5 Ways to Challenge Yourself at Home

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I love practicing at home. But, let's be honest, when it comes time to unroll my mat in my living room, it can be pretty difficult to keep focused, practice challenging poses or long holds, and get the same type of practice in that I get during a class at a studio.

It usually goes something like this: I unroll my mat. Do a few quick Sun Salutes. Dog walks under my feet. I scoop dog up and baby talk to her: Are you the cutest doggy in the whole world? Yes you are! (She is.) Then I wonder if I have any new emails … I walk to my computer and refresh my email. I might answer one or two of them. Then, I remember I was supposed to be practicing and start again.

Occasionally, I'm too tired to practice at all—so I watch TV instead. Or I take a quick Savasana, which I realize totally counts as a yoga practice, but even Savasana isn't as satisfying without a few more challenging poses first.

So I have to find ways to challenge myself in my home practice because I really do love that post-yoga class buzz I get after a teacher makes me do 100 Chaturangas before I collapse in a puddle on the floor.

Here are 5 ways I've learned to challenge myself in my home practice so that I never get bored and I can keep exploring what works best for me.

1. Practice sequencing principles. Whether you've taken a teacher training or not, you've probably noticed there are patterns to a yoga class. It might start out with some gentle stretching, warm up, go from mild to moderate or deep backbends (or whatever pose you're focusing on), then start to wind down. It's pretty fun for me to test out different sequence combinations and evaluate how they make me feel. I might do the same sequence three times, then switch up just a few poses to see if it changes anything. If that makes me a yoga geek, then so be it! It keeps me engaged and interested in my home practice.

2. Give yourself a challenge pose. Right now, my practice tends to be a lot of hip openers. It's not that I'm trying to build up to some amazing and awe-inspiring pose right now (I'm 6 months pregnant, after all). I'm just challenging myself to hold poses that I know I need a little longer, breathe into them, and meet the resistance with ease. That's challenging enough.

3. Let someone else guide you. Probably half of my home practice sessions consist of streaming videos of teachers guiding me through a practice or a meditation. It's gives me that yoga class feeling at home. I still take a few more breaks than I would if I were in the studio (having that computer right in front of me makes it really tempting to check my email), but when I stick with it, I get that "yoga buzz" feeling I love when I'm finished.

4. Challenge yourself to practice every day for x number of days. Yoga Journal's 21-Day Challenge is the perfect example of this. Working toward an end goal is a great way to motivate yourself, and once you've reached that goal, you realize you're capable of more than you thought. Practicing regularly is possible, and you don't even have to leave your house to do it.

5. Be flexible. Know that part of the beauty of a home practice is that you can decide what is challenging enough for you on any given day. Some days it can feel like a victory to unroll my mat at all, while other days I need a vigorous two-hour practice. The important thing is that you make your practice a priority and come back to it time and time again so it helps you in your daily life.

How do you challenge yourself in your home practice?