How to Start A Home Practice
There’s no doubt, that as a beginner yogi heading to a studio can be pretty daunting. If you can get over that fear of not being ‘good enough’ to do yoga, I highly recommend having classes with a teacher while you get started with the practice, but once you’ve got the basics down, practising at home can be super beneficial!
Not only do you get to practice in your own time (in your PJs if you want to) but you can go at your own pace, work on what feels right for you in the moment and there’s not dead time travelling to and from the studio, so it really is efficient!
However, I know it can be really difficult to start a home practice without the help of an online video, so here are my top tips for starting your independent yoga practice at home…
Create your space
Finding the space to practice is just as difficult as finding the time sometimes. If you don’t have an obvious open space in your home it’s time to start thinking creatively. Think about how you might be able to move or re-arrange your furniture to carve out some space. My practice space usually as a coffee table in the middle of it. I move it to the side every time I practice, so that I can be facing the nice bright open window which makes me happy.
Find a spot which isn’t too dark, and doesn’t feel stressful; if you’re practising next to your laptop and a pile of paperwork you know you have to work through, you’re not going to be able to feel relaxed and focused.
Don’t set unreasonable goals: 15 mins 3 times a week is enough
This is so important. Setting yourself the goal of practising for a full hour every morning before you go to work is unreasonable, and you’ll get demotivated quickly. 15-25 mins is enough for a good practice. It only takes 3 sun salutations to feel more centred, and a 5 minute savasana to feel absolutely amazing. The more you tell yourself this, the easier you will find it is to slip some home-practice in. Try 15 mins 3 times a week to start with, and see how it goes.
Each to their own, but music really helps me drop in to presence. I use the beat or the melody to guide my warm-up movements and dictate the tempo of my practice. If I want to slow down I choose a chilled playlist, for a more sweaty practice I pop on the house music. This can also help you time your practice. Pop on a 15 minute playlist and practice until the music stops.
Not sure how to structure your practice? There’s nothing less relaxing than having to think about a sequence, or follow a sequence you got given in class, unless you have some super-human brain which remembers that stuff easily.
Start with a simple warm up; I usually start standing unless I’m feeling super tired, and just move intuitively. I stretch and roll through my spine, wiggle my hips, circle my shoulders….anything which feels good!
There’s a reason you see these in most classes; they work the whole body and get the breath and the blood pumping. Start with 3 and see how you go from there. Use your downward-facing-dog to pause, breathe and think about if you want to add another posture right now; maybe add in a low or high lunge, and then start building your flow.
Be intuitive; there’s no right or wrong way
Most yoga classes in a studio follow a loose formula: warm-up, sun salutations, standing postures, balancing postures, backbends, inversions, stretches, savasana. However, you don’t need to follow this unless that sort of structure works for you! Your practice is going to feel much better if you let go of what you think you ‘should’ be practising, and just practise what feels good for you. That might just be lots of hip and hamstring work, or lots of twists, or a variety. Slow down and listen to your body, and move in a way that feels good!
Pick a theme or pose
If you prefer a little more structure, why not try picking a theme (like core, balance or backbends) and centre your practise around that? Otherwise, you could pick a key posture, for example Crow Pose and theme your practice around building up to that pose. See this blog post for example postures
Keep it simple, and do both sides
Forget trying to produce long, complex and instagram-worthy flows. Keep your practice simple; string together two postures and then do the other side. Then move to another set of 1, 2 or maximum 3 postures, and do both sides. You’re supposed to be focussed and enjoying it, not forgetting which posture comes next and leaving yourself feeling unbalanced! Remember: no-one is watching, so keep it simple.
Work on the tricky things
Home practice is your time to do YOUR practice! This means practising what feels good, but also it’s your opportunity to focus on those postures which are a bit trickier, without time limits. Keep falling in Half-Moon during class? You can take your time in your home practice, without rushing to keep up with the yogi on the mat next to you. Break it down, try modifications and take your time to start seeing real benefits!
Don’t skip savasana
Do whatever you want in your home practice, but this is the one thing I ask of you…don’t skip some form of savasana or meditation at the end. See this post here for my tips for getting the most out of this tricky posture. This is the chance for everything you’ve practised to assimilate into the body, and for you to truly feel GREAT when you step off the mat and into the rest of your day. Pick a track which works for you and lay down or sit still for the duration of the song, follow your breath and enjoy.
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