Practicing Yoga At Home
One Yogi’s Guide To Starting A Routine
When I began practicing yoga over a decade ago, I never considered practicing alone until an instructor mentioned the concept in class. “If you’re hesitant to get upside down,” she said, “work on it at home.”
Wait. Yoga has homework?! Was it required? Would I fail if I didn’t practice? And what exactly would happen on the mat if I were left to my own devices? How could I remember all the poses?
Confused but intrigued, I kept showing up to class to learn more.
Yoga includes a wide array of science-backed health benefits, like the ability to relieve stress, promote relaxation, elevate self-esteem, improve cardiovascular health, and alleviate back pain. However, feeling intimidated, hesitant, or confused when starting yoga is very common. The biggest misconception people have is that they should already be flexible enough for every move or need excessive props, tools, and equipment. Or that home practice should have the same degree of intensity or length as an in-studio class.
The truth? All you need is your breath and space to move freely.
In the spirit of creating a practice of your very own, I’ve put together some guidelines for overcoming the hurdles we all face when starting an at-home routine—how to stay motivated, how to find the time, and where to start.
Why Practice at Home
Self-awareness – Practicing on your own or at home helps teach self-awareness. Like driving your own car versus taking a taxi—when you’re the one in control, it’s your responsibility to pay attention, choose where you’re going, and react to obstacles along the way.
Personal growth – Being at home means more time on the mat. And with regular practice, each session doesn’t have a chance to wear off before you come back for the next round. Consistency offers benefits that double again and again.
Self-help – The more you practice, the better you’ll be able to assess how you feel. From there you can choose a style of yoga (yin, vinyasa, restorative, etc.) that rises to the occasion—mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Designing Your Home Routine
Mapping the course for your home practice will give you the confidence to keep it up. These tips help keep your practice fresh so you won’t feel like you’re doing the same poses over and over again:
Begin with Silence
Before diving into sun salutation or warrior pose, start in a comfortable seated position or even in corpse pose. When you begin with stillness in the mind and body, you can connect to your feelings and go from there.
Pick a Direction
If you’re pressed for time, choose a shorter restorative practice. If you have lots of energy, opt for a more vigorous session. If you want to feel grounded, focus on standing poses. If you need energy, incorporate backbends and inversions. The more you use yoga to take care of your immediate needs, the more likely you are to return to the mat.
Choose Postures You Love
If you want to create a consistent yoga practice, start by choosing four to five poses that feel best for you, so you’ll feel inspired—rather than obligated—to roll out your mat.
When and Where to Practice
Setting out a designated space is key to consistent home practice, but not everyone has a spare bedroom or spacious living room. That’s ok! Work with what you have. That physical space doesn’t need to be large, pretty, or even particularly tranquil. A sliver of floor between the fireplace and coffee table works just fine.
Some people choose to start or end their day with yoga; others might use it as a way to break up a stressful schedule. Just remember—consistency is key. Choosing a specific time to practice, even just for 15 minutes a day, can inspire and ground you, improving focus and productivity.
Life gets busy. Sometimes even squeezing in a five-minute session feels impossible. Get creative! Practice gentle breathing exercises when you’re on hold for a conference call or waiting in line at the coffee shop. Meditate before bed or while you’re taking the subway. What matters is your dedication. Anything you’d like to turn into habit takes commitment and patience. At its heart yoga is an intention to observe your actions and reactions. It doesn’t necessarily have to take a particular form.
A 10-Minute Home Yoga Practice
A ten-minute daily yoga routine is all you need to jump-start your at-home yoga habit without feeling overwhelmed. This simple session will help you gain momentum and decide where you’d like to take your yoga journey from there, whether it’s meditative and simple or physically energizing with challenging poses.
Reclining Big Toe Pose I
Lie on your back. Hook a belt, scarf, or resistance band around one foot and raise your foot toward the ceiling until your leg is fully extended, drawing the shoulder blades down to the mat. Hold for five breaths and switch legs.
Reclining Big Toe Pose II
Start with Reclining Big Toe Pose I and an extended leg. During an exhale, open the leg out to the side, away from your body. Hold this for five breaths and then switch to the left leg.
Seated Forward Fold Pose
From a seated position with your legs extended, fold at the hips and walk your fingertips forward towards your feet or shins. After five breaths, sit up, change the cross of the legs, and repeat. For a deeper stretch, add a block to reach for in front of your feet.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Walk your hands to the front of the mat and press up into downward dog. Keep your knees slightly bent—and your heels slightly lifted. On your exhale, lift your sitting bones, press your thighs back, and stretch your heels toward the floor. Imagine your body as a triangle, with the mat as the base of this shape.
Low Lunge Pose
From downward dog, step your right foot up between your hands. Drop your left knee to the mat, and bring both hands to your right knee. After a few breaths, switch legs.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Press back up into downward dog. Keep your knees slightly bent—and your heels slightly lifted. On your exhale, lift your sitting bones, press your thighs back, and stretch your heels toward the floor.
Return to sitting and bring one leg forward as though to sit cross-legged, but extend the other leg out behind you, with the top of your foot pressed into the mat. Folding at the hips, rest your forehead on your arms or a block. Hold for 1-2 minutes, and then switch legs.
Kneel on the floor with the top of your feet against the mat, big toes touching. Keep your feet together as you open your knees wide and fold forward at the hips, stretching your arms out in front of you on your mat while resting your forehead on the floor.
Emma Cunningham is a writer, creative marketing specialist, 500hr yoga instructor, & philanthropist. Now based in Los Angeles, Emma focuses on writing stories & content for brands committed to social & environmental good. Her personal mission is to educate & inspire others to grow more conscious about conserving the planet’s beauty.
Photography by Ben Flynn