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The yoga studio is a place of growth and stillness. It provides a sense of home and community. A safe space, if you will.
After a long day of work, school, or tending to children, the yoga studio feels like a sanctuary.
You roll out your mat, hear the soft rhythm of neighbors breathing. Perhaps there are incense or candles burning. The lights are dim. The teacher’s voice slowly glides through the room. Sometimes their words dance with low meditative music. You are guided to a place where mind and body connect. Breathe into your muscles. You don’t need to think.
As the flow quickens and bodies pick up heat, a light layer of sweat fills the air. The teacher comes around and places a hand on your back, helping you move deeper into your pose. You borrow a yoga block from the bin to stay aligned. You grab a blanket when it’s time for savasana.
The yoga studio is a place that many come to in times of anxiety and stress, and a few short months ago, they were filled with dedicated yogis, beginners, and all levels that fall in-between. Practicing. Together.
Now, times have changed. We can no longer visit our local yoga studios. We cannot share mats and blocks, or help each other move into our poses. And unless we’re lucky enough to live with a yoga teacher, we no longer have a guide in the flesh, walking us through our practice.
We are living in a time of uncertainty and isolation. A time of a global pandemic. A time where people need yoga more than ever. Yet, we are also living in a time where the world needs us to keep our distance.
While this feels like a hard loss, and it is—the beauty of yoga is that all you truly need is yourself.
Even without our beloved yoga studios, we can continue to practice yoga at home during this age of COVID-19. We can still nurture our minds, bodies, and community through our at-home yoga practice and reap its many benefits.
The yoga studio may be a sanctuary at times, but it is not meant to be an escape. It provides you with the tools to navigate uncertain, stressful, or even beautiful times. Your yoga practice lives within you.
And even if you’re a beginner, there’s never a better time to start than now.
Step 1: Why are you practicing at-home yoga?
Before you begin your yoga practice at home, ask yourself, why am I practicing?
Is it to ease stress? To get fit? To gain flexibility? To find clarity? To connect? All of the above? Your why can change day-to-day. Thinking about your why will help you define a clear idea of what kind of yoga you will practice and what kind of space you will practice in.
One day, you may be feeling low, so you’ll focus on restorative yoga with meditation and breathwork. Another day, your body may crave activity, so you go for an energetic vinyasa. Yoga at home gives you more control. You get to decide what type of yoga to practice rather than follow the schedule your studio has established.
Once you find your why, set a clear intention for your practice. Repeat it to yourself in the present tense. For example:
>> I am at peace.
>> I am healthy.
>> I am grateful.
>> I am energized.
>> I am worthy.
>> I am free.
>> I am full of love.
Step 2: Where are you practicing at-home yoga?
An at-home yoga practice requires a dedicated space. The mind is just as important as the body during your practice and if you plop your mat down in an area where you typically focus on day-to-day responsibilities, you’re destined to be distracted. It’s hard to focus solely on your breath when you’re gazing at a pile of work that needs to be completed, your kids’ toys strewn throughout the living room, or a full sink of dishes screaming to be washed.
An essential key to successfully creating a beautiful at-home yoga practice is to create an aesthetic, and if possible, private space. Choose a spot that is reserved for your practice, which allows you to bring yourself to the present moment. You want it to feel a bit sacred, much like a yoga studio would. I like to think about the senses when creating my space.
To create a calming physical space for your at-home yoga practice, think about what colors, images, and amount of light feel soothing to you. I enjoy natural light during my practice so I chose a space near a window facing my backyard. If you prefer a dimly lit space, consider practicing in a darker area and bring in light with candles or a softly lit lamp.
Surround yourself with colors and images that bring you joy, calmness, or align with your affirmations. You can hang tapestries, beautiful sheets, or art. You can surround yourself with special pictures, tokens, or plants. There is no right or wrong way to sanctify your space. The key is to make it yours.
Fill your space with sounds that align with your practice. Perhaps you like to mimic the sounds of a yoga studio. You can play audio or video of the soothing voice of a yoga instructor. You can play music, either calm and meditative or energetic and lively. I do suggest instrumental music as lyrics can sometimes be distracting.
Perhaps you enjoy the sounds of nature. You can open a window to hear the birds and the whooshing of the breeze. If you don’t have a yard that allows for nature-esque sounds or if it’s a bit too chilly to crack open a window, play audio of the forest or the sea on a streaming device. There are endless options to choose from on services such as Spotify or YouTube.
Smell is an underrated yet powerful sense. Ever get a whiff of a certain scent and suddenly you’re transported to a different time? Maybe your childhood, a past relationship, or a moment you may have forgotten about?
Surround yourself with a scent that makes you feel good. This may change depending on your daily intention, your mood, or the type of yoga you plan on practicing. You can burn candles or incense. You can diffuse essential oils. There are so many different scents to choose from, and they all have different properties, purposes, and effects. Choose one (or a few) that are right for you.
Another great option is to go outside.
The outdoors is a sacred place without having to do any work to make it so. Weather permitting, nature provides sights, sounds, and scents that immerse you in the present moment. If you’re a lover of the outdoors like myself, it may be the perfect space for your practice.
Step 3: When are you practicing at-home yoga?
