One of the most beautiful and liberating aspects of yoga is that you don’t need any fancy equipment or a designated building or field to practice. Yoga is accessible. The practice meets you where you are – as long as you are willing to approach it.Sometimes it’s just not possible to make it into a studio for class. Perhaps this is because of financial or geographical restrictions or simply a matter of preference. Regardless, developing a home yoga practice and committing to it is a profound tool for deepening into your own personal relationship with yoga.
Creating a home yoga practice is easier than you think. If you want to build a consistent home practice, start by choosing four or five poses that feel great, so you'll feel compelled (rather than obligated) to roll out your mat. Kate Hanley from Yoga International puts together some guidelines to help you overcome the biggest hurdles we all face: complacency (how to make yourself actually do it) and fear (what to do once you commit to start).
4 Reasons to Start a Home Practice
Self-knowledge. Practicing on your own helps you learn to self-regulate and self-soothe. It’s like driving your own car versus being chauffeured—when you’re driving, you have a greater responsibility to pay attention and to choose where you’re going and to respond to what happens as you travel along.
Self-help. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at assessing how you feel, so when you first come to the mat, you can choose a practice that counterbalances whatever’s going on—mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Self-indulgence. How many other endeavors allow you to do whatever you darn well please? “Practicing on your own is so indulgent,” Crandell says. “You can take anywhere from 2 to 90 minutes and do whatever you want at whatever pace, tone, and intensity you choose.”
Exponential growth. When you practice regularly, the effects of each session don’t have a chance to wear off before you come back to the mat. That consistency offers benefits that double and then double again. Not bad for something you can do in your living room without spending a dime. Yet even the biggest dose of inspiration won’t make your home practice a reality if you aren’t also armed with a few guidelines to dispel the fear that you won’t be doing it right.
How to Design a Home Yoga Practice
These six tips can help you chart a course for your home practice and give you the confidence that you do, in fact, know what you’re doing. They also provide the means to keep your practice fresh, so that you don’t have to resort to doing the same handful of poses over and over (unless you want to, of course—it is your home practice, after all).
Start with quiet. Before you dive into a sun salutation or a specific pose, start in a comfortable seated position or even in corpse pose. When you begin with stillness, you can see how your body and mind feel and then decide what to do based on that.
Pick a direction. This should depend on how you feel. If you’re tired and pressed for time, choose a short restorative practice. If you’re raring to go, opt for a more vigorous practice. If you need grounding and stability, focus on standing poses. If you need energy, incorporate backbends. If you're tired and pressed for time, choose a short restorative practice. If you need grounding and stability, focus on standing poses.
Set an intention. This simple suggestion ensures that you’ll use your time—no matter how short—constructively. Sample intentions Pearce-Hayden suggests include creating a sense of spaciousness in a specific part of the body, working on a specific practice or pose, or noticing (and letting go of) any emotions that arise—without judgment.
Choose poses you love. There’s a common perception that you should use a home practice to work on the poses that truly challenge you. Throw that idea out the window. Start by choosing four or five poses that feel great, so you’ll feel compelled, rather than obligated, to roll out your mat.
Pay attention in class. You could start taking mental notes in class: "I really like when we do down dog, low lunge, down dog again, and pigeon, I’ll do those three at home."
Move in all directions. Choose at least one pose for each direction the body moves—leaning side to side, forward and back, twisting, and turning upside down (which could be as simple as downward dog or a standing forward bend). If you incorporate all the directions, you create a complete practice.