Yogi’s guide: Starting a Home Practice

Rest Importance

Are you wanting to start something to improve your fitness? Maybe help you deal with stress or sleep better? Are you looking for something to look after your physical and mental health that only takes up a few minutes a day? Well, a home yoga practice could be just the thing for you.

Home Practice is Awesome

I love the freedom and convenience of slipping into my yoga pants, rolling out a mat and doing what my body tells me it needs for as much or little time as my schedule allows. No time wasted travelling to a class or waiting around for it to get started. No battling out in bad weather when I would far rather stay warm inside. No being beholden to someone else time table. And, best of all, my yoga practice travels with me. I don’t miss out because I am on holiday or a work trip. I can do yoga anywhere – and yes, I really do. This year I have practiced in an orchard overlooking stunning welsh mountains, in a motor home (now that was snug), in a military gym and in my bed as well as in my lounge, hallway, kitchen and garden. Have home practice – will travel!

Start-Up Checklist

Liking the sound of yoga at home but not sure where to start? Let’s look at what you might need.

How much time do I need? Basically it comes down to how much or as little time you have. Have a think about how much time you have in your daily routine to do yoga at home. You may want to do an hour a day but that is a BIG ask for most of us who are juggling work, family and other activities. So, be realistic – as little as 5 minutes is still a great place to start – you can always do more if you have the time. And maybe a couple of times a week is achievable – that is great!

How much space? – Some space to move around in is nice but your practice can be modified to suit your surroundings. Low ceilings? Work seated or lying down. Not enough room to roll out a mat? Do a standing practice. Not suitably dressed for physical practice? Try something less active – meditation or pranayama (breathwork) maybe.

What about equipment? – Really you just need your body, your mind, and your intention. Having said that, a mat is nice to work on but carpet or a towel will do if you don’t have your mat handy. And grass or a wooden deck are perfectly delicious to practice on in those warm summer days (remember them ?). You may want to get blocks and bricks to help with modifying poses if you are used to working with them but they are not essential. And a bolster or meditation cushion is the icing on the cake for me but I have used pillows, blankets, cushions, stools and stairs at times when away from my usual yoga toys.

What is Home Practice?

We all think of asāna or physical yoga when we consider what a home practice looks like and for many yogi’s this is the mainstay of their home practice. And when it comes to what poses or sequences to choose – the world is your oyster! Some disciplines have set sequences to practice – ashtanga vinyasa for example – making home practice simple and straight forward once you know the routine. But if this doesn’t suit you, there are loads of places to go for inspiration.

  1. On line / DVDs / apps – If you want someone else to lead your practice there lots of on line resources to choose from. So many different teachers, styles, durations and presentations out there it can be daunting trying to find what suits you. Try a few teachers until you find one whose voice and style work for you. Most will offer different length classes at differing levels of physicality and challenge. Pick what suits you and your level of experience and, if in doubt, choose the easier option until you have got to know the teacher and how they practice! Many teachers also offer a focus topic for a class like ‘strong legs’, ‘better sleep’ or ‘back pain’ so you can target what you feel you need at any one time.
  2. Learn a sequence – Sun and moon salutes come in various forms and are great to do at home. Learn the flow of poses and repeat the sequence a few times to fill the time you have available. You can always add modifications and variations if you want to mix it up a bit some days. Alternatively, there are mini-sequences that flow together really nicely and don’t take long to learn. The warrior mini-sequence and this hip-opening sequence are some I have written about before that you could try. Or you can take things you have done in your classes and try them at home.
  3. Be intuitive – This is my personal favourite and it is all about listening to your body. I come to my mat asking what my body wants or needs today. Sometimes I will decide that today’s practice will be all about core work but then my body tells me that hip openers would serve me better. Or maybe I want to do a fast dynamic practice but my body says – no, not today Sally, go slow…… It is then all about setting aside ego and expectations to listen and follow what my body needs – always the best way!
  4. It’s not all about the ‘bendy stretchy’ stuff – Meditation and pranayama are yoga too. These practices are as much part of home practice as asāna

    and are SO useful to fit in to days when you can’t get onto your mat. They can be done in airport lounges and on trains just as well as at home. They need no special clothes or equipment so the office or classroom are options too. They feel wonderful to do on those days when a physical practice is just impossible but you need your yoga fix!

So Let’s Do It!

If you have always been to yoga classes, home practice takes some getting used to. Having the discipline to set aside time and not getting distracted by the dog / children / partner / TV can be a challenge. But I think it is a challenge SO worth grasping with both hands. The rewards are amazing – yoga every day if you want to at a fraction of the time and financial cost of classes. The opportunity to do what you want and / or need to do rather than what the teacher has planned. And to do it when it just suits you and your schedule. I love my home practice and hope you will too. I wish you  all the best for this holiday season and happy home practicing.

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