The most frequently asked question I hear about yoga is how to practice at home. I also think home yoga practice is one of the most misunderstood aspects as well.
It sounds great in theory, right? You don’t have to leave the house. You can do it in your jammies. It’s super cheap. And the list of pros goes on and on.
But then you try it and reality sets in. You don’t know what to do. You keep getting interrupted. You’re too distracted.
Well, I’ve struggled with this, too. So here’s a list of all the things that helped me successfully start a consistent home yoga practice.
Set Yourself Up
Pick a spot. A hard surface is generally better — carpet makes the mat slip when you move and provides less stability in standing and balancing poses. Natural light is ideal. Pick a space that’s clean and uncluttered. Somewhere where it’s quiet, warm and free of distracting smells. Fill the space with inspiration.
Pick a time. Think about how much time you have to practice. Duration is not as important as consistency. Think about your day and consider what time of day would be best to reap the benefits of yoga. Can’t concentrate after the 2 p.m. slump sets in? Need a better way to start the day? All of these indicators might help you zero in on the best time to hit the mat.
Have a reason. Knowing why you want to practice will help lead you to your mat every day, especially those days when you’d rather stay snuggled up in bed or skip out to head to bed early.
Gather your props. For essential gear, I recommend a good yoga mat, a yoga strap, two blocks and a blanket.
If you like restorative poses or just want to go a little deeper, I’d also recommend a bolster, sandbag and eye pillow.
Time to Hit the Mat
Sit quietly and come home to yourself. Find a comfortable seat, take a Child’s Pose or lie back in Savasana and spend a few moments reconnecting to your breath. Its pretty simple — just feel the breath flow in and out.
Check in with how you feel mind, body and spirit. This will help direct your practice. For example, if you’re feeling lost, overwhelmed, nervous or afraid, standing or balancing poses may give you grounding and stability. Or if you’re feeling fatigued or emotionally down, heart openers can be very energizing and uplifting.
Start with an intention. When you checked in with yourself as you first sat on your mat, what did you find? What do you want your time on the mat to be today? Use this information to form an intention for your practice. I like “I am” statements — “I am strong,” “I am balanced,” “I am open” — but go with whatever comes up.
Move with your breath. Start with some gentle spinal movements like Cat/Cow or some easy twists and side stretches with your breath. Just start moving and use your breath to guide your pace.
Stick to the basics at first. Sun Salutations are a great way to get your practice rolling. Plus, you get major bang for the buck because they’ve got a little bit of everything — forward bends, backbends, standing, core and inversion — so as you flow through these gentle warm-up movements, you can feel where your body could use a little extra TLC. Otherwise, just move into some familiar poses or flows and see what comes up. The only right answer is what feels best for you — your practice, your rules!
Pay close attention to the results of each pose. Knowing how Down Dog affects your stress levels and how backbends affect your mood will ultimately be the key to getting to a place where you feel comfortable coming up with sequences that work for you and get you the desired results.
Shed your ego. Practice like no one’s watching because, unless you have a peeping Tom neighbor or small children roaming around your house, chances are that no one is watching. This gives you time to tune into your own needs, listen to yourself and move in a way that feels good in your body. Who cares what it looks like? Your practice is uniquely you and one of a kind.
Have fun with it. Don’t take it all so seriously! Your mat is a safe place to practice all the things you want to get better at in life. Feeling out of whack? Try balancing poses and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself when you fall over and try again. Not only will you get less frustrated on your mat but it’ll translate to the world off your mat, too. It’s called “practice” for a reason.
Do you have a home yoga practice? Share how you got started. —Alison