The hardest part of yoga is simply getting on your mat. I’ve told this to my friends, my students, and first-time yogis countless times. The rest is a breeze once you start to flow, but you’ve just got to get over that first hurdle. In the Before, that meant getting to the studio. I would personally always hedge and ponder bailing right until I crept inside the 3-hour cancellation window. Usually, I would take my own advice and show up, and the post-yoga glow was literally always worth it.
Prior to the pandemic, I thought of hauling myself to the studio as an impediment: yoga was always competing with after-work drinks or a Trader Joe’s run. But I don’t think I realized how helpful the commitment that process required actually was—until the country entered the era of at-home yoga in March. You might think having your mat within a few feet of where you work and sleep would be the perfect solution for frictionless access to more yoga than ever. But for me, and I think a lot of people—maybe you—never needing to actually commit presents a problem. Coupled with a pandemic attention span that might well be slowly decreasing with each Zoom, Slack, and email notification, at-home-yoga can in practice mean never actually getting on the mat at all.
Good news: I have the solution. Or, a solution that has worked for me, and might work for you. It’s to totally re-think the size and shape of what a yoga practice should be, and try practicing in 10 or 20-minute chunks. The typical yoga class is an hour—but that has more to do with studio logistics than anything else. (It would also never be worth it to commute to the studio for a 15-minutes, right?) But believe it or not, a mini-flow can give you many of the same benefits as a standard length class and leave you as zenned out as ever. And rather than fight in vain the scatterbrained existence of social distancing and working from home, it lets you work within it. 18 minutes till your next Zoom? Namaste.
You could do this all kinds of ways: 3 sun salutations before breakfast; some supine twists after sitting for hours; or hold chair pose during commercials while you’re binge-watching Hulu. (If you have the commercial-free subscription, congrats…but still do some chair pose!).
For me, the potential of fun-sized yoga opened up for me when my studio in New York, Sky Ting, launched their own streaming service, Sky Ting TV. I had never been a fan of YouTube or other forms or streaming classes, but in the early days of quarantine, I reluctantly signed up for the free trial and suppressed my skepticism. After the first class I was a different person—my body (and mind!) was so grateful to move and stretch and breathe in a way it hadn’t in weeks.
I enjoyed standard-length practices and even their infamous Pyro Ting classes, which drop a HIIT workout into the middle of the vinyasa sequence. But Sky Ting TV only truly cracked open for me when I started doing the service’s shortest offerings: a 13-minute “wake up mini class,” 22 minutes of shoulder openings, a “surf-inspired” 15. These pint-sized classes have helped me adapt my practice to this new reality: I could be clinging to negativity—there’s no shortage of it right now—but then quickly find myself opening my hips in pigeon pose, or backbending into full wheel and suddenly unlock those frustrations and easily let them go when my mind couldn’t.
Once I set aside my expectations about what a yoga class was “supposed to be” and allowed it to take on a different form, I was able to weave it more seamlessly into my days at home and deepen my practice in a way that seemed impossible without being in a studio. I still absolutely miss the feeling of being on my mat next to friends, family, strangers, and wise teachers, as this sense of community was a large part of what drew me to yoga in the first place. But letting go of expectations is a tenet of yoga, and what better time than now to let go of the things that aren’t serving you.
So don’t force yourself into an arbitrary block of time. Don’t try to re-create the studio at home. Try leaving your mat on the floor and flowing a bit whenever the mood strikes.