by Kara-Leah Grant, author of Forty Days of Yoga, Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice
One of the techniques I suggest people use in Forty Days of Yoga is something I call Stop, Drop & Practice. It’s been a core reason why I’ve had a consistent practice the last eight years, and it still works for me now.
In fact, this is one of my most effective ways of ensuring that mat resistance doesn’t de-rail my daily yoga practice and works great around children, or a busy life.
Stop, drop & practice means forgetting about needing a yoga mat and instead practicing wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.
This works equally well for asana and meditation practice, but for this article, let’s focus on a stop, drop and asana practice.
A key component of Stop, Drop & Practice is the clothes you wear.
When you’re always wearing clothing you can practice yoga in there’s nothing stopping you from practicing anytime and anywhere. You never have to stop and get changed to do yoga.
Yes this is only a small thing. But it’s another small thing that can mean the difference between practicing and not practicing.
It’s not that difficult to find clothes that you can wear in your every day life AND practice yoga in:
- Jeans stretchy enough for Downward Dogs and seated forward bends.
- Dresses with leggings underneath.
- Yoga pants, with long shirts or short dresses over the top.
- Comfortable shorts and T-shirts tight enough to not end up around your neck in a Downward Dog.
There’s very little left in my wardrobe I can’t practice yoga in: and that means I can stop, drop and practice yoga anywhere, anyhow.
Case in point. A couple of months ago I wore yoga pants and a tunic dress to playgroup with Samuel.
While I was sitting on the grass talking to the other mothers and keeping a watchful eye on Samuel playing, I was also moving through some slow seated asana – half-lotus, seated wide-legged forward and side bends and Hero’s Pose. It’s easy to do this, while breathing mindfully and chatting.
No, it’s not a meditative go-deep-inside kind of yoga practice. But it is a loosen-up-the-body and free-the-spine kind of practice.
Later, Samuel jumped on the swing and I discovered I could practice standing postures while pushing him.
Forty-five minutes later – yes, my son loves to swing – I had worked my way through Warrior II variations, lunge variations, Triangle, Standing Bow Pose, Standing Half-Lotus and even a few forward bends.
It added an extra element of focus and concentration as I noted how the need to push the swing back and forth impacted on my posture. Afterwards my body felt open and warm and I felt grounded and clear. My son loved being pushed for a long time with a happy Mum.
There’s all kinds of ways you can ‘stop, drop and practice’ in your life – you just have to be open to possibilities. Start by asking yourself:
Where’s the opportunity to practice yoga today?
When you go for a walk, wear yoga-friendly clothing so you can stop and do some asana halfway through the walk.
When you come home from work change straight into yoga-friendly clothing so it’s easy to practice at any stage during your evening – even if that’s sitting on the floor in breath-connected floor asana while watching TV. Yes stop, drop & practice can mean doing yoga while watching TV. No, it’s not a meditative practice, but it does open and free the body.
When you’re standing in the kitchen waiting for the jug to boil or the toast to pop, take a moment or two and use the kitchen bench for some forward bends, releasing the legs, pelvis and spine.
After a gym session, or playing sport, give yourself five minutes or ten minutes to stretch, with breath awareness – remembering that it’s the focus on your breath and the focusing of your attention that turns stretching into yoga.
The beauty of ‘stop, drop and practice’ is that you can creatively work with whatever props are around you and these props can help to open your body in new and interesting ways.
When I walk my son around the boardwalk and we stop on one of the bridges, he often wants to get out of his pushchair and check out the water. I use the railings to support myself in a few forward bends. Sometimes I’ll do a full standing series using the bridge – the railings are excellent for working with Warrrior III in a supported manner.
It’s the same approach when I’m in the kitchen cooking or washing dishes. I might take a moment to do a supported forward bend using a bench. Or I’ll hook my hands onto the inside of the bench and do a supported back bend. There’s always added nuances that reveal themselves in postures when we support one part of the body so we can focus on another part of the body.
These ‘stop, drop and practice’ techniques are different from being on your mat with a total internal focus.
A purist might suggest it’s not really yoga, or it’s not really a home yoga practice. But there is something powerful about allowing your practice to become an integrated part of your life. It’s worked for me. It might work for you.
And that’s what we want, right? A home yoga practice that works for us. With or without a mat. With or without our children. With or without our friends. With or without furniture for props.
We want to use what we’ve got, where we’ve got it, how we’ve got it.
In doing so, all the barriers between us and our practice disappear. Any moment becomes a practice moment.
And so often, what starts as stop, drop & practice evolves into a full asana practice complete with seated postures and savasana – just because I took the time to breathe into my body with awareness right where I was.
Try it out for yourself – challenge yourself to wear yoga-friendly clothing one day and see how many opportunities you can find to do a stop, drop and practice.