I live for my morning cup of coffee. Sometimes I get excited about going to bed at night just because it means I can wake up and drink coffee. When my alarm goes off, I climb into my terrycloth robe and shuffle downstairs, my dog Ellie at my heels. I savor every part of my morning ritual, from the first whiff of the ground beans as I scoop them out of their tin, to the quiet sitting while I wait for my coffee to brew. I take my mug to the couch and prepare for the first sip, which feels like my own private moment with God. Ellie puts her head on my lap and we sit there in silence in our little church by the window.
This sacred time gives me the space to be with myself; it encourages me to listen to me — the voices in my head are too sleepy to chime in with their usual agenda and commentary. And that’s a good thing because I like to spend my mornings doing nothing in particular. If I’m in the mood, I’ll putter around my house and tend to this or that. Maybe I’ll water the plants . . . or not. Maybe I’ll write . . . or not. The rest of my day is directed by obligation — things I have to do, or “should” do — which makes the guiltless moments of my morning feel even more precious.
Our home practice can be a lot like my cherished morning time. No one telling us what to do. No agenda to follow. It’s just you and your breath in that vehicle we call the body, cruisin’ wherever you wanna go. You call the shots, like “No backbends today!”
A home practice can foster a deeper relationship with our intuition. Your practice can be whatever you want or need it to be, because the only person you have to answer to is YOU.
Perhaps, in a cruel twist of irony, this is why so many of us struggle to commit to a home practice; we may fear that, left on our own, we won’t know what to do. How can we practice if we don’t have a sequence to follow, or if we don’t understand the form, or if we simply have no idea what we’re doing? Our teachers recommend (even insist) on a home practice, but we just can’t get it together. This leads to guilt. Guilt makes it almost impossible to get anything done. And so we opt out, relying instead on our teacher to lead us through our experience. What’s wrong with that, anyway? Don’t we navigate through enough choices in our daily life? I’m sure, like me, you’ve thought, “Can’t someone please just tell me what to do?”
I totally get it. I, too, struggled with developing a home practice. I was armed with every excuse in the book, but the biggest obstacle by far was the fact that I simply didn’t trust myself. How would I know what to do? Would my efforts be in vain? I just couldn’t accept that I was capable enough to guide myself through the practice.
I slowly began to realize that I was looking at it all wrong. It wasn’t the practice, but my practice. It wasn’t something I was expected to explore, but something I actually wanted to explore. My home practice began when I was willing to show up to my mat in spite of my doubts, insecurities, and excuses.
Looking to my beloved morning ritual for inspiration, my only responsibility in that daily practice is to show up. After that, the rest takes care of itself. Some mornings I only have enough time for a quick cup of coffee and a few priceless moments with myself. Other mornings I lose track of time and it’s three o’clock before I change out of my bathrobe. Some mornings I get a lot done. Some mornings I get nothing done. Whether I smile as the sun kisses my face through the window, or I wallow under the gloomy skies of stress or sadness, my morning is my morning. It’s all sacred. The key is that I show up, without expectation, because of and in spite of myself.
Similarly in our home practice, we need only to show up. The teacher within will take care of the rest. Whether you just lie there for five minutes (or an hour) with your eyes closed and breathe, or you find yourself moving through an unexpected (or expected) series of challenging poses, the point is that you are participating with your experience as it is right there in that moment. It doesn’t have to look or smell like the classes you enjoy at the studio. Hell, sometimes I just roll around on the floor and practice hip openers while watching a Law & Order SVU marathon. It is what it is. Learning to be OK with that, in all of its flawed and perfect glory, is what will bring us closer to a more intimate relationship with our Self.
Navigating our own experience drops us deep down into our own truth. Our study in the classroom is transformed into wisdom when we venture off on our own and try it for ourselves. The role of a teacher may be to turn on the light, but the switch and, indeed, the light itself, resides inside of us. Our home practice gives us an opportunity to flex our muscles of intuition. When we tune out the noise — the doubts, the obstacles, the criticism — and get quiet, we can hear the teacher within.
What rituals invite you to participate in your Self? How does, or could, your home practice invite you into that same sacred space? Cultivate and savor the aimless moments of your day, when you can let go of the agenda and participate fully with the moment. That same connection is there when you step on your mat. Just take a few deep breaths. After that, you’ll know what to do.