I used to live in a city packed full of yoga studios and gyms offering yoga classes. I worked my way through the various options; enabling me to work out which type of yoga I liked, which instructors brought out the best in me, and also where I could afford to attend regularly. Then I committed to these classes. I enjoyed the sense of community created by fellow yogi’s, as well as the opportunity to get some hands-on guidance from the teacher.
At one stage I was attending 3-4 classes a week – a considerable investment in terms of both money and time. Classes were around £10 for a drop in session, or you could get a monthly pass at one studio for about £50. It also required me to get out of work on time (which was rare as a junior doctor), and then trek across the city to the studio. This was fine during the light summer months, but during dark winter evenings it was the last thing I fancied doing.
On such evenings, when it’s tempting to forego a yoga class and curl up on the sofa in the warm instead, it’s good to have another option. And fortunately there is one. Because, my friends, this is where the joy of home practice comes in. It just took me having to leave the city and move back to the countryside far away from the fancy yoga studios to begin stepping onto my mat on my own. Having said that, a home practice does take some getting used to. A solo yoga class in your living room is unlikely to match the energy levels of a packed class. But, as I’ve learned, this isn’t the end of the world. Home practice offers other benefits you can’t necessarily get in class. For example, it enables you to go further inwards, and not worry about what the strange contortionist creature next to you is doing (how do they even get into that position???).
Anyway.. Here are some tips to get your started at home.
Invest in a good quality yoga mat (I love my non-slip Lululemon one), along with a block and a strap. It’s also good to have a cosy blanket beside your mat ready for shavasana (corpse pose). It’s easy to miss out this final pose when at home, but those who do so are missing out on an essential posture used at the end of practice to absorb their new energy and calm their mind.
Set Your Intention
It’s a lot easier to get distracted, and even stop completely, when you’re at home and not practicing in a room full of other people. Therefore you need to make a commitment to yourself as you step onto your mat. It can be as simple as recognising you are here to settle your energy after a long day in the office.
Clear Your Space
I got into a bad habit of putting my mobile phone next to me, and checking it half way through my home practice if I saw a message or email flash up. I’d never dream of doing that during a yoga class, but it is easy to clutter your environment when you are practicing on your own. If possible de-clutter the area before rolling out your mat. Put your phone in another room and light some candles to create a warm, cosy vibe. It will make your mat look more inviting.
Choose Your Teacher
I’m still at the stage which I need some guidance so YouTube videos are key for me to be able to practice at home. You can download practices of all lengths from your favorite teachers, or try something new. I’m a huge fan of Yoga With Adriene, but I’ve also tried Yoga Glo, Yogaia and Movement For Modern Life. Even if you are familiar with various poses and sequences, anyone can benefit from being guided in a yoga practice – it helps get you out of your head and into your body.
Make It Short
Are you struggling to commit to an hour at home? Do you feel like there is something else you should be doing? The washing? The cleaning? If so, why not start with a shorter 20 minute class? What is important is that you set aside an allotted amount of time, and complete your practice, without distraction. If you only have 20 minutes that’s fine. As you get into the habit of stepping onto your mat you can slowly increase the length. You can also experiment with what time of day works best for you. In the past I always preferred to attend an evening yoga class, but I now feel an early morning home practice works best for me.
Step Onto Your Mat
There will be days when doing a home yoga practice is the last thing you feel like doing. If you’re very tired, or not feeling great, these are exactly the days you need to push yourself to sit down on your mat. You might just roll around and stretch a bit, then rest. Often the days you feel the worst at the beginning of practice are the days you wind up feeling the best at the end.