Interview provided by Remedies For Life magazine, May 2011
Whether you’ve been taking classes for a while or are a yoga newcomer, practicing on your own can enrich your experience. Internationally known yoga masters Seane Corn and John Friend tell us how to make the most of our time at home on the mat.
Remedies: Why have a home yoga practice, especially if we’re already going to class?
John Friend: At home, you can be in your own sacred space. You’ll feel safe, more comfortable, and more able to relax and open up, because you can practice at your own pace. It’s a great time to assimilate all you learn in class. You also have the time and space to explore new realms within your body, mind, and spirit.
Remedies: How can we prepare the physical space for a home yoga practice?
Seane Corn: I create an environment that says, “OK, now I’m doing this.” It helps if the room is clean and uncluttered. Directly in front of my mat is a little altar, with candles and incense, and maybe a stone or feather or photo of someone I love. It reminds me of the sacredness of my relationships and the connectivity of all things. And it allows me to feel like I’m doing something extraordinary.
Remedies: What mindset do you suggest?
JF: Put your heart into it; it’s not just a physical routine. All yoga is for awakening the deepest, most beautiful part of ourselves. It’s a spiritual act of making prayers through the body. Your practice is your wish for the highest virtues, for the uplifting of everyone, for awakening and delight.
SC: It helps to know that what you’re doing is not only helping your body and mind, but it impacts others, too—it makes you more conscious, mindful, and patient.
Remedies: What are some of the common challenges?
SC: It definitely takes discipline to go into the privacy of your own space without instructor guidance. We get dependent upon that, and the energy of a classroom, to move us into our practice. Also, you may get distracted and feel less motivated to bend more deeply or hold that pose longer.
Remedies: How can we motivate ourselves?
JF: The secret to igniting your home practice is intention. Do it for something bigger than your individual self—for someone you love or admire, or someone who’s suffering or having a challenging time; or for your community, humanity, or the love of God. This will help you have a burning aspiration to want to excel, and the fire and love in your heart will motivate you to be disciplined.
SC: For some people, putting on music helps, though it only distracts me. I don’t feel like doing yoga every morning, though. After 25 years, I can still try to talk myself out of it. But I’ve never felt like I shouldn’t have done it that day. It’s the opposite. I always keep in mind I’m going to feel amazing when I’m done.
Remedies: How often and how long should we practice?
SC: Ideally, if you can get to class at least once a week and do five days on your own, applying what you’ve learned, that would be amazing. It’s irrelevant whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour. But morning is best. If I don’t do yoga first thing, it may not happen.
Remedies: What asanas, or poses, do you suggest?
SC: You can first do movement-driven poses, to increase blood flow and oxygen and generate heat, which allows for more elasticity in the muscles and joints. Standing poses open up muscles and connective tissue and help develop strength and flexibility. Then some back bends to move the spine in the opposite direction. After that, twists balance out the spine. And then forward bends for flexibility and to quiet the mind, preparing you for meditation.
JF: Create routines that balance one another, with a more active practice, such as backbends, one day and a quieter one of forward bends and twists the next. This gives you a well-rounded practice and covers all the major classifications of poses during the cycle of a week or month.
Remedies: What impact can practicing at home have?
SC: You become your own teacher. You can take your yoga anywhere, without being dependent upon someone else to motivate and guide you. You’re more connected and open in your personal relationships and all circumstances throughout the day. If you start the day breathing and moving with intention, when conflict arises it’s easier to recall your practice and come from a peaceful place. There’s also a sense of pride, self-confidence, and independence that come with a home practice. It feels good knowing that you’re responsible for it—and your health.