Here are ten tips to help you establish an at-home yoga practice.
1) Create a space
Set aside a space dedicated to your yoga practice. Make sure it is free from furniture that could create a hazard to you as you do various yoga asana. Your yoga space should be clean and serene. Decorate it with images and objects that create a peaceful and sacred feeling in your heart.
2) Invest in tools of the trade
If you do not already have a yoga sticky mat, purchase one. There are yoga mats for every budget and taste. A mat cleaner will keep your mat smelling fresh after tough workouts. Make sure you have two blocks and a strap for modifications and consider getting a yoga blanket. Not only will they keep you warm when you relax in savasana but they can also be rolled up to help you modify poses. You may need two bolsters for under your knees, and you will probably want at least one style of zafu or meditation cushion.
3) Carefully prevent injury
If your grandmother told you that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, she was right. When you practice yoga at home, it is your job to make sure that you don’t injury yourself. Keep your space clear of obstacles like furniture and children’s toys, and if possible, do your yoga in a room with hardwood floors. Soft surfaces can injury joints and thick carpet makes balancing difficult. Lifeboard is a hard surface that you can put on top of carpeting to make a transportable yoga floor if necessary.
Christel Pierron (Seva Simran Kaur), an experienced teacher of Hatha Yoga, YogaDance, and Kundalini Yoga in Cape Cod, cautions, “Never force a posture. If you are going to tip over your edge, it is better to have a teacher who can watch you and help you go further. At home, take it easy. Don’t compete with your body. Love your body, nurture your body, and be present. Be present, warm up, fully get into the poses you know…that is how an at home practice should be. More difficult poses should be in a class, where your teacher can make a safe environment for you.”
4) Choose your yoga style
There are so many styles of yoga to choose from that it can be a little daunting at first. But rather than be overwhelmed, be excited! There are so many forms to choose from that if you don’t like one, you have several others to test out. Hatha yoga is the most common form of yoga, but there are several schools of Hatha yoga to choose from. Pierron recommends that beginners try something like Iyengar yoga or Kripalu yoga to help them learn the mechanics of a pose. If dynamic movement and deep meditation is your true love, Kundalini Yoga might be the perfect style for you. Shop around for teachers and styles that appeal to you, so that you know what will inspire you at home.
5) Get Instruction
Once you find a style and a teacher you like, go to a few yoga classes. Then you can develop yourself privately. You can work with a teacher to find a series appropriate for you to do at home. Says Pierron, “Nothing replaces a teacher giving you personal instruction.”
6) Do further research
If you cannot find a teacher in your area, or if you want to further educate yourself about yoga, invest in some yoga books or flash cards. They are handy references to have while learning about the finer points of asana. Magazines such as Yoga Journal can provide inspiration and a feeling of connection to a larger yoga community.
The internet is a wealth of resources for an at home yoga practice. You can go onto Itunes and find a yoga podcast that works for your level and interests. You can also join an online yoga club such as Gaiam Yoga club, which will give you access to videos, podcasts and guides with master teachers Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman-Yee. You can join Yoga Glo which films their yoga classes and allows you to participate from home. I Yoga Life has many videos that you can watch and participate with that are appropriate for a variety of levels.
Purchasing some yoga DVDs with master instructors can help you take your practice to the next level. Rodney Yee is an excellent source of instruction for Hatha yoga. If you fall in love with Ashtanga yoga and want to create a solid at home practice without having a lot of time, a video such as David Swenson’s Short Forms is a wonderful resource. Vinyasa yoga is a more fluid and often physically demanding form of yoga, but a Shiva Rea video might be just the ticket for your at home practice. If Kundalini Yoga is where your heart is, try a video by Gurmukh.
7) Take your yoga with you
Even when you are not at home, you can be enhancing your home yoga practice. Iphone applications are a great way to study yoga asana on the go, or even practice yourpranayama. Many yoga applications are free and others, such as Long Deep Breathing to help you learn to control your breath, are very affordable. Going for a hike in the summer months? Do some simple yoga and breathwork along the trail to connect more deeply with yourself and with Mother Nature, or learn Breathwalk as a spiritual practice.
8 ) Be gentle
“If you are a beginner to yoga, start as such, whether you are in shape or not,” counsels Christel Pierron. Start with small increments of time. Even 20 minutes of yoga to begin with is stretching areas of your body in a new way. Start slowly when beginning a yoga practice. Yoga was not designed as a fitness routine, but as a way to achieve spiritual union with the divine and purify the body to prepare it for meditation. Respect the discipline and your body enough to give it time to adjust to your practice.
9) Set the mood
For many, good music during yoga is one of the best parts of the practice. Consider keeping ipod speakers and your ipod in your yoga space. Begin collecting music conducive to a beautiful yoga experience or make a playlist just for your practice.
Spirit Voyage has an extensive collection of Yoga Music, including a Yoga Living Series. Decide what style of music will support you in your yoga practice. Love Kundalini music? Try Snatam Kaur. Like groovy Sanskrit mantras? Listen to some Wah! For mellow instrumentals, Deuter is a favorite. Shiva Rea has even compiled a collection of trance music suitable for Vinyasa flow.
The purpose of yoga was to support meditation. In your home yoga practice, do not forget to take the time after your workout to meditate and relax the mind while you are relaxing your body. There are so many forms of meditation. Try something simple, such as sitting with a straight spine, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. The benefits of meditation include everything from lowering your blood pressure to improving your mood.
Remember that yoga is a practice of honoring yourself and your body. Take the time to rediscover your body and soul in a nurturing, self-supportive way. Try to find the time in your busy life to take even ten minutes for yourself in your new sacred space. The stresses of the day and world outside your yoga space might seem pressing and urgent, but ultimately whether the dishes are put away and the laundry is done is not as important as whether or not you feel at home in your body and are in touch with the divinity within you. Start your yoga practice at home slowly, continue steadily and gently, and while you look at your hamstrings stretch, watch your spirit soar.