A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Your Home Practice
I'd been practicing yoga for a long time before I considered starting a home practice. I mean, I was loving my regular classes, what reason did I have to practice at home?
Through my classes, I was getting fitter and stronger, and I was making great strides in my flexibility. Things were going great, but my hamstrings would not give in. I was nailing those headstands, but still couldn't touch my toes. What gives?
It was at this point that I decided to work on my hamstrings on my own too, to help them catch up. Nothing too fancy. After all, a home practice doesn't have to be anywhere near as intense as a class. It can be anything you like.
What a difference it made! Just 20 minutes of warming up and stretching out each morning was enough to make rapid progress on finally unlocking those tight hamstrings. A personal practice is the most effective way to reach your yoga goals, and it's fundamental to deepening your practice.
Sticking to a regular home yoga practice may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't take much to get started, and you can set yourself up for success by following these steps.
Create a Space
Whilst we’d all like a designated yoga room, set up and ready to go at all times (fitted with complementary zen garden and waterfall) – it’s not exactly realistic.
For the rest of us, it’s a good idea to carve out a quiet space in your home to practice. Anywhere that’s has space for you to freely move around is fine. I'm still practicing in my bedroom, so I don't bother my flatmates every morning. I've tried it downstairs as they're eating breakfast, but I found it too distracting and they found it too.. weird. It's not ideal, but it works for now.
The purpose of a sacred space is not just to create a physical space to occupy in your practice, but to create a space that cultivates the right mindset when you're there.
If you like, you can bring in any props to set the mood (candles, incense, Polynesian Tiki masks…) but they’re not necessary. They should only be there if they can increase your focus, not steal it.
Speaking of props, while yoga accessories are not absolutely essential, they can be of great use in your yoga practice. So if you can set up your space with a block and a belt, plus maybe a bolster to hand, then you're in great shape.
Schedule a Time
Look, I get it, committing to a practice isn't easy, but if you organise it correctly, it only takes a little bit of willpower to execute it. So, schedule a time with yourself each day, and stick with it. It’ll get a lot easier, trust me.
I find it easiest to practice every morning as soon as I get up. I know I can make it every day, and it's so easy to make it part of my daily ritual.
One of the best things about yoga is that there is no set time or duration. So there should be no excuses for not turning up to your personal practice. Morning, evening or lunch breaks – you can practice any time that works for you. All that matters is that you do it consistently.
Plan Your Practice
You can do anything you like with your home practice, that's one of its biggest benefits. But if you're new to yoga, it's easy to feel a little lost when you hit the mat. To be honest, I felt that way, even after a years worth of experience in classes.
So, to get started. Keep it simple.
You can pick a few basic yoga poses that you like or feel good to you, so it feels more like a reward than a task. Or you could pick poses around something you'd like to work on. I make sure mine include a lot of forward bends and hamstring stretches. Having a goal to work towards always keeps me motivated to return to the mat.
If you're not ready to choose your own practice, you can follow an established sequence. Sun salutations are a great choice, as they're easy to learn and perfectly balanced to evenly stretch and strengthen the body.
Use Online Resources to Help
Going it alone is absolutely fine. After all, developing your own confidence and deepening your practice is the purpose of all this. But there's nothing wrong with looking for guidance when you need it, especially in the beginning.
I'd recommend finding a couple videos online that you like and that you think you can learn after a few practices. YouTube is a great place to start, and I chose this one from Yoga with Tim. It's a short and simple hip and hamstring opening practice that was easy for me to pick up, and addressed my most pressing problems.
Once you can comfortably do the sequence without guidance from the video, you can own that practice every day for a few weeks. As you grow in confidence you can modify your routine or switch it up.
Prepare for Success
Just like any positive habit in life, you want to make it easy to keep. That means removing any barriers to practice, and building positive habits that might help.
Reap the Benefits
A home practice can seem like a daunting prospect at first, and it certainly has its challenges. But this is your practice, and it can take any form you want.
The most important thing I'd like to impress upon you with this, is to simply start moving on your own. As K. Pattabhi Jois once said: "Practice and all is coming".
Your personal practice may start as a humble set of stretches, but it can grow into something far greater. All that's required is that you keep coming back to the mat. Once you've done it for a little while, you won't want to stop.