Do you love taking yoga classes? Learning from a skilled teacher is essential for any yoga student, but classes can be full and are sometimes fast-paced. A self-initiated, self-led home practice is an opportunity to enhance your body awareness and sensitivity, shedding light on misalignments or tight areas that might go unnoticed in the studio. Moments of awareness are important because they inform future yoga practice and enhance your knowledge of your body and yourself.
Sustaining a regular home yoga practice can be challenging even for the most loyal yoga enthusiasts. But practicing independently—as a complement to learning from a skilled teacher—offers a variety of advantages, like self-discovery and skill refinement, that make it well worth the effort. Dana Bender, MS, program manager for a corporate wellness and fitness center in Chicago, adjunct faculty professor for Rowan University and an E-RYT 200 level alignment yoga instructor, explains how to create the space for it and what will help you get on the mat every day.
Set the Space
A common barrier to home practice is the array of distractions that compete for your attention. These might be objects in the environment (like the TV, computers or dirty dishes) or even family members. To win the commitment struggle, make sure to “set the space” where you plan to practice. This could mean moving furniture to the side of a room, creating a permanent yoga space in your home, or using visual or auditory cues to make the environment more conducive to yoga. Remove any distracting objects from your line of vision: a laundry basket filled with clothes to be washed or pieces of mail on the counter, for instance. Ask family members to respect the space so that practice can unfold without verbal or behavioral interruptions.
Create a Schedule
You’ll need to figure out a routine that will work for you, whether that means practicing when you first get home, when you get up in the morning or during a lunch break at work. Avoiding conflict with mealtimes is best, but if you have to postpone a meal, eat snacks throughout the day to eliminate large gaps between meals. Negotiate with family members or housemates, asking them to play music more softly or take kids to another room until your session is over.
Let Go of Expectations
One barrier to adhering to a regular home yoga practice is pre-existing expectations about what the practice should look like: How many poses should it include? How challenging should they be? How long should it last? Allow yourself to be present to what feels right in the moment. A home yoga practice might be restorative poses one day and a more vigorous flow practice the next, and that’s okay. The practice can be different every time, since a regular yoga practice will ebb and flow based on energy levels, muscular tension, interpersonal stress, and nutritional and sleep habits.
Helpful Tips for a Home Practice
USE THESE STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS:
- Always practice on a mat. It will help you avoid slipping, especially while holding downward-facing dog or warrior poses.
- Place your yoga mat on a hard, even surface. Practicing on carpet is not recommended, as it affects weight distribution in the hands during weight-bearing poses, and this can lead to wrist pain. Practicing on carpet can also affect balance in standing poses.
- Have a minimum of two thicker yoga blocks (either cork or foam) to support yourself in seated or standing poses.
- Aim to have at least one yoga strap. If a strap is not available, use a resistance band instead.
- If possible, use a woven yoga blanket for support when needed (e.g., to cushion the knee in lunges). A thicker home blanket that’s easily folded provides a good alternative.
- Start by practicing favorite poses first and then add in different or more challenging options over time. Yoga books, online videos or yoga websites might prompt ideas. Keep helpful resources near your mat while you practice so you can refer to them if you feel unsure about what to do next.