Have you ever tried committing to a home yoga practice? It’s pretty hard, right? Especially for the lazier among us.
It is not, however, impossible.
Even though I’m not always as committed to my practice as I should be, I’m a keen yogi at heart. To keep me motivated, I follow a number of inspiring yogi women on Instagram who also aren’t scared to share the more tender corner of their hearts ever so often.
Among these women, Ché Dyer, a South African yoga teacher currently based in London, has found a special place in my heart. Her approach to life, her practice and social media is joyful, fun and honest.
She’s also a shining example of someone who has managed to set up a dedicated at-home yoga practice and is now committed to helping others do the same.
I recently got in touch with her via email for some advice. Read our Q&A below:
When and how did yoga first find you? Can you tell us a little bit about your yoga journey?
I love that you use the phrasing of yoga finding me! And I think that is totally true. I actually first did one or two sessions of yoga when I was living and teaching English in South Korea, I followed a DVD with my friend and kind of thought the whole thing was a bit of a waste of time – so I didn’t really pursue it much after that first encounter. Haha!
I moved to London several years later and a friend of mine was doing her teacher training and asked me if I could be her “guinea pig” as she needed someone to practice teaching on!
I said, “Yes” and she came over to practice teaching on me, and within a few sessions with her I was hooked.
I think that yoga “re-found me” at a time in my life – post leaving a destructive relationship, when I was really ready for the practice. I began practicing little bits every day and followed some challenges on Instagram to get me started.
Within two years of an every-day practice I had noticed the incredible shifts that I had had not only in my body but in my heart and soul too, and I knew that I wanted to share that with others – so I signed up for my first yoga teacher training.
Often those who are interested in yoga end up not pursuing it, because they feel studios/classes are too expensive. Why would you encourage them to just get started at home so long? How long did it take you to establish a regular at-home practice?
I completely resonate with this! I found so many of the studios in London so expensive and also SUPER intimidating that I avoided going to them. For that reason, I began with a regular home yoga practice pretty early on – it didn’t take me long to establish a regular yoga routine (probably about a month or so) as I quickly began to see the benefits in my mind and body.
I think starting a home practice helps take away some of the fear and intimidation that you can feel when you walk into a new yoga studio (I still sometimes feel intimidated in big yoga studios) But knowing generally what a “downward dog” and a “warrior one” are will help make you feel a little bit more at ease when you first go to a new class. I always believe that YOU are your best teacher – if you really pay attention and listen to your body, then you will know what works for you – discomfort in the practice is ok, but there should never be pain or sharp shooting sensations.
And why do you think it’s important for yogis who do attend studio classes to complement them with an at-home practice?
Establishing a home practice is like gold. Yoga is an incredible tool for self-regulation, calming the nervous system, strengthening and lengthening the body, processing emotions, dealing with anxiety and stress and the list goes on (and on).. but because yoga is this incredible tool, it’s important that you know how to use it on your own.
If you find yourself in a suddenly emotionally overwhelming/nerve-wrecking/anxious-feeling situation – and you don’t have access to a good yoga studio at that instant – you want to be able to access the power of yoga on your own, without the guidance of a teacher or a class.
When we establish a home practice in this way it also becomes a way that we can tune in and connect with our bodies and figure out what we need in this moment and move in a way that is appropriate to how we are feeling and what we need to process.
If we are feeling fired up and angry, then we can let off some steam with several rounds of Sun Salutations and fiery core work, or if we are feeling anxious and up in our thoughts we can ground ourselves through focusing on poses that are low to the earth, focused on stability and the feet. If we are feeling sadness or grief we may want to practice softer more restorative practices where we use blocks and props and pillows and create the feeling that we are being held.
We can’t always process the way we want or need to through a class led by someone else. In the same way, if for example, we are feeling angry and fired up – to come into a “soft-gentle-flow” may even feel totally incongruent with how we are feeling!
What are the basics yogis should have in place for establishing an at-home yoga practice?
Have a very definite and clear WHY, for why you practice. This is fundamental in sustaining our motivation when it gets cold/dark/etc. In my yoga guide I have a whole section on motivation and pull out card for you to write your WHY out so that you can see it – so grab a piece of paper (decorate it if you want!) and then be clear on why you want to practice.
Then put it in a place where you are likely to be when the motivation is starting to wane… like on the tv screen or next to your computer.
In terms of setting up your home yoga practice, I always say that it’s useful to have a specific space dedicated to your yoga practice. It doesn’t need to be a literal space (although that is very handy too), but what rituals can you include that help establish the space energetically for you – maybe it’s taking a few moments to write a list of gratitude, or maybe it’s lighting some candles – create a little bit of sacredness around your practice zone.
For the physical basics I have 5 tips:
- BREATHE: Spend a few moments just tuning into how you are breathing – it’s the cornerstone of your entire yoga practice and connects you directly to the nervous system where the magic happens.
- SPINAL MOVEMENT: Start with some gentle movements to wake up the spine – a simple twist, a side bend, a cat/cow.
- WARM UP: Then it’s useful to know at least one variation of a Sun Salutation as they are really good at warming up the body.
- TUNE IN: Once you know and understand a few different poses and how to link them – move through them making sure you LISTEN to your body.
- RESTORE: Don’t forget to take a Savasana each time (which is basically just lying flat on your back with the eyes closed!) – it’s a great way to integrate everything from your practice and get back into the nervous system, and is sadly often skipped in a home practice.
Did you have any helpful resources to guide your practice when you first started doing yoga at home?
I first began my yoga journey through following yoga Instagram challenges – usually it’s posting one pose per day for a month (or for however long the challenge is running). It was really useful for me at the time, but I wanted something that could dive a bit more into the philosophy and all the ‘other’ stuff that makes up this amazing practice of yoga.
I found Instagram to be a really great tool for initially getting into yoga, but in my opinion, over time and as the IG yoga community has exploded – there has also been a lot of glorification of yogis in poses that exploit an extreme range of motion, which isn’t necessarily beneficial (body or mind) to the average person starting out on this journey.
So, my suggestion is to a) find a few teachers that you really vibe with and connect with them and their teaching and b) always listen to your own body and cultivate an acceptance of where it is at right now – as I mentioned above.
You now create your own helpful resources for yogis of all levels. Can you tell us a bit more about your Yoga Guide and other resources on your website?
When I began my yoga journey I was practicing solely at home and I wished I had something that could guide me through everything that I needed to know to create a well-rounded home practice.
Many of the IG challenges are simply just posting one pose per day, which, although can teach you a variety of poses, it doesn’t actually teach you how to create a whole holistic home practice. What should you start with? How do you warm up? How do you create yoga flows? How do you know what poses to link together? Does it matter which poses come after which? How do you make it dynamic? How do you make it restorative? What is the correct alignment on your mat? What is the mindset stuff behind yoga? How do I stay motivated to practice?
Because there wasn’t anything that directly answered all those struggles when I was starting out, I created a digital home yoga practice guide addressing all those things. It is much more than just an index of yoga poses (although there are 116 pages of that too), it takes you through a 10-week diary in which you learn how to teach yourself, step-by-step with very specific alignment cues, pose analysis and sequencing. It also has access to my private Facebook group where you can ask any questions you may have, and where I share other mini videos and tutorials. You can find out more about the guide here: Yoga Guide.
Because of how much the yoga guide has helped beginners out in their practice, I decided to develop something further and now have a member’s area that includes full-length yoga flows, video tutorials, creative exercises, meditations, soul work, journal prompts and yoga philosophy to sink your teeth into. I wanted to create an incredible online space where people (mainly women) just feel INSPIRED to move, breathe and create! You can find out more about it here.
What are little things people can do to create a ritual around their at-home yoga practice to encourage them to do it every day?
I love this, and I think creating rituals around your practice helps to establish it as a regular part of your day and help to take you out of “work”/ “everyday mode” and into your yoga zone.
I love simple things like putting on a playlist that you really love, lighting a candle or dimming the lights. But really these rituals need to be personal to what make YOU come alive – so that it keeps drawing you back to the mat! If you implement these little rituals soon they will automatically bring you into “the yoga zone” before you’ve even rolled out your mat!
Find out more about Che or send her any questions by visiting her website or following her on social.
Love the idea of starting your own practice? Here are a few simple poses to get you started.
Yoga has many psychological and physical benefits- read about them here.
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