Nearly every week I get a Facebook message from a friend saying, “Oh, I WISH I could come to your classes, Lisa, but…<enter any number of legitimate or not-so-legitimate reasons> so could you recommend yoga for me to practice at home?”
I always try to be helpful, because I understand that attending a yoga class led by a teacher is not always feasible. Babies require babