How to: Get started with a home yoga practice
Updated: 2 days ago
Given studios and community places are shut currently, we don't have any other choice to take our practice into our homes.
This brings a whole set of other challenges and a totally different feel to our practice too.
Here's my tips for getting started with a home practice.
You really don't need tons of space to practice at home - a space around 21 sq ft is more than sufficient, that's a few inches longer than a standard mat and about 1.5 times the width of your mat.
The main criteria is you just want a few inches space around your mat so you're not going to bash your feet or arms if you lift them away from your mat.
Ideal spaces are a lounge, study, spare bedroom or even the kitchen.
The ability to shut a door for extra peace is also nice, but not necessary.
Personally, I practice in my lounge at home most of the time, but if the weather is good I often practice in the garden.
Store your equipment in your practice space. It’s all to hand and speeds up you getting ready (read on for my suggestions on equipment!)
If you're used to practicing in a studio with a particular feel, it can be weird to transition to practicing in your own space where your life is. It can be distracting, and hard to focus.
This is where the concept of fancying things up a bit is great. Making a bit of effort to set the mood of your practice can really help the space feel a bit more inviting for you to practice in. The feel and atmosphere is half of getting into the right space to practice.
These are all things I do for you already in studio or a hall venue before any practice, you just don't see them!
I love different scents. If you've been to a class with me, you'll know I often spray an essential oil blend at the end of class to relax you into your final relaxation (Savasana). You might not know that I also spray all of my rooms before class too, again to set the mood for class. So maybe do the same at home with a room spray you might already have (or drop me a note if you'd like me to make you one!)
I pretty much always practice to music; if it is a yin/restorative practice it is somthing chilled and something more pacey or motivating if I'm practicing a power flow or my regular practice; which varies depending on the mood - could be dance music, hip hop or whatever else.
Candles, fairy lights, lamps and incense (if you like it) are all great ways to cosy up the space for a yin/restorative practice or for your final relaxation too.
You can also take this a bit further - a lot of teachers I know have dedicated practice spaces with altars filled with flowers, crystals and mementos near to their mats. Personally, I don't do this, because my dedicated space at home is now my office & kit room (it was my practice space originally)... but I have too much equipment (nice problem to have!) so there isn't space for a mat in there anymore.
PESKY PETS, PARTNERS & KIDDOS - STRATEGIES!
This is probably the trickiest bit of a home practice. Dealing with the distractions of whoever you live with, kids, partners, pets... it can really put you off your practice and put a barrier in place to actually wanting to do it in the first place.
The first thing to do is explain to anyone you live with it’s your practice time and you’d appreciate not being disturbed. If you're clear with what you need, everyone knows and there isn't an excuse.
I mentioned earlier about having a space to go to that you can shut the door on - this can be really valuable. Popping a note on a closed door to say "I'm practicing I'll be done at X time" can be helpful.
Maybe your issue is a pesky pet - I'm an expert at this one as I have two cats and a dog who love nothing more than getting involved!
My take on this is animals are really sensitive to energy. Have you ever been sad or ill and your pet hasn't left your side? It's like that - they're drawn to the positive stuff you're doing and just want to be near you.
Options are to involve them. If they're lying in the middle of your mat, stepping and moving around them and using the opportunity to be a little more creative in what you're doing.
Or you teach them to sit nearby and watch. Layla doesn’t come and fuss so much now if I’m practicing anything dynamic, it’s if I’m on the floor she often comes for a fuss or wants to sit on me. I have her blanket of hers next to my mat which she lies on if she wants to and I give her a chew or something if I don't want to be disturbed.
Layla's pro-level practice crashing. You can also see this in all my online classes too.
Of course, doing my job I’m lucky to have a room full of every piece of yoga gear you could imagine, so I use what I have!
You absolutely don’t need any fancy stuff or even a mat to practice at home...
Eye pillow = rolled up hand towel
Strap = belt or dressing gown cord, rolled up towel
Block = thick hardback book
Mat = a towel or just the floor
WHAT TO DO
It can also be really daunting when you want to practice at home to actually know what to do and what a practice should be structured like.
That's totally normal - you're used to working with a teacher guiding you, offering you options and their knowledge and it can be scary to dive into yourself and what you know.
All yoga classes follow a rough pattern. This isn't a definitive list, and it can be mixed up in different orders and poses used for different things (e.g. using boat or plank crunches as a warm up if you are doing arm balances).
Grounding - breath, settling in
Warm-up - poses to gently warm up and open into the body
Standing - balances, into big power poses working up to a strong peak pose or mini-sequence
Countering/neutralising stretches - I usually pop a short section in to counter the peak mini-sequence here
Seated - stretches, hip work, core work, back strengthening
Close - Final twists & compressions into relaxation.
Think of your favourite classes and the kind of poses you've enjoyed; what are they? How do they fit in? Give those a go. Move between them and see how that feels. Maybe start to introduce half or full sun salutations and move through different poses inbetween these.
Always be sure to warm up. Some suggestions for this are Childs Pose, Cat/Cow, Downdog, lunges into side stretch. For an hour practice, I usually aim for 10-15 minutes of warming poses.
There's no set time to practice for - 10 minutes, 2 hours; it can be whatever you want it to be. You might choose to just warm up on its own, maybe you move into working on a particular pose with prep poses and then into that main pose.
You might just make loads of movements that don't really look like actual poses. That's cool too.
My own personal practice doesn't look like anything you'd see in a class; I tend to move really fluidly from shape to shape, adding on to each pose and generally being guided by whatever my body is feeling that particular day.
Just getting on your mat and starting to move is a great place to start. Tune into how you are feeling and go from there.
Always warm up! Cat/Cow and downdog are your friends.
Having a couple of poses you enjoy to start with from each category I mentioned above.
Try moving to and from a universal pose like a downward dog.
Journal about what you did and enjoyed after each practice.
It takes a bit of time to get comfortable with practing without guidance but once you do it is great. You can always ask your teacher if you'd be able to do a 1:1 session on self practice or ask if you can follow along with them. I'm always more than happy to do this with interested students!
GUIDED PRACTICE: ON DEMAND & ONLINE
If you're not feeling particularly like you want to practice without guidance that's totally cool - YouTube is an excellent resource for on demand practice (always available whenever you want).
There's lots of amazing teachers on YouTube; my personal go-to when I don't want to engage my brain and sequence on the go is Cat Meffan. To be honest, it's a bit strange taking a class with yourself! So I never do my own recorded classes.
What I would say with my teacher's hat on is that it is incredibly important to still go to an in person class (or an online interactive class). I've taught many people who have only ever practiced via YouTube or another on demand service and have had lots of less than ideal things in their practice which had drastically increased their injury risk (poor alignment, not engaging correct muscles, and so on) because they haven't ever had a trained set of eyes on their practice. That is value you can't replicate via on demand options.
Online classes where the teacher can see and interact with you is also a fantastic option and the best way forward at the moment. You can check out my classes here, or maybe have a look and see if your favourite studio is offering this too.
Home practice is such an asset - a great way to squeeze mat time in when you don't have time for a class and connecting with your practice on a deeper level.
It's also such a huge topic to cover in one post!