How to Solve The 4 Biggest Challenges of a Vinyasa Yoga Self-Practice
Oh, vinyasa. How we love your creativity. We love the natural way breath syncs with movement. We love how adding different types of music changes the entire practice. We love how we can build up a sweat when we need it, or be slow and caring to ourselves when we don’t. We love the endless possibilities of a vinyasa yoga self-practice.
But a vinyasa yoga SELF-practice can be really frickin hard!! All of those things we love - the things that make the practice different every time you step on a mat - make it challenging to do on your own. Infinite possibilities can often mean we get stuck: paralyzed by choices, overwhelmed by it all.
Below are 4 common challenges we all face when we self-practice vinyasa yoga. And this post is all about solving them.
- Forgetting to do exactly the same thing on both sides
- Going too quickly and having self-practice sessions that are too short
- Getting stuck after one or two poses or flows and not knowing what to do next
- Getting stuck in a rut of doing the same things over and over again
Ready? Let’s go…
Forgetting to do exactly the same thing on both sides?
The yoga police will knock down your door and arrest you. Do not pass go, do not collect £200.
Of course this isn’t going to happen.
Everyone forgets poses or gets them in the wrong order: even the most experienced teachers in classes they’ve prepared endlessly for. Because the best vinyasa yoga self-practice is a creative one. And you are bound to forget things when you do them new every time.
Firstly, you are not going to permanently misalign your body by having some bias in your practice (ladies: tell me how many years you have spent carrying your handbag on the same shoulder?!). Sure, part of the benefits of a physical vinyasa yoga practice can be addressing some of these imbalances, but that takes time. Which means you need to keep practicing. Which means you need to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good!
Accept that this is part of what the vinyasa practice is about: making mistakes and continuing on. Getting to practice on your mat with small mistakes like this will help you off your mat when the mistakes are bigger. THIS is how you find the magical calm that yoga brings.
But it is annoying to always mess that second side up isn’t it? So here are some practical tips to help with your consistency from one side to the next:
- Go for a simpler flow. It’s ok to keep things simple! With time and practice, you will find more complex flows coming more easily and with fewer mistakes. Promise.
- Start on your non-dominant side for a change. This often helps your brain pay more attention to what you are doing and thus better remember it for the second side
- You are allowed to stop mid-flow. Take a Child’s Pose or Downward Dog and either try to remember, or if you have been videoing yourself, use the video to remind yourself.
Going too quickly and have self-practice sessions that are too short?
First, let go of the idea that a long practice equals a good practice. Maybe you are already doing exactly what your body and mind really need. Why does length and/or complexity matter so much?
Vinyasa yoga is not exercise or punishment or about doing fancy poses just for the sake of it. Especially a vinyasa yoga self-practice.
Having said that, we all know how amazing a long and in-depth practice can be. So if you know that this is what you need next from your practice, then the trick is to start adding a tiny bit more structure to what you are doing. These are some quick tips:
- Use a playlist of a set length to guide you to keep going
- Think about what the beginning, middle and end of a full practice would look like for you today before you step onto your mat
- Pick out a peak pose or theme for your practice to center on
Need more? The Book of Yoga Self-Practice has tools which will help you structure a longer practice with almost zero effort, and tools to help you keep track of where you are as you go without looking at a clock. Yep. All easy, all totally doable. Promise.
Getting stuck after one or two vinyasa poses or flows and don’t know what to do next?
This is completely normal. It might take you a few weeks or even months for this to stop happening.
It can be super frustrating, but just as you wouldn’t expect to be able to do a new and difficult pose first time, self-practice is a skill that will improve with time and dedication.
If this is your biggest struggle currently, these are a few ideas which might be useful:
- Embrace the "work" of rest: have to spend 5 minutes in downward dog thinking of what to do next? That is AMAZING work in your practice!
- Tweak that same flow: stop thinking you need to strive for something new and different every time. Can you add one new pose to that flow you always resort to? That is a HUGE win.
- What about trying a fresh approach to your first few moments on your mat? If you love a dynamic warm-up, why not try a seated meditation? If you love to start slow, what would your practice look like if you threw yourself right in to sun salutations?
This is also where combining the different tools from The Book of Yoga Self-Practice can help: to get quick ideas for what you want your practice to be, little nuggets to take with you onto your mat to make things new and interesting, guidance on how to structure long and short practices, and lots lots more (even tools to help you get comfortable with not knowing what you are doing!).
Getting stuck in a rut of doing the same things over and over again?
This is also completely normal!
A great approach if this is you is to deliberately go out and seek some new and fresh inspiration. Things like this:
- Take a new yoga class
- Try a new yoga video on YouTube
- Put some different music on while you practice
- Take your mat into another room
All of things these can help bring something new out in your yoga practice. The different tools from The Book of Yoga Self-Practice has a BUNCH of ideas to flesh these suggestions out, as well as sharing lots of new ones.
Ultimately what you need to do is JUST KEEP GOING. The practice is the purpose, not the length or the creativeness of the flow or the newness of your sequence.