I had been taking yoga classes for six years before I even thought about doing yoga practice at home. At first it was not something I would even consider, practising at studios was so normal and seemed to be the only way to practice yoga. Unfortunately, practising at studios was not possible on a regular basis for me. The class timetable did not always agree with my schedule for the day. The commute took over an hour to get to the studio and back, and the classes were expensive. That’s when I decided to give home practice a go, and I found that the morning was the best time for it. It wasn’t always easy, but I’ve found the lessons I learned about getting started could be distilled to three simple questions.
1) How Do I Start a Home Yoga Practice?
We often make the decision in bed to do yoga the next morning, but when the morning comes it’s easier said than done. We start thinking about the day ahead, running late to work, wanting to lie in bed for a few minutes longer and our good intentions fall to the wayside. And let’s not forget that coffee can wake us up as well as yoga can, right?
In reality, a sun salute in the morning will wake you up faster than any coffee! The simple act of waking up your muscles and getting the blood moving around automatically leaves you feeling energised for the day ahead. A simple five to fifteen minute practice will help your joints move more freely, brain cells will get more oxygen from the boost in blood circulation and as a result you will be more efficient, energetic and focused on the tasks of the day.
The hardest part about starting your home yoga practice is to get on your mat. Even if you only have time for a few deep breaths, that’s great! Roll out your mat, close your eyes, and just pay attention to your breath for a while. Maybe you will feel more grounded after this, and will take this feeling of calm with you for the rest of the day. Maybe once you have finished the first breath you will feel like stretching your arms up high, reaching for the ceiling and flowing through a Sun Salutation, and then maybe a second! One breath can always be enough, but with it comes the possibility that more will follow!
2) What Routines or Postures do I Practice?
Many people are stopped by a gap in their knowledge of yoga poses and being unsure of what to do when they open the mat, but there are many ways around this! One option is to look up a beginner class on Google. If you feel more creative, try combining postures you remember from your last yoga class and play with those. If you’re really stuck, here is what I would suggest as a quick yoga practice for beginners:
- Breathing – Start by taking five slow breaths either in a comfortable seated position or in Mountain Pose. For this step, try making the exhale twice as long as inhale.
- Sun Salutes – Flow through two to three Sun Salutations, making sure you keep your breath steady. Unlike the breathing exercise, it is best to make the inhales and exhales even. Sun Salutations are great for waking up and energising the body. Movements such as forward fold, back bend, inversion and core strength are all incorporated in a single Sun Salutation. This is a great way to get a little bit of everything and move your body in different directions, especially if you’re short on time.
- Corpse Pose / Śavāsana – Lie down on your mat, with your feet and hands falling slightly outward to the sides. Feel your spine lengthening and straightening as your get comfortable. Take ten natural breaths in this position, and try not to let your mind wander. It is important to take Śavāsana after even a short practice, as this is the time when your body assimilates the benefits of yoga. Try not to skip it!
3) Why Is It So Difficult To Get On The Mat At Home?!
You have probably heard your yoga teacher say that the benefits of yoga come from consistency and frequency of practice, not necessarily intensity or length of a single session. You can practice once a week for ninety minutes or you can practice six times a week for fifteen minutes each day. You will spend ninety minutes per week with either one of these options. Which option will bring the most benefit to your health and well-being?
A good starting point would be a short five to fifteen minutes sequence every day. Longer sessions are important as they allow you to open up more, go further into the poses, and wake up deep laying muscles that have become dormant. There are definitely many benefits to doing a longer session every once in a while, but that’s not a reality for most people before work! Even five minutes a day to do a quick morning practice, is amazing! One Sun Salutation, a few breaths in śavāsana and you’re set! Notice how you feel after a week of doing this every morning.
I have been practising regularly at home for several years now. I normally aim to practice every day, with the real goal of achieving it four to five times a week. I trick myself this way into dissuading my sleepy mind to take a morning off when it is not necessary. If you are well disciplined and think that you can practice every day, remember that everybody should take at least one day of rest per week from your yoga practice. Rest is essential!
Pro Tip: Keep Your Yoga Mat Sacred
I suggest to my students that they roll away the mat after each time they practice yoga rather than leaving it open in between the practices. The rolled out mat will become room decoration if left out. The mat is a symbol of your practice, a special place which is only for you. Take time to put it away and give it a cosy space in your home where it rests when you are not practising. You might notice that if you leave your mat open, life will like the look of it and move onto it, with bags, shoes, books, and other items finding a comfortable spot on your yoga mat, making it more difficult for you to practice when you are ready.
Give It A Go!
I personally feel the benefits of practising yoga on a regular basis. I feel calmer, my joints are happier, and even sitting at my desk all day long has become more bearable. On days that I do even a short practice in the morning, I find myself sitting tall with a long spine even when I am not paying attention to it. My mind feels calmer as well, and I am able to control my emotions and stay better grounded in difficult situations.
Take a look at your day. How could a regular yoga practice benefit your routine? Imagine having more time in the day because you cut the commute time out. Can you benefit from the time you would save? What would you do with it? Try unrolling your mat at home one day, see how it’s different from your regular class, and let me know in the comments!