When practicing yoga at a studio, you are confined to the studio schedule. At-home yoga can be practiced at any time of day, which is both a blessing and a curse. You can work your yoga schedule around your life schedule. However, because there is not a set time in which you leave the house to make it to the studio, practicing yoga can quickly shift to the bottom of the priority list. This often leaves no time left in the day for your practice. There are two things to keep in mind when building a consistent and sustainable at-home yoga practice.
Form an instigation habit
Studies suggest a key component in creating and maintaining a habit (in this case, starting your yoga practice) lies not in the habit itself, but in the instigation habit.
An instigation habit is the trigger or act that prompts you to begin the actual habit (or “execution” habit). For example with in-studio yoga practice, the habit is practicing yoga, however the instigation habit is getting into your car at a specific time to head to the studio. In this case, the key to sticking to a consistent yoga practice is forming the habit of getting into your car at that time.
With at-home yoga, you will need a new instigation habit as you are practicing where you live. And we all know—life is chock full of distractions.
Choose a consistent time each day to set aside for your practice and form an instigation habit that prompts you to begin.
You can set an alert on your phone each day with a prompt to roll out your mat. Maybe you start each day with a cup of tea or coffee. Take your morning beverage to your yoga space and when you finish, begin your practice. There are endless habits that can serve as the trigger for your yoga practice. Choose one that feels right to you.
Commit to a minimum time allotment
Another key to consistency with at-home yoga is to require a minimum amount of time each day for your practice. This does need to be a large chunk of time. Keep your time requirement short and commit to 10 or 15 minutes per day.
When you’re feeling sluggish or not that into it, think to yourself, it’s only 10 minutes. If after those 10 minutes are up you’re still not feeling it, no sweat. Tomorrow is a new day. If you reach 10 minutes and feel yourself leaning into your practice, wonderful. Keep going.
The beauty of short, required time allotment is that it prevents overwhelm but keeps us consistent.
Step 4: How are you practicing at-home yoga?
The most important step in creating a sustainable at-home yoga practice is to figure out how you will be practicing. This goes for those who regularly practice in a studio and beginners alike.
You’re in your designated yoga space, you’ve thought through your why and your intention. You’re ready to begin your at-home yoga practice. But, how? Where do you start? How do you move through your practice? How do you focus on your breath and your mind and the poses and the tension in your muscles and avoiding injury all at once without a teacher?
Fear not, there are a few tips to simplify the process and help you guide yourself through your yoga practice. You may find you become even more in tune with your body and mind than in previous sessions.
Stick to a base flow sequence
With in-studio yoga, a teacher guides you through the flow, moving your focus away from the technicalities of each pose and into your breath, body, and mind. With at-home yoga, you are your own guide. Knowing which pose to move to is your job.
You can make this job easy by learning a series of simple poses and sticking to them.
Repetition is great for consistency and progress. Once you have the physical poses down, it becomes easier to focus on your breath, intentions, and fall deeper into a meditative state. Sticking to a simple repetitive sequence prevents you from focusing on your next pose. It also makes it easier to recognize progress in your practice.
The simple sequence you master serves as your base. To keep your at-home yoga practice evolving and exciting, keep your base consistent and introduce or alternate one or two new poses into your flow each day.
With at-home yoga, simplicity and consistency are key.
Here are some poses excellent for beginners or those starting to practice without an instructor. I suggest selecting several to include in your base flow.
>> Child’s Pose
>> Downward Facing Dog
>> Mountain Pose
>> Warrior 1
>> Warrior 2
>> Seated Twist
>> Pigeon Pose
Be intentional with every movement
During your at-home yoga practice, take a bit more time in each pose to feel where the tensions in your body lie. Breathe into those areas. On each inhale, imagine your body expanding. On each exhale, breathe into your muscles and move deeper into your pose. When you breathe into the areas of tension, note if you need adjusting. Adjust and then breathe again.
With at-home yoga, you need to make adjustments on your own. It is important to move into your poses in a way that feels best to you. Always make sure you are not in pain. At-home yoga provides you with the opportunity to listen to your body rather than rely on a teacher for adjustments.
Push yourself but embrace humility.
Follow videos or online resources
A helpful way to begin an at-home yoga practice is to utilize online resources. We live in a world with endless information at our fingertips. There is a lot of content online to assist you in practicing yoga on your own.
There are several yoga apps available such as Daily Yoga or Down Dog. YouTube is also an excellent resource for virtual yoga classes. My favorite YouTube channel for yoga practice is Yoga with Adrienne. She practices each flow along with you on screen. She has hundreds of videos available for different intentions and experience levels.
You can also research local yoga studios for online resources they may provide during this time. This is a great way to support local businesses and maintain a sense of community, even when practicing yoga from home.
Always finish with Savasana, even if it’s only for one minute. Savasana, also known as corpse pose, is a restorative pose with a focus on relaxation. In this pose, you lie on your back and remain completely still. You relax one area of your body at a time while also remaining awake and alert. I find it helpful to keep my mind on my intention to prevent wandering thoughts. Savasana helps release tension in the body and mind. Stillness is just as important as movement in your yoga practice.
Yoga is an ever-changing journey. Even through times of turmoil and uncertainty, your yoga practice is here for you. Focus on growth, not perfection. You can do this.
Now roll out your mat, and begin.