A home practice is an invaluable ritual for yoga teachers but—let’s be honest—sticking to one can be a challenge. The demands of teaching can sometimes make a home practice feel like an impossible task. When you’re teaching multiple classes each week, writing sequences, creating curriculum, and managing your careers, the last thing you may want to do is more yoga. It’s no wonder why many teachers let their home practice fall by the wayside.
For me, neglecting my home practice has always been the difference between feeling exhausted or burnt out. Exhaustion can be addressed with boundaries and rest, but burn out means I’ve stopped engaging with my own process. The problem: When I stop learning, I stop teaching.
What is practice?
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines practice in sutra 1.13 as the effort to still the mind. He further expands the idea of practice in sutra 1.14 by stating that it must be approached with devotion, consistency, and wholehearted effort. Practice applies to traditional asana, but the true spirit of practice is a dedication to curiosity. A home practice gives you an opportunity to cultivate this curiosity both on and off the mat. As a yoga teacher, developing a home practice is an opportunity to explore your process—to pay attention to how you learn. When you commit to a home practice, you’re better able to see your patterns and observe how you react to what arises in the moment. This self-inquiry can deepen your understanding of yoga and inspire your teaching.
A home practice is deeply personal and can be many different things. Some days it might look like a vigorous asana practice. Other days it might be a quiet pranayama and meditation practice. A home practice could include study, journaling, or explorations in mindfulness. And it will change as you evolve.
The most important thing to remember is to make your home practice relevant and useful to you. The more expectations and pressure you put on your practice to look a certain way or mean a certain thing, the less likely you’ll be to do it. If, instead, you can see your practice as a safe space for curiosity, your practice will become one of your biggest teachers. Here are three reasons why it’s important to cultivate a home practice as a yoga teacher.
A home practice is an investment in your studentship
To be a good yoga teacher you must first be a good student. Period. The truth is, you simply cannot teach what you’re not practicing. Again, this applies to the full spectrum of yoga. Whether you’re practicing traditional asana, studying a yogic text, or exploring mindfulness, studentship is a sincere dedication to curiosity. When you commit to a home practice, you bring a more intimate and honest understanding of what it means to be a practitioner. The tools you gain through practice such as strength, patience, compassion, grit, and grace will not shine through in your teaching. They’ll also help you hold space for your students to cultivate the same.
Remember: you have to process and internalize your practice before you can share it with your students. Otherwise, you’re simply regurgitating. Practice for yourself and your teaching will come from a more authentic place. For example, you might try a new meditation technique and unpack it for a long, long time on your own before you understand it well enough to teach it.
Every part of your practice ultimately serves your students, but much like an oxygen mask on an airplane, you must learn how to attend to your own needs before you can support others in attending to their own. What’s more, as a teacher, you give so much of yourself to your students that you can feel depleted and uninspired. A home practice invites you to take off your teaching hat and invest in yourself. This investment deepens your well, renews your energy, and inspires your teaching.
A home practice develops confidence
Developing trust in yourself is an important part of becoming more confident in your teaching. Stepping into the role of teacher doesn’t happen overnight—it takes years of experience to feel a sense of ease and authenticity in your teaching. A home practice is a highly effective tool for developing confidence.
Learning how to be your own guide will flex your muscles of intuition. For example, without a teacher to tell you what to do, you are forced to listen and respond to your needs in the moment. You can honor your energy levels and the way your body feels without forcing your practice in a particular direction. While a relationship with a senior teacher is invaluable, it’s your connection to the teacher within that will prove to be the most valuable to your personal and professional growth.
A home practice fosters creativity
When your practice is led by another teacher, you’re following someone else’s map. When you practice by yourself at home, you’re responsible for charting your own course. A home practice can inspire you to trust your intuition. The best way to nurture your creativity is to let go of the certainty of what you know and play.
Start by tuning into your energy and your breath. Notice how your movement choices affect how you feel. Experiment with different transitions, props, and timings. Or, dig into a particular sequence and see how it develops over time. Your home practice will foster creativity by inviting you to surrender to your process.
See also: Finding Your Voice as a Yoga Teacher
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