Don't wait for your weekly yoga class to get back into your yoga routine. Bring it home to you!
I love my home yoga practice.
Honestly, if I didn’t have a consistent home practice, I’m not sure I’d have much of a practice at all.
Some months, getting to the studio regularly doesn’t work with my schedule or my budget, so I need a steady home practice. Getting started was difficult, but it was worth the organization and scheduling it took to make it happen.
I love my home practice so much that I want to help every yogi have their own! Yoga at home is possible, so let me help you get started! The hardest part is getting on your mat, and I know once I get my thoughts organized, I’m much more likely to get started and be productive.
Habits and Planning
There has been a bit of controversy about the best time of day to practice yoga.
Some practitioners say morning is the best time because the mind is uncluttered from the day’s thoughts and activities and the stomach is completely empty.
Others say exposure to the early morning light corresponds to a lower BMI (body mass index) and better overall health.
Benefits of a Morning Practice:
- You don’t have the added pressure of the day’s stress and complications.
- Your stomach is empty, making it easier to twist, fold, and stretch.
- Sets your body up for being open, strong, and flexible as you go throughout your day.
Benefits of an Evening Practice:
- Your body isn’t as stiff and creaky as it is in the morning.
- Ending your practice with some restorative poses will set you up for a good night’s sleep.
- Everyone is generally quiet or in bed once you’re able to start an evening practice.
The type of practice you’re doing will also dictate the time of day you practice. You don’t want to end your day with an invigorating backbend practice, but you might not want to do an extremely challenging 90-minute flow when you first wake up and your body is stiff.
Tailor your practice to the time of day you’ve decided to practice. Your morning practice will feel better if it includes lots of shoulder, chest, and hip openers, while your evening practice should end with supine twists and a long savasana to slow you down for bedtime.
Don’t ever feel bad if you don’t have a consistent schedule. Yoga doesn’t just make your body flexible; it teaches you to be flexible about life, too.
There are definitely days where it works better for me to practice first thing in the morning before my kids wake up, and then there are many days where it’s much easier to do yoga after they go to bed.
If you prefer to do yoga in the morning, but there are weeks where the early mornings are just too much, move things around a bit. It isn’t going to affect your practice at all if you get on your mat at a different point in each day.
Having your own space for anything in life is important. Whether it’s simply your bedroom or your own bathroom, your space is what makes you feel the most comfortable and at home. You’re far more likely to stick to a home yoga practice if you have your own space that you love and crave being in.
Where you’re most comfortable practicing at home is another thing you’ll have to decide on your own. The first priority is making sure your spot is comfortable.
Try not to practice where you’ll end up distracted, like the dining room where you’ll focus on the crumbs under your toddler’s high chair or the dust bunnies under the dinette.
I like to practice in front of my living room’s picture window so I get to soak up the sun. When the weather is warm, I love to open the window so I can listen to the birds chirping or the crickets chirping if I’m practicing before bed.
- Create a space with plenty of room to avoid hitting or falling into furniture. I was swinging my leg into three-legged down dog and smacked my heel right into my coffee table a few days ago. I’ve also gone face first into furniture in arm balances, so practice with caution!
- If you have to practice surrounded by furniture, position yourself so when you take a spill, you aren’t hitting your face on anything. Accept you’re going to fall over at some point and keep your body safe.
- Depending on how advanced your practice is, you might want a wall space nearby to practice inversions. My practice spot is fairly consistent, but if I have to move to another room, I try to be near an empty wall space so I can work on my inversions.
Choosing a Spot:
Don’t feel like you have to have an entire room at your disposal. Even a small corner is enough space for you to have your own little yoga sanctuary.
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum: I’ve had an entire room as my practice space and then I’ve had to wedge myself into a tiny area in our camper.
Looking back, I prefer the space I have now. I’ve realized I don’t need a bunch of fancy pictures, tapestries, and candles to create a sanctuary. This is different for everyone, though!
Making It Your Own:
- Regardless of how much room you have, start by decluttering it. It’s hard to focus on yoga when you’re looking at stacks of books, piles of toys, or that slowly growing mountain of mail.
- Get rid of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose to your yoga practice. If you want to add pieces for decoration, try to add things that are peaceful, like candles, small statues, or plants/fresh flowers.
- These items don’t have to be yoga related, so don’t stress out about finding the perfect Ganesh framed print.
