At some stage most yoga students want to develop a home practice and can be a little stumped about where to start. People feel the benefits physically and mentally after attending a class and want to carry that feeling on throughout their week by doing a little yoga at home. Hopefully your teacher can provide you with advice or a handout to prompt your home practice. There are also videos you can watch and books to guide you and that’s certainly a great start but the biggest and most helpful step to your bodymind wellbeing is to begin your own instinctual home practice without following an external prompt, instead the prompt comes from within.
The thought of going to your mat without a guiding voice to talk you through your practice can be daunting but once you begin to trust your body the moves will come and eventually flow, the poses you’ve practised in class will pop back into your mind and your muscle memory. The hardest thing is just to take the leap of faith and get started. It takes ‘practice’ to do this so it’s very important to keep attending your yoga class for guidance on safety and development of your yoga but developing your own practice will tune your own mindbody connection and take you to a new level of personal responsibility and empowerment for your own health and wellbeing.
These tips are intended for those who are already attending a regular yoga class (and have had tuition of moving in and out of poses safely) and want to embed yoga and its benefits further into daily life. If you are quite new to yoga you’ll need something to remind you of the poses you did in class. Students from my classes have access to video clips and a handout via a private students facebook page but I generally encourage people to move away from these as soon as they can. It’s a big step but so worth taking.
Yoga is a lifelong journey. Find your personal balance between attending classes/workshops that assist your lifetime yoga growth, with the development of your own intuitive yoga practice from within.
How To Prepare For A Home Yoga Practice
- Buy a yoga mat. Make sure it feels a little sticky, so that sweaty hands and feet don’t slide and the mat stays securely stuck to the floor surface. I use these mats from Yogamatters.
- Identify at least one physical space in your home where you can roll out your yoga mat and stretch your arms.
- Keep your mat within sight as a constant reminder of your intention, otherwise it’s ‘out of sight out of mind’. If you have enough space to leave a mat in a dedicated place so much the better.
- Take note of any reasons you tell yourself why you can’t do yoga today. Ask are they true? What can you do to create the time/space? Timetable it into your diary.
How To Do A 20 Minute Self Guided Home Yoga Practice
- Create a ritual to mark the beginning of your practice. Clean the area of clutter, light a candle, burn a little incense or place a crystal of your choice nearby. Turn off phones.
- Sit quietly for two minutes before you begin and without changing anything, bring your attention to your breath. This helps bring you into the present moment, to calm the senses and to fully arrive. Acknowledge to yourself that you are about to begin your yoga practice and make a commitment to listen fully to your own bodies needs. This time is yours.
- Begin with a gentle warm up of the joints. Try to remember what you’ve done in class. Begin working through the joints with small movements and rotations – giving time to both directions, increasing the range of movement as long as there is no pain or discomfort. Work through the body methodically … hands, elbows, shoulders, neck, hips, knees, ankles and toes. Keep focus on how your body is feeling with each movement, compare one side to the other. Stop now and then, stand still in Tadasana (mountain pose) and take note of how your body is feeling or changing in response to the movements you have done.
- Move onto a warm up of the spine with the cat cow breath or similar. Keep bringing your attention back to your body and how it is feeling. Which muscle sets are you using? What parts of your spine are easy to concave and convex, what parts have less mobility? There’s no right or wrong, just observation.
- Take a rest in the hare pose. While resting notice how your breath is deepening, your heart beating, the blood and energy is flowing. In hare ask yourself which part of your body would benefit from some yoga today. Is it your shoulders. hips, back, legs, feet? Once you’ve chosen an area or two to focus on think about what pose would use that part of your body.
- Move into your first pose listening carefully to your body. Repeat the pose at least twice on each side. Remember to move in time with your in and out breath. Keep within your own boundaries of effort and avoid pain or discomfort. Move in and out of poses with the breath, or once you feel stronger after a few weeks or months of practice hold a pose for a certain number of breaths eg 3, 5, 10
- Having done one pose you will be inspired to carry on, each pose can trigger the memory of another. If nothing comes to mind don’t worry.
- Take rests between poses in hare and consider which part of your body you will work on next. Choose a pose and move into it.
- At the end of your practice lie in Savasana (corpse pose) and again bring your attention to your breath. When you notice your mind has wandered simply escort it back to focusing on your breath. Lie for five minutes to allow your practice to assimilate and embed any physical or emotional rebalancing of your mind and body.
- Blow out the candle and ensure the incense is extinguished!
2 minutes centring
15 minutes poses
5 minutes savasana
Congratulations on taking a leap of faith. Don’t lose heart. If you feel like your practice was a little short or you couldn’t think of an appropriate follow on pose then afterwards, grab a book or have a google. Trust that next time more poses and options will come. Over time it will get much easier. It just takes a little ‘practice’. Eventually your personal practice will flow naturally, it will be unique to you and your daily needs. What an amazing gift to yourself.