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How to start a yoga practice at home

Creating a yoga practice at home should be exciting and enjoyable, and there has never been a better time to start. The benefits of yoga at home, in addition to the positive physical and mental health changes, are plentiful. Yoga practice at home is more flexible, time-saving and personal to you. By starting your yoga practice at home, you can add a little something just for you to your day.

Why is a yoga practice at home so good?

I have to admit I used to find in-person yoga classes daunting to attend. I thought I would be the only 'newbie' in the class and somehow have to explain my presence. The sense of not belonging combined with a hectic work-life resulted in missing many classes that I had scheduled and often pre-paid for. Missing these classes would add to the negative self-talk and promise to reschedule and commit again, usually only to find the cycle repeat itself. One day I discovered a yoga video on YouTube, which kickstarted my love of yoga practice at home.

The shift to online classes allowed me to explore more about yoga in my own time and in my way. This is not to say that in-person yoga is not beneficial, and I still love to attend retreats and workshops when I can. But I also believe that connection, trust and openness can be achieved through the computer screen. Amazingly I have reconnected with the teacher delivering those first YouTube classes and now regularly join her virtual class. I connect with her being 'my teacher' since starting my yoga practice even though we have never met in person. Teachers delivering my yoga teacher training were also from classes and platforms I had explored online. My love of online yoga has allowed me to virtually share my content and connect with many more people than I ever could small within my physical community.

Ten things to start a yoga practice at home

1. Equipment

You can start a yoga practice at home without a yoga mat or any special equipment. If you don't have access to a mat, then try to identify a small space that you can regularly use so that you start to create a ritual. When I haven't taken a yoga mat with me on my travels, I have often used a large beach towel. If you want to buy a yoga mat, consider what it is made from and where it comes from. Being conscious at this stage helps you to add mindfulness to your yoga practice. There are so many yoga mats made more consciously that it is easy to find something that is naturally made intentionally and gives you the support you need.

If you are new to yoga or find that kneeling is uncomfortable, choosing a slightly thicker mat might be a good idea. If you are more experienced and want a grippier mat, then something thinner will work well. Sundried Yoga Jute mats are a great entry-level mat that is durable and reasonably grippy. I also use the Manduka series, and they have "Almost Perfect section" so you can try them out without investing too much money, and at the same time stop mats being thrown away just for minor imperfections You will find that many yoga teachers use blocks, bolsters and straps and these can be added in time. Still, it is also straightforward to substitute these with simple household items. A good stack of books, cushions and a scarf can offer alternatives to provide support when needed.

2. Comfy clothing

I also try to be conscious of my clothing purchases, and the great thing about a home yoga practice is that you can wear what you want! Leggings or loose harem pants are perfect for moving freely around the mat. Pyjamas are also ideal if you practice just before bed or as soon as you wake up. Try to avoid anything that will be distracting and keep a few extra layers next to you if you are doing a restorative practice or at the end of the session in Savasana. Everyone will have something in their wardrobe that will work perfectly. If you want to treat yourself, try Moonchild Yogawear or Sundrieds' collection both made from innovative materials that are kind to the environment. My advice would be to find a brand that has been designed by someone who moves, is active and understands how you can feel in the right clothes when you are on your mat.

3. Space

The wonderful thing about starting a yoga practice at home is that you can do it anywhere and although it's nice to practice in the same place each time you can mix it up. Try taking your mat to the garden to get some fresh air as you move. The critical thing is to find a space that feels peaceful and where you are unlikely to get disturbed for the duration. This could even be the garage or the loft space. If you are in a cluttered space, then move a few things aside, this can form part of your ritual of rolling your mat out and preparing for your home yoga practice. Remember if you follow an online class that you will need to have a good Wifi connection and device to watch it on.

Headphones can also help eliminate any background noise and facilitate the feeling of immersion at the moment.

4. Schedule time

While paying for an in-person class might motivate you to attend, the flexibility of a home yoga practice can also guide your intention and commitment to invest in yourself. If you are starting to create your yoga practice, I suggest finding a time that works best for you. If you are a morning person and likely to neglect it later in the day, then try doing your class first thing in the morning. If you like the house's peace at the very end of the day yoga in pyjamas might be best for you.

Setting an intention can help

- pop it on the calendar or scheduling tool and let your housemates know when you are doing yoga. Try not to over-commit to begin with -small and achievable goals can create a habit. I started my practice with just ten minutes on weekdays, and slowly built up to longer durations. Even now, when life gets hectic, I go back to ten minutes on the mat, which gives me a connection when I need it most. It doesn't need to be the same time each time - remember you get to make the rules!

5. Create a mini ritual

Once you have found your space try to create a mini ritual that prepares you for the practice. This can be changing the lighting, lighting a candle, or putting on a favourite music track to signal to your body and mind that you will start your yoga class. I do this by being conscious of how I roll my mat out, removing my socks and sitting crossed legged. In my sitting position, I close my eyes and take a few breaths to enter into my practice and disconnect from the world around me. On days when I am distracted, I also touch the floor with my fingers to create a sense of grounding.

6. Find the yoga that you love

There are so many types of yoga online that it is good to try a few out. Start with a short Hatha yoga sequence if you are unsure, familiarise yourself with some of the key poses. A sun salutation can be the perfect way to get to grips with the foundation asanas. You can find many types of yoga online - including vinyasa flow, yin yoga, and more restorative yoga. Keep trying till you find the one you love, which makes you feel the way you want to feel. I always enjoy sharing my yoga with students who connect with how I live and teach yoga. This connection is important, whether in the studio or over the screen.

7. Listen to your body

It's natural to have concerns about starting something new at home – "what if I do too much, hurt myself, overstretch". The key to developing your relationship with yoga is tuning in to how your body feels. No movement should be painful or pinching. If you start to understand how your body feels, you will be more connected to your practice. You will also find that teachers offer alternatives to poses in their classes. If you are unsure, opt for the most comfortable for you and leave trying something new for another day.

8. Be open to experiment and play

While it is important not to push yourself into a pose, it is also a time to explore within your own boundaries. Explore what feels right by setting a timer for 5-10 minutes and start to move. If nothing comes to your mind immediately, just focus on your breathing and think about a few poses you have explored in a class. You might be surprised what starts to happen. Move with your breath, with each inhale and exhale move your body into a different position. Exploring your practice can feel intimidating and self-conscious to start, but you just need to remember that no one is watching!

9. Always stay for Savasana

It wasn't until I completed my yoga teacher training that I understood that the ancient yogis practiced the asanas to move their bodies, move the energy around, and prepare themselves to sit for long periods in rest or meditation. The aim of the yoga practice is really to get to Savasana. So when the teacher says it's time for rest or meditation, don't be tempted to miss it. This feeling of urge can often be a signal that you need to rest more than ever. I still find myself thinking this at times in my yoga practice, and when I do, I remind myself to stay and kind to myself, and I never regret it.

10. Practice loving-kindness

Be kind to yourself, especially when life gets tough. If your planning and best efforts to get on the mat, you don't remember that tomorrow is a new day and you can start again. Be kind and use words to tell a friend if you were encouraging them to take up a healthy habit. The brilliant thing about home yoga is that you can’t compare yourself to other people and take care not to compare yourself to you the day before! Most of all, use the connection to your body and breath to practice self-love, self-kindness and self-compassion. To explore more about loving kindness you can join me on my Facebook video series

If you already practice yoga at home and would like tips on how to maintain it you can read my blog on How to create a home practice that you can maintain.

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I help doctors create a purposeful, flexible career outside full-time clinical medicine so they can control their time and have more balance in their lives. To find out more book a FREE 60-minute discovery call.


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