Do you want to develop a regular home yoga practice or find yourself with more time at home and can't make it to your yoga studio class? A balanced home yoga practice offers so many benefits, but what does it take and how can you get started? In this article, we look at what we can learn from behaviour change theories that can help you to practice yoga at home. I share tips from my own home yoga practice that might help you to create yours.
What helps us to maintain new behaviours?
A large amount of my public health job is related to behaviour change - whether at an individual level - creating services to encourage people to take actions to improve their own health, or the policy level, supporting ministries to take action on health issues. Many theories of change exist - the Transtheoretical model of change, the Health Action Process Approach, Self-determination Theory and the list goes on. Many of these models help us to understand how we can implement change, but what do we need to maintain a new behaviour?
A review published by researchers in the UK (1) identified five cross-cutting themes from models of change that can support the maintenance of new practices:
Maintenance motives - a positive outcome, i.e. enjoyment of the new behaviour, helps to establish priorities. These may differ from the original motive to start the activity, i.e. a home yoga practice to reduce stress might be the prompt, but the maintenance motive might be 'I feel happier and more healthy when I practice yoga at home. Motives are linked to enjoyment, self-determination and a sense of identity.
Self-regulation - monitoring the new behaviour and finding ways to overcome barriers to enacting it. With a home yoga practice, this might be reflecting on whether you practiced once or twice in the week. If you find a lapse then self-regulation allows you to think about why this lapse occurred...maybe it was time, other priorities, lack of space or work travel. Self-regulation helps you to think about how to overcome these challenges the following week or month. Coping with these barriers improves self-efficacy.
Resources- the availability of physical and emotional resources to support a home yoga practice. Behaviour change is more likely to occur when resources are plentiful, including time! Lapses will be inherently linked to a lack of resources. Internal self-regulation can also be viewed as part of your resource needs. For a home yoga practice this might relate to a dedicated space and time to practice or a 'do not disturb' notice to hang on the door.
Habit - maintaining a behaviour because it becomes habitual. After a period of self-regulation, habits will naturally form. Habits are often connected to cues and replacing negative cues that lead to negative behaviours with more positive cues to lead to beneficial practices. For a home yoga practice this could mean placing your yoga mat somewhere you see it daily or changing into your comfy leggings to get motivated.
Environmental and social influences -social support and an enabling environment. Social influence and support will impact the ability to maintain behaviour. Social norms and supportive actions from trusted people can drastically affect whether you continue with your home yoga practice. Think about how you perceive your yoga and how you project this to the people closest to you. Consider addressing concerns upfront by explaining why and how you need support to continue with your yoga journey.
How can you set up a home yoga practice?
Creating your own yoga practice at home can be challenging, for beginners and experienced yogis alike. The distractions of life around you can be a real difficulty to overcome. If you are starting, following a short sequence of poses, or a video online is perfect.
Try not to overcomplicate or try poses that are too new or advanced. Simple poses can have the same impact as more challenging poses - we don't all need to be that yogi on the beach with their ankle touching their neck to be practicing yoga at home!
What does a home yoga practice look like?
For most people, a home yoga practice offers the chance to create a practice that is personal and meets their needs. My practice often varies in intensity, duration and balance between energising flow and calming practice. However, the components remain the same, meditation, breathwork (Pranayama), and yoga asana poses. I encourage you to think about how you feel before you pick a yoga practice to do at home. Have you had a hectic day and need some time to breathe -maybe calming stress-relieving practice is a great addition. If you have had a day where your body has been stuck in one position too long, and you want to improve your energy levels - opt for an up-tempo energising flow. Use your intuition, before and after the home practice. Reflect on how the practice felt for you and what benefits you noticed. Be comfortable with changing it up or just putting some music on and moving on the mat...who knows where you will end up!
Your practice is time for you. Even if you make it on your mat for five minutes of deep breathing, you will feel the benefit. With maintenance, you can build a regular home yoga practice, and the transformation will follow. Take a moment to think about your needs and how you can support yourself to begin today.
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Kwasnicka D Theoretical explanations for maintenance of behaviour change: a systematic review of behaviour theories. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26854092/