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When I started practicing yoga at home, I was living in a tiny studio (loft apartment) with barely enough space to walk, let alone practice yoga.
I was working four to five shifts a week, a full-time student, and doing volunteer hours to keep my scholarships. I was busy, I didn’t have extra money to spend on studio classes, and I had nearly no space.
I had already been practicing yoga on and off, semi consistently for about two years, and I loved how I felt after Shavasana. Plus, I loved watching myself become flexible—something I never was. I was freshly out of a relationship, living for the first time on my own, and literally owning my life and experiences.
So having nearly no space was but a challenge I was willing to accept. If I put my two folding chairs on the table, I suddenly had a long sliver of space from the door to the ladder, which led to my “upstairs”—aka my bed where I could sit up, but not stand up.
The ladder was also right over the kitchenette space, which was under half the loft—the other was a small bathroom and shower. The main area was my table and couch. So setting up my yoga space looked like this: on one side of me was my tiny loveseat and on the other a table my sister gave me. I actually still have this table (oh, how simple IKEA furniture can outlive many versions of myself).
Anyway, you get the picture; it was tight. I had to modify poses so that I can only do things on my mat and mat alone, I didn’t have space for a flow that had me doing fancy things with one leg off the mat or a spacious Shavasana. Even supine twists were at first tricky until I heard one time an instructor explain we can cactus our arm up—so much better than being under the couch. Also, under the couch was a storage bag I got on AliExpress for shoes due to my limited space.
My yoga mat was two years old and the first ever yoga mat I purchased (today, I have actually bought three; I’ll get to that in another post). I got this yoga mat at Walmart in Texas while I was briefly living there after backpacking through Central America.
My cousin who was living there at the time set me up with a job, plus my best friend lived there. It was International Day of Yoga, and Lululemon was having a big yoga event in the park downtown, so my friend and I ran to Walmart, bought matching mats, and headed to the park. This yoga mat was with me for about three years; the purple was basically brown, it was paper-thin, and saying goodbye was necessary but bittersweet. I saved my money for things like rent, and food, and phone bills. Anything leftover was saved for travel.
So, if I was able to make my yoga practice work on little to no budget and barely any room, you understand the simplicity of what it takes to actually have a home yoga practice.
A regular practice can be hard to make, but these tips should help anyone get started:
1. A yoga mat.
This can be a carpet, a cheap mat, or a fancy brand-name mat. The good thing about having a mat is really space. An average yoga mat is 68 inches long and 24 inches wide. Within these dimensions you have the proper amount of space for moving your body to its fullest.
Yes, there might be times when you have to self-modify if needed, but this is the basic space you should have to do yoga at home. Of course, there are other benefits to having a mat, like protecting the parts of your body on the ground, grip, and cleanliness.
2. Your space.
Depending on your living situation, you might have an extra room that can be dedicated to yoga (or an empty wall that can be your space). Choose an area that is quiet if possible. Maybe add something extra, like a plant or candle nearby, to help create a peaceful atmosphere.
I now have an area in my living room that easily turns into my yoga space. When my partner is home while I practice, he does his own thing that might make noise, like playing with the dog, or sometimes making comments. It’s not always ideal, but I still get my practice, and that is what is most important.
Start with a personal commitment for even once a week, for 10 minutes. You should feel proud of yourself at the end of the week for showing up. Stick to it, and slowly add on minutes and/or practices. All you have to do is roll out your mat, and that is the hardest part to being consistent.
Daily yoga practice for 60 minutes is great, but it’s not ideal for everyone (and definitely not a good idea for someone starting out and trying to make an achievable routine).
Set realistic goals, and do what you can. It’s okay to shift your goals around if you see that you set expectations for yourself that you aren’t ready to meet. Ten minutes of child’s pose and deep breaths is still yoga—and it counts.
4. Stay safe.
When practicing on your own, you can encounter poses or movements that can actually hurt you if not done correctly. It is incredibly important to listen to your body and respect your own limitations. Be mindful of what your body needs, especially when it comes to places that are vulnerable, like knees, kneck, spine, and hips.
If you feel that you are no longer just uncomfortable but in pain, adjust and soften. If you have any injuries, please make it a priority to understand modifications, or what to stay away from. When practicing at home, you need to be responsible for your safety, and you should always consult with your physician, yoga teacher, or credible sources.
I recommend the following books for understanding the proper poses and injury prevention: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya and Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries.
5. Shavasana: fully relax at the end.
This is the easiest pose to do but arguably the hardest to master or do at all when we are on our own. Sometimes, when we practice at home, it is so easy by the end of our session to run to the kitchen or move on with our tasks for the day, forgetting the most crucial part of the entire practice: Shavasana. Shavasana is incredibly important—not only as a transition from practice to daily life. It allows the body mind and nervous system to return to baseline.
This is when we bring mindful awareness into our body—as it is. To our breath, as it is, without any breathing techniques. It releases the tension that may have built up, which is why Shavasana is good at the end of any type of workout.
We allow time for our entire being to absorb the benefits we just set aside time for and worked for.
This time and energy spent are for you. Find the teacher, style, or duration that works for you. Every day may be different, but surrender to this decision and smile. Smile in the poses, and bring joy into the tight spaces. This is ultimately for you, and you should be doing what makes you happy.
Don’t overdo it; it should be something you look forward to!