No matter how much you love yoga, you know it’s not always possible to attend your favorite class. Yoga studio or gym passes can be expensive. The class schedule doesn’t always accommodate your busy life. Sometimes, the sheer effort of getting ready and driving to the studio is just too much work.
That’s why it’s important to cultivate a home yoga practice. If you truly want to reap yoga’s enormous benefits, you must be willing to do the often difficult task of going solo. I remember falling in love with yoga when I was still living in Manila and making the rounds of all the yoga studios in the area. I could only afford the “new student special” so I ran out of places to go pretty fast. Thanks to free yoga on the internet and cheap back issues of Yoga Journal magazine, I was able to start practicing at home. To be honest, it was not as fun as I thought it would be! Eventually, though, I got over the awkwardness of doing yoga by myself in our tiny apartment. Here are a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you start, and hopefully maintain, a home practice.
1) Let go of expectations
I guarantee your self-practice will be nothing like your favorite yoga teacher’s class. The studio ambiance, your instructor’s familiar guidance, and the energy of fellow students will obviously not be there. The one thing that is there is you. YOU are there. You are all you need for yoga: your body, your breath, your focus, and your intention. It might feel strange at first because you have to decide what sequence to do, how long to stay in poses, and how intense the practice will be. Give it some time and let yourself get used to that freedom. Let go of what you think you should do and simply be open to whatever arises during your practice. Be okay that your yoga at home will be different from your yoga in class. This is your time to explore! You might just surprise yourself.
2) Be flexible
At home, there will be distractions. The phone will ring. Your kids will need attention. Chores will be waiting. Adapt your practice to suit your schedule and your environment. Do whatever you can with the time and energy you have that day. You won’t always have an hour for a vinyasa flow with all the bells and whistles. You might have days when you can only do gentle poses for 30 minutes. Sometimes all you can do is a few sun salutations for 15 mintues. That’s ok. The duration and intensity of your practice is completely up to you.
3) Do what you know and enjoy
A common obstacle to practicing at home is not knowing what to do. Start with what you know. Practice the poses that are most familiar to you. The beauty of a home practice is you get to do your favorite postures! Remember that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
As you get more comfortable in your self-practice, you might want to add poses that you struggle with. This can be a time to work on challenging asana that you are too self-conscious to attempt in public. Practice safely, of course!
4) Seek guidance and support
Talk to the yoga teachers you know or your fellow students who have an established home practice. Ask them to give you some tips or a simple sequence you can start with. You can also find free yoga videos on YouTube (here’s my channel Yoga Upload with all my free videos) and paid online subscriptions on various yoga websites. It might take a while to find online classes that suit your needs and preferences so be patient. Take your time researching and exploring the different offerings available. For beginners, I recommend my yoga class videos for All Levels. Also, try checking out yoga books at your local library. These will enhance not only your physical practice but also your knowledge of the different aspects of yoga.
5) Dedicate a space for practice
Organize a dedicated practice space in your home. It can be an entire room or just a corner with enough space for a yoga mat. You can also have more than one designated spot for yoga if you want the flexibility of unrolling your mat in whichever room happens to be conducive to practice at any given time. For morning and evening gentle yoga, you can even practice in bed! Keep your yoga mat in view if you know the sight of it will encourage you to practice. If you don’t have any blocks or straps at home, you may use common household items as makeshift yoga props. (I have videos on How to Use Yoga Blocks and How to Use Yoga Straps where I also show substitute items.)
Practicing solo without a teacher’s guidance and the energy of fellow yogis might seem intimidating at first. The key is to make that commitment to yourself to practice even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. It doesn’t have to take long. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be quiet! Right now, my home practice consists of getting a few poses and stretches in whenever my 8-week old baby is on his play mat for tummy time. I unroll my mat beside his and just flow through a simple sequence. It’s fun to be on the floor together! I’m not always successful in my attempts to weave my yoga practice into the chaos of daily life; but whenever I am able to practice, I’m always glad I made the effort.