Do you have a home yoga practice? Have you developed a regular yoga practice for yourself? Maybe your regular practice is to go to your favorite yoga classes every week as consistently as possible. And your home yoga practice might be to take a few minutes to move and stretch each day.
I started thinking about home yoga practices for my students. Sometimes I have to cancel a class. When I’m away from our classes together, I hope my continued encouragement to do yoga at home gains traction. As a yoga teacher, I want students to learn yoga and eventually develop their own home yoga practice. A person makes the most progress when yoga becomes a part of their everyday lives. So, let’s consider the merits of both a yoga studio practice and a home yoga practice.
Home Yoga Practice vs Yoga Studio Practice
Most of us would agree that practicing yoga with others helps to keep us in class, and on the mat from start to finish. It may make us more motivated to put in a strong yoga practice. We stay with each pose, attempt each move, and participate more actively. Yoga is not a competitive sport but it can feel like a team sport. A “team of yogis” moving through asanas and breathing together in pranayama can inspire you go that extra mile. It is uplifting to watch as others move together with you in a yoga studio class.
The home yoga practice can make yoga easy. For starters, you’re at home! You don’t have to find a class, get dressed, comb your hair, drive your car, or go online to schedule or pay for class. The downside is you don’t have to commit to… well, anything. The home yoga practice can make yoga hard, because it is easy to get distracted with home tasks. Like some many areas of our life, we bemoan: “The mind is wonderful servant but a terrible master.” But let’s decide that your heart is in it. You know it will be a good and positive habit to develop. Even the servants of your logical mind must yield to the obvious pros and cons.
Merits of a Home Yoga Practice
- Developing intentional awareness – many yoga studio teachers (like me!) will give the queue to become more aware, to notice sensation, to scan the body, to go inside and check in with how you are feeling. The teacher may be talking through this at just the moment when you need quiet and stillness! In a home yoga practice, develop a keener awareness by suggesting these queues to yourself by yourself. You set the intention when you say to yourself, “now, go deep inside and feel your body from the inside out.”
- Giving your body exactly what it needs – you’re the expert on your own body! You know the difference between a twist that feels oh-so-good versus one that is unpleasant and is moving in the direction of painfulness. Ask your body what it needs. Offer yourself movement suggestions, “how does this feel? oh, well, how about this, then?” Move in ways that help you release and relax, and strengthen and balance.
- Working on advanced poses – So you want to do headstands? Gear your home yoga practice to poses that prepare your body for headstands. For example, warm up and spend the rest of your time going up and coming down (gracefully! and against a wall!) from headstand and child’s pose with strength and control.
- Choosing more meditation or more pranayama – Have you ever been in a studio yoga class doing alternate nostril breathing and reluctantly had to stop before you were ready? I have! Several more rounds would have been oh-so delicious. A few minutes more (or less!) of mindfulness meditation or savasana would have been just right. Experiment with yourself. You choose!
- Working with personal preferences – In a home yoga practice you may find yourself doing the same poses and sequences every session. What’s up with that? A home yoga practice gives you the opportunity, indeed the intention to examine your own choices. Like eating habits, what we most avoid doing in yoga class may be exactly the thing we need most! Working with personal preferences help us to notice and choose a practice (a habit, a meal, a pose) that creates more balance in our lives.
- Going long or going short – What’s the ideal yoga practice time. An hour? An hour and 15 minutes? Ninety minutes? Two hours? With a home yoga practice you decide. Some days it may be exactly 23 minutes using your phone timer. Other days it may be outside, in the park, in between walking, skipping or running. Go long or go short. Just go and do it!
Planning a Home Yoga Practice
Deciding to develop a home yoga practice is the first step. Once you set the intention to begin, you’ve already started! Yoga Journal offers a few keys to a successful home practice:
- Make a date with your mat – use the time you have, even if that means 15 minutes
- Find inspiration – books, videos, or using your favorite sequence from your studio class
- Choose a focus – standing poses, inversions, twists, forward folds
- Beginning and ending – develop quiet and calm for the start and the finish
- Just do it – get past your mind stuff and “experience yourself more clearly”
Beginning a Home Yoga Practice
There are all sorts of videos online for yoga, pranayama, meditation, mudras, chanting, and yoga philosophy. The following are links that give me inspiration in teaching yoga and in doing my own home yoga practice. You may recognize some of the postures, queues, and language that I use when I teach classes at Take Me To The River Yoga studio. You can always come to Take Me To The River yoga studio to practice these same styles in a studio yoga class with me. I encourage you to also try a few of these online classes, get inspired and develop your own most meaningful home yoga practice.
Somatics and Yoga – James Knight’s youtube channel “Gentle Somatic Yoga” lays out several different somatic practices by topic. For variety and for addressing specific issues, this is a good primer on the topic of Somatics and Yoga.
Mindful Hatha Yoga – Mindful Hatha Yoga tends to be a more gentle practice with focus on slow movement and concentration on the breath. Yoga with Adrienne is a popular yoga channel with different styles. I like Adrienne because she’s approachable, has a sense of humor, and gives great direction and options. This is her Gentle Yoga – 25 Minute Gentle Yoga Sequence.
Chair Yoga – The Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa has posted several chair yoga videos. This “Gentle Yoga in the Chair” is one of the best I have found.
Kripalu Vinyasa Flow – One of my teachers at Kripalu, Coby Kozlowski teaches this Moderate Kripalu Vinyasa Flow class.
Mindfulness Meditation – Tara Brach is my go-to meditation teacher. Her videos and podcasts are so inspiring! Here’s her youtube channel. Most all her talks begin with a discussion and end with a short, guided meditation. She is easy to relate to, offering poignant, compassionate quotes from Rumi, Rilke, and telling stories to give texture and deep meaning.
Kirtan Kriya – The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation explains the steps, benefits and results they’ve seen with the practice of Kirtan Kriya. Read up on the technique using the fingers, then go to this link to practice with music and timing. The youtube video has are no words or instruction but just provides the framework of music, chanting and timing for this practice. I’ve written on Mudras and Homunculus Man to explore the physiology behind the effectiveness of hand gesture practices.