied up in the warmest nook of my house, locked the door, burned some incense and went on a wild journey from relaxation to laughter to tears to rage to words on my journal page. I finally felt free to FEEL – to move, to grunt, to curse, to express- to FEEL everything that was happening rather than hiding and repressing it as I had done so often in group classes. I got to know myself that day, really, really well.
- Serenity: Unplug. I wholeheartedly believe that one of the primary roadblocks to an at-home practice is the availability of our technology when no one else is watching. Some of my students not only have to turn off their cell phone, television and computer, but intentionally put it in an entirely different room to avoid the temptation of a mid-practice snap or instagram post.
- Staging: Lighting has a huge influence on our ability to drop into our breath, body and yin yoga practice. If you have the blessing of dim lighting, dim those lights. If you have a fireplace, practice by a burning fire. Alternatively, ditch the artificial lighting altogether and set candles safely around your yoga mat for total and complete calm.
- Scent: The everyday smells of our homes (pets, dirty laundry, kids diapers) can sometimes feel anything but soothing. I recommend burning essential oils, incense or sage or setting up a nebulizer before and/or during your practice to garner the many benefits of aromatherapy throughout your yin yoga session.
- Sound: Any external sounds from cars honking, your neighbours music or kids playing outside can deter you from really dropping into your practice. Play soft soothing music, ideally without lyrics, to accompany you on your yin yoga journey.
- Surrounding: Think about your favourite place to practice yoga, visualize the aspects of the space itself that are transferable to your home yoga space. Making an investment in lush green houseplants, decluttering otherwise chaotic spaces and setting up a meditation alter with meaningful items such as deities, salt lamps, crystals and your journal will rapidly transform a home into a yoga home.
- Support: A great challenge with an at home yin yoga practice is the costly need for props. Don’t despair- your home is probably already stocked with everything you need to support your practice. You can absolutely invest in professional yoga props or you transform regular old household items into props. That blanket thrown on your couch can become your yoga blanket, your pillow (or 2) can become your yoga bolster, your scarf can become your yoga strap and your big thick dictionary can become your yoga block. Be creative and support your body as you yin.
- Surrender: Have you ever tried to practice at home, but the moment your noise dips towards the floor, you catch a glimpse of how dusty it is down there and suddenly sweeping and mopping becomes your yoga practice instead? I certainly have! Resist the temptation to clean that spot on the floor you notice while folding forward in butterfly pose and stick to the completion of your entire sequence.
- Safety: When you have no “in-person” yin yoga teacher to guide you, it becomes really important to tune in and listen to you body, especially in a yin yoga setting. Do not push yourself beyond your edge, linger with sensations as they arise, and come out whenever you feel sharp pain or feel at all unsafe.
- Screen: I know… yoga is about disconnecting. Alas, setting up your computer at an appropriate height and playing an online yin yoga program can be incredibly helpful to focus your at home practice, at least to start. Turning off all computer alerts and maybe even blocking yourself from your favorite social networking sites before launching your practice is a good technique to discourage temptation and distraction by the interwebs.
- Savasana: Sweet sweet savasana. Something about our at-home practice tends to prevent us from fully indulging in savasana. Rather, I recommend overindulging in savasana. Perhaps take the full 15 minutes of savasana. I like to use Insight Timer to remind me to awaken from this (and all other poses) throughout the class.
During my first at home yin yoga session, each time something felt really good, I would linger there until my body guided me elsewhere. When something created physical pain, I curiously took the time to change, modify and discover a new version of that pose that best suited my body and myself. I hope you do this too. I hope that your at-home yin yoga practice provides a safe space for extraordinarily self-exploration. It is underneath all of those layers where our true self and our wild potential resides. If you are looking for guidance to begin your at-home yin yoga practice, try my online yin yoga classes or set up Skype yin yoga sessions with me. Special promo code for Well to Do readers: “yinspire”.
For more information on Ashley’s work, click here.
Feature and top photos courtesy of Nathan White (@nwhite), bottom photo courtesy of Jordana Halpert.