I look back at my reflection as I stand on my mat in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. The mirror is only large enough to offer balance and alignment to one person in the room, and since I am the only one here, there is no need for another. A familiar teacher’s voice is riding the breath of my laptop hum as she says to “fold forward and place your fingers around your big toes.” I listen, move, breathe. This is my new yoga studio. It’s in a room thousands of miles away from where I began practicing yoga, but the practice still feels close to home.
This is what makes yoga special. It’s not the expensive classes or incense-laced studios that make it a life-altering practice. It is movement and awareness through your body and mind. Wherever you are and wherever you go, it comes with you, but only if you choose to bring it.
I was able to fit a yoga mat into a large pocket on the side of my carry-on luggage as I made my journey overseas. It’s a Gaiam travel mat that folds down to the size of a beach novel, and it is one of the best items I brought along. Yes, I could’ve bought a mat here, but to be able to move from place to place and bring along my practice in a pouch — that’s exactly what I needed to keep my practice close to me.
It has taken some adjusting. There is a reason that people practice together. A studio provides all the things that help to maintain motivation — consistency, community, accountability, support and instruction. I belonged to a beautiful studio in Boulder for two years, and I have done my best to bring along its teachings in my travels. Although I miss showing up to classes, greeting the teacher and popping off my shoes of at the door, I have tried to find the bliss of my new place of practice, my bedroom.
Starting your solo yoga practice
If you can’t access a studio, you can still have a strong yoga practice. Here are some tips to help you start and sustain a home (or traveling) practice:
Start with a solid foundation
It’s important to learn proper alignment and transitions in poses to ensure safety and maximize the benefits of your practice. Use a visual aid to learn new poses, such as a video or book with instructions and images to show you how to properly strengthen and stretch. Once your mind and body learn the poses, you can use audio cues, online yoga clubs or your own recollection to have a session.
Make your practice a priority
It’s much easier to come up with excuses or find distractions when all you have to show up for is yourself and your stand-up mirror. To work on personal accountability, try setting aside a specific time every day that is dedicated to your yoga practice. Just as if you were walking into a studio, put aside everything that could tear you away from your session — cell phones, agendas, television, etc. Put on your yoga clothes (headband and all) so that you can really commit to the movement. You should go to a room that separates you from the rest of you life. Make it a time for you and nothing else.
Have compassion and patience with yourself
There will be days (even weeks) when your practice falls through the cracks. Life gets busy and priorities shift. Remember that it’s OK to let yourself move in and out of life’s stages — just because you practiced every day last week but you’ve only had one session this week doesn’t mean you are a failure or a “bad yogi.” The beautiful thing about yoga is that it meets you where you are today, not yesterday or last year. Embrace the fact that you feel different every day. Your body will tell you what to do, but make sure to listen and never judge yourself.
Studio or no studio, make yoga your own
Just because no one else in the airport or park is doing yoga doesn’t mean you can’t do neck rolls or reach down and touch your toes. Maybe instead of always watching television before bed you can do a few heart-opening backbends or spinal twists instead. It’s not the same as a full studio session, but it’s still yoga. It’s still your practice. It meets you where you are, which is exactly where you should be, every day.