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Ever since beginning my yoga practice about three years ago, I’ve always been wondering how to move it to my house. A regular yoga class in this area costs from $17-$20 and requires you to drive all the way there, takes place at set times and most of the time I’m working.
Don’t get me wrong. If you are new to Yoga you should definitely take as many studio classes as are practical for you. A studio class gives you access to an experienced teacher who can demonstrate poses if you are confused, will help you make adjustments in difficult poses and will suggest variations if a certain pose is too hard. They’ll also help you understand a good flow (because some poses shouldn’t be done one after the other) and teach you the terminology. There’s also the social aspect of yoga that you only get from being in a class. Also, there are a LOT of different types of yoga and it is worth it to check around at different studios to see what fits you best. It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re into hot yoga, that’s not something you’re going to be able to do at home.
But when you get to the point where you don’t like spending that $20 and you have work getting in the way or it’s just too cold to go outside and get to your car (legit complaint, I swear) then here’s what I did to move my yoga practice to my living room without much trouble.
First, start by doing YouTube routines. Not as good as actual live classes because they don’t stop if you mess up or get behind and the teacher can’t fix anything you’re doing wrong. But if you’ve been attending enough yoga classes in person then you probably have a fairly decent amount of base knowledge and know more or less what you need to do with alignment and breath. There are a BAZILLION yoga teachers on YouTube and you can find almost any sort of routine at any length that you’re looking for. There is also a website called doyogawithme.com which has a lot of resources for people who want to do yoga at home.
There are also a number of really good apps out there that will walk you through a yoga class but most of them require a subscription so if you aren’t going to use them regularly then I wouldn’t purchase them. Yoga Studio and Down Dog are the two that I have personally used and I really liked them but I eventually unsubscribed since part of changing my practice to a home practice was in order to spend less money.
I’d suggest having at the bare minimum the same materials you were using in class. Obviously you’ll have a mat but if you were regularly using blocks and a strap then I’d definitely purchase some for your home practice. I use these foam blocks by REEHUT. The foam is solid but soft and the strap is….a strap. I mean, there’s not much more I can describe other than that. For a blanket, I use a rainbow blanket that I crocheted awhile back. It’s beautiful and makes me feel so happy when I use it. You can literally use any blanket you want provided it gives you the support (or coverage) you need.
My fiancé bought me this gorgeous Manduka mat for Christmas that I use for all of my yoga classes now but if you are purchasing your own mat then you will be 100% fine starting with a $20-$30 mat. I wouldn’t go to the dollar store or anything because you don’t want to get a poor quality mat that is going to fall apart quickly, but my first mat from Dick’s Sporting Goods is still holding up just fine.
For me, the best part of having an at home yoga practice is the ability to practice every single day. If I have twenty minutes, I’ll do a twenty minute practice. If I have more time, then obviously I’ll extend that practice. Another benefit is having the ability to choose what sort of practice I need on a particular day. If work has me feeling particularly anxious I’ll do a very calming routine. If I need to up my calorie count for the day I’ll do something more strenuous. It’s great being able to customize my routine for what my body needs.
Alright. So here is how you actually DO it.
- Set up your space. Light some candles, turn on some meditative music, turn the lights off, place your mat and props. Honestly, I started out by setting the mood every time but now I just leave the TV on to something interesting (usually Law and Order SVU or My 600 Lb Life) and only light candles if that interests me. For some people you’ll need more silence in order to focus or to get into it and if that’s the case, do whatever you need to do to put yourself in that mental place.
- Sit in easy pose (or whatever asana you use to start your practice) and set an intention. When I first started yoga I scoffed at teachers that said to set an intention for my practice. “I’m here to do yoga, lady! That’s my intention!” But then I started to realize the power of actually focusing your mind on what you’re doing at this moment and how it could put me in a different place mentally. Sometimes I’ll pray. Other times I will thank my body for what it’s about to do. I ignore whatever else has happened the rest of the day. Any thoughts that come into my mind I’ll allow to just flow through. Finish those thoughts, they are there for a reason, but don’t get yourself involved with them. If there is any judgement at all in your mind, now is the time to get rid of it. Don’t worry about obligations, don’t worry about fights or other people, focus on yourself. Take as much time as you need to to get into this space. It’s a little different at home than in a studio because in a studio you have a teacher moving you forward and you’re listening to instructions. At home you have just yourself telling you what to do. This step will become easier with time. Now, for me, this is the best part of my practice because I take control of what is going on in my life and in my mind.
- Start slowly. Don’t jump into major poses right away. While you are still in your opening asana, make gentle movements. I usually start with really small stretches like just moving my head from side to side and gentle twists. Keep your mind on your breath. Make sure you are taking filing breaths that are clarifying and movement inducing. Don’t lose track of your breathing.
- Once you are content with the small stretches, move into larger poses. My tendency is to finish twists and such in easy pose and then move into cat and cow pose which translates naturally into down dog which then takes me to the warrior poses, into sun salutation, etc. Once I’ve done the warrior poses two times on each side as well as lunges and chaturanga, I’ll stand up, do some balancing poses, lay down on my back, do some stretches and twists there and then end up in savasana for the last five minutes. The beautiful thing about yoga is that you can completely customize it for whatever you need. Personally, I’d like to be able to do splits so I’m making sure to include a lot of hip openers. If you have issues with your shoulders, look up poses that will help with that area and really focus on them. Do whatever your body needs – that’s what yoga is all about.
- Once you are finished, make sure to clean your space up. For me there is something cathartic about having everything cleaned up and done after my practice. Don’t leave your things just scattered all over your floor because then they’ll become a problem and you’ll start having negative feelings about them.
A few tips to hopefully help you out as you start:
- Dress appropriately in order to get into the spirit. There have been times when I’ve done my practice in a hoodie, t-shirt and yoga pants but my favorite practices have been when I’ve actually gotten physically ready with the whole thing – yoga pants, sports bra, pony tail. Practicing at home means you can literally dress however you want but a big part of a yoga practice is being there mentally and if you find yourself getting lazy with it, try switching it up and getting back into it 100%.
- Don’t force yourself to do yoga. I’ll force myself to run and I’ll force myself to go to the gym but I don’t like the negativity of forcing myself to do a difficult yoga practice. If your brain isn’t there today, do something suuuuper gentle and only when you’re ready for it. I’ve found that I can’t just work out first thing in the morning so I give myself some time to wake up and then I’ll work out.
- Don’t get stuck doing the same five poses over and over. If you find yourself only doing a certain routine either look up a class on YouTube or doyogawithme.com or go to a studio class just to switch it up a bit. There are a lot of really awesome asanas you can work towards but you won’t get there if you don’t know what they are or if you don’t do the preparatory poses that you need to do in order to get into the next pose.
If you really want to get into a home practice, there are a lot of tools out there that will help you by giving you visuals of poses or suggestions for how to plan your practice. A few books that I would recommend are Hatha Yoga Illustrated and Yoga Sequencing. Yoga Sequencing is aimed more at yoga teachers and might be a little deep for some newer yogis but if you are interested in really delving into the topic it might be interesting for you.
Whatever happens, don’t stop practicing. Find some time every day or as often as you can to take some time for yourself and clear your mind. You won’t regret it, I promise.