- Include things that mean something to you. These can be family heirlooms, pictures from your last family vacation, or a childhood stuffed animal you’ve held onto for years. Make the space your own, but decorate with intention.
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall:
Most yoga studios have mirrors in the room so you can see your alignment and make adjustments. I think these are great to have, but personally, I become more concerned with how my practice looks instead of how it feels.
Not every yogi has a picture-perfect practice, and obsessing over how your asana looks really detracts from the core of yoga.
As tempting as it may be to have a mirror in your space, I don’t recommend it. Home practice should be about how it makes you feel and not about achieving that Instagram-worthy pose.
There are countless studies detailing the physical and emotional benefits of a consistent yoga practice. Consistency doesn’t have a set time limit. You still reap the benefits even if you’re just doing 10 minutes of sun salutations every morning.
You don’t have to devote an hour or more to your practice to improve your muscle tone, cardio health/circulatory system, respiration, and metabolism. Mentally, a consistent practice reduces stress and allows you to develop healthy coping skills and provide a positive outlook on life.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, a regular yoga practice increases your bodily awareness, breaks chronic stress patterns, improves concentration, and teaches you to center your attention.
The most important part about consistency is not setting yourself up for failure by creating unattainable goals. It’s unlikely you’re going to get 90-minutes in six days a week unless you’re a dedicated Ashtanga practitioner.
Try to set a reasonable goal (once or twice a week, or 30-minutes three times a week) and if you exceed it, great! If you fall short, oh well. You still managed to get on your mat at least once, and that’s all that matters.
Make It a Priority, but Be Lenient:
Making your practice a non-negotiable part of your day helps ensure you get your practice in because you’ve made an appointment with yourself that you aren’t allowed to cancel.
And if a kid gets sick, you have to stay a few extra hours at work, or you’d really rather catch up on your favorite TV show, give yourself a break. Practice for 10 minutes and see how you feel, or let yourself relax for the day without any guilt.
#4. Yoga Styles
The beauty of a home practice is you can practice whatever style of yoga you want (except hot yoga; your wallet probably won’t appreciate heating your home to 104 degrees) because of online yoga classes.
Not many studios offer more than one or two types of yoga, and it can be difficult (and expensive) alternating between numerous studios.
Choosing a Style of Yoga:
- Set some goals. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to relax? Do you like intense exercise or slower, more intentional movements?
- Having specific goals for what your practice is going to offer you narrows your choices down quite a bit.
- Don’t feel tied to one style of yoga or feel like you have to juggle multiple styles for the most benefits. The beauty of yoga is even if you stick to one style, a well-rounded practice means you can dedicate yourself to Iyengar, Bikram, or vinyasa flow and your entire body still benefits.
- Choose your favorite type of yoga and stick to it. Do you like more than one kind of yoga? Do them all! One of the most important aspects of yoga is ensuring you enjoy it!
Still Can’t Decide?
- Restorative/Yin: Great if you work out vigorously
- Vinyasa flow/Ashtanga: Fast paced and challenging. It’s suited to you if you like to be challenged.
- Hatha: Great if you like a slow burn in your workouts and don’t care to get a ton of cardio in during your practice.
#5. Setting an Intention
If you’ve been to a teacher-led yoga class, you’ve had an intention set for that class. Whether the teacher gives you the intention or tells you to set your own, an intention gives your yoga a deeper meaning.
No matter how small your daily intention is, it helps you stay committed to your practice and to yourself.
Sometimes the outside inspiration of a teacher carries more weight than you previously thought, and this is okay! There have been plenty of times where I’ve gone to class completely uninspired because life is weighing me down, and my teacher always manages to cultivate an intention that resonates exactly with whatever is bugging me.
Choosing an Intention:
- Make your intention uncomplicated. Yoga was a salve for me when I experienced my biggest heartbreak, and there were quite a few times where I went to my mat with a convoluted intention about mending my heart. After a while, I learned using one single word was enough.
BONUS TIP: I often use words like “strength”, “open”, or “fun”. These are words I can easily access no matter how I’m feeling. One words sounds really simple, but one word has the ability to completely change and focus your practice.
Send Your Intention Out Into the World:
If you don’t want to focus on what’s going on inside, dedicate your practice to someone or something.
- Sick family members
- A friend who’s having a rough time
- A group of people suffering from a tragedy
All of these situations could always use the love and strength that flows from your yoga practice.
Always Practice with Gratitude:
Gratitude is hard to cultivate, and it’s even harder to maintain. Whether you’re having a bad day or your general outlook on life is similar to that of Eeyore’s, you can always use a little extra thankfulness. When you make gratitude your intention, you pay more attention to all the ways your body is working for you.
- Are your hips burning in every warrior pose? Great! That just means your muscles are working and you’re getting stronger.
- Did you get both feet off of the ground in a handstand pike for the first time? That means you’re getting closer to a handstand!
- When you learn to look at the little things in your practice and see them as good things, that will start to spill over into the rest of your life.
#6. Preventing Injuries
A 2008 study in Finland found that out of 300 yoga studios surveyed, there was an average of 1.18 injuries per 1000 hours of yoga class.
While these odds are relatively low, keep in mind these occur under the watchful eye of teachers who ensure your practice is safe.
Careful alignment and conscious modifications are the keys to preventing injury to yourself when you practice on your own. Yoga is a low impact form of activity, but you can still get injured if you push yourself too hard.
- Always be honest with yourself in regards to where you body is. You might really want to push yourself into a forward fold where you’re able to kiss your knees, but unless you’re naturally flexible, forcing yourself into a deeper position is only going to hurt you.
- As hard as it is, drop your ego and try to accept your body where it’s at. Even if you aren’t pulling out the fancy poses yet, your body and practice are perfect exactly where they are. *Remember: practice and all is coming! A steady practice will help you accomplish every goal you set for yourself.
BONUS TIP: I think the best way to set yourself up for a safe home practice is to work with a teacher occasionally. Understanding the fundamentals of alignment is the biggest factor in injury prevention.
How to get started with your home yoga routine
YouTube Videos for Beginners
When I first started yoga, there was no way I knew enough about sequencing or poses to ever create my own practice. I tried using printouts of poses, but I was a huge mess and would quit in frustration within minutes.
Thankfully, YouTube has made almost anything accessible at home, including beginner yoga videos. Check out our full post on the 11 best beginner videos on youtube.
Online Yoga Classes
If you’re a bit beyond beginner videos, consider an online subscription service. For a set price, you have 24/7 streaming access to thousands of classes curated by some of the world’s best yoga teachers.
You don’t need a studio’s worth of gear to equip your home practice, but there are a few items I recommend to make it more accessible regardless of the level you’re at.
#1. Yoga Mat
A “sticky” yoga mat is a must! Not only does a mat provide the necessary cushioning for your knees and wrists, but it also gives you the traction you need to safely access a variety of poses.
Investing in a good mat makes a lot of sense, even for beginners. It will literally be the foundation of your yoga practice.
#2. Yoga Blocks
Yoga blocks have so many purposes in your practice! Don’t mistake them for tools that are for beginners only. You can be an extremely advanced yogi and still find a use for blocks. Blocks are made from foam, cork, or wood.
What type you buy depends on your personal preference. Foam is the most affordable, but wood blocks are the most durable and will likely last you your entire life.
#3. Yoga Towel
This isn’t something I consider a necessity unless you’re a really heavy sweater or you somehow practice hot yoga at home.
It’s designed to absorb sweat to prevent your mat from turning into an ice-skating rink.
#4. Yoga Strap
A strap gives your arms extra length in a variety of poses. You can use it if you can’t reach your feet in poses like seated forward folds and standing hand-to-big-toe pose.
It can also be used when you’re learning chaturanga and forearm stands when it’s important to keep your elbows in.
#5. Yoga Clothes
What you wear to your practice depends entirely on you. Don’t feel like you need to open up a credit card to buy a bunch of Lululemon clothes.
All you really need are soft, stretchy clothes that give you a good range of motion. I personally practice in compression shorts and a sports bra when I’m at home, but wear what you’re comfortable in!
Try to avoid baggy clothes (especially men!). The excess fabric gets in the way during transitions and there’s nothing more annoying that your shirt covering your face when you’re in down dog.
I cherish my home practice. There’s nothing more satisfying than taking an hour out of my day, putting aside all of my domestic distractions, and just doing what my body needs.
It wasn’t easy starting and sticking to doing yoga at home, but once I made it a priority, it was worth the struggle of instituting it.
It’s become a natural part of my day, and even if it’s 10:59 PM and I’m exhausted, I try to get on my mat for just a few minutes to make my day complete. I hope this breakdown makes starting your own home practice more accessible and less intimidating. You can do this!
If you have friends who are struggling with how to start yoga at home, give them a leg up by sharing this post.