rituals home practice|yogi surprise

Developing Rituals to Enhance Your Home Yoga Practice

Spend a few moments describing your personal yoga practice to yourself. Write it down if you're game for that. Or do this exercise with a friend. What are the non-negotiables? Do you absolutely require a mat and bolster? Inside or outside? Do you bathe first? Is time of day important? Our personal practice gets to be all about us and the rituals we involve are what make it both special and consistent.

A friend of mine practices every day at 6:24 a.m. This is the time she was born, so she practices at that time to remind herself that she is, every day, again reborn and the world of opportunity and exploration lay in adventurous wait for her.

Rituals keep us grounded and connected. They shape our sense of self and honor our singular perspective on the world 

 
Rituals can be actions you take or involve touchstones and symbols. I have a regular student who comes to class twenty minutes early so she can claim her spot and set up crystals at all four corners of her mat. One rose quartz to remind her to be loving. One green jade to help her focus and build mental strength. One citrine for self-confidence and one malachite for courage. She meditates as others filter in, ignoring the noise and bustle to prepare herself for the journey she's about to embark on.

Rituals can bring your yoga practice to the next level 

 
They give everything just a little bit more texture and meaning. Say, for instance, you and your kids walk up to the local bagel shop to buy breakfast every Sunday morning. The owners know your order by heart, and it's a ritual within itself to take this walk together every Sunday for sustenance. Adding in a few rituals on the walk can give this practice even more meaning. Stopping to play with a neighbor's dog, naming the trees and thanking them for existing, or even playing a word game contribute so much to what could be a routine walk to and fro.
When we practice with intention and go the extra steps to cultivate meaning into our every action, we discover uncharted territory each and every time we come to our proverbial mat.

Where to start? 

 
Start by developing a 'Let's Begin' ritual. If you plan to practice in the morning, choose something you do immediately upon waking up. Perhaps you write down your gratitude list. Or maybe you dry brush and lather in sesame oil, and then cleanse. Enjoy and combining that ritual while practicing the niyama of saucha, purity is an incredible way to place yourself in the frame of mind to be the most receptive version of yourself.
You could choose to do a guided meditation or mudra practice. Choosing rituals that speak to your heart will provide you with a consistent way to signal to your brain that it's practice time and it's the priority. Rituals are a form of self-care. Take the time to take care of you.

Maintenance

In combination with your let's begin ritual, choosing a specific place to practice helps too. Setting up a practice space in your home by creating an altar for yourself is a lovely way to encourage your continued practice each and every time you encounter that space. If you have the luxury of an entire room available to you, foster the ambiance with candles, essential oils and incense, props, and perhaps a book from which you can go to any passage for inspiration.
Three books to consider:  The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Fire of Loveby world-renowned yoga teacher Aadil Palkhivala, and Pema Chodron's  Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living.  You really can't go wrong with any of Pema's books.
If you love practicing outside when the weather allows, identify an alternate space that feels harmonious and conducive to your practice. You can travel there with your touchstones for continuity. The old saying, 'Wherever you go, there you are' comes to mind. Bring your you-ness no matter where you choose to practice.
Writing this has inspired me to further develop new rituals of my own. Just like us, the practice morphs constantly. But rituals remind us of the pillars and tenants that will always be near and so very dear to our hearts.

3 Beginner Tips for Using Aromatherapy in Your Home Yoga Practice

Many yogis admit that the biggest benefit of choosing to practice at home rather than in a class at a studio is the freedom. When you practice at home, you can tailor your practice however you want—right down to the look and feel of your yoga space.

Aromatherapy is just one way you can personalize and enhance your home yoga practice. While many teachers do incorporate aromatherapy into their classes, doing it yourself while practicing at home means you have full control over the selection and/or blend of oils, the dosages, the type of aromatherapy tool or technique to be used, and when or how aromatherapy will be used throughout your practice.

If you’re considering the use of aromatherapy in your own home yoga practice, but don’t really know where to start, here are a few simple tips to help get the ball rolling.

 

Choose Oils With Healing Properties That Match the Focus of Your Practice

It’s worthwhile to familiarize yourself with how certain oils affect the mind and body. For example, if you’re doing an evening practice to help you fall asleep, lemon essential oil might not be the best choice since it’s known for helping to eliminate fatigue and wake up the mind.

Here are some recommended essential oils to use based on the theme or the intention of your practice:

Energizing essential oils: Orange, lime, grapefruit, peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme, basil, lemongrass

Calming essential oils: Lavender, rose, vetiver, ylang ylang, bergamot, chamomile, frankincense

Grounding essential oils: Cedarwood, myrrh, patchouli, black spruce, sandalwood, cinnamon, rosewood

 

Decide on an Aromatherapy Tool or Technique Based on Your Practice and Personal Preferences

Five of the most common aromatherapy tools and techniques include:

  • Lighting essential oil candles
  • Burning essential oil incense sticks
  • Diffusing essential oil diffusers
  • Applying essential oil lotions (diluted with carrier oil)
  • Spritzing essential oil sprays (diluted with water)

Candles, incense, and diffusers are ideal if you want to enjoy the aromas as a constant flow throughout the entire course of your practice. If, however, you’d prefer to focus on the aromas at specific points along your practice—such as at the beginning in meditation or at the end in savasana—you might want to opt for a spray or lotion to spritz or apply at that specific point.

 

Remember to Put Your Safety First

It had to be said. Anything with a flame and all essential oils need to be used with care and caution.

Candles and incense: Place candles or incense on a flat surface and away from any items or materials that can easily catch fire (such as wood furniture, drapes, books, blankets, etc.). Make sure they’re far enough out of reach that you can’t knock them over when moving around and extending your limbs during your practice. Pick a space with good ventilation (and crack open a window if necessary). Extinguish immediately after you're practice.

Essential oils applied to the skin: Perform a skin patch test to make sure you won’t react to the essential oil or oils of your choice. Always make sure to dilute your oils properly and avoid ingesting them or getting them anywhere near your eyes. If using a spray, keep your eyes and mouth closed while spritzing over your body. If using a lotion, avoid applying around the eyes and to any areas of the body that need to grip your mat, such as the hands and wrists.

Essential oils in general: Before you use oils in your practice, try using a tool or technique of your choice while doing something like household chores, relaxing on the couch, or working just to see if you’ll like the aroma for more than a brief period. It's easier to test the aroma for an extended period of time while doing something easy and mundane rather than expecting to love it all the way through an hour-long yoga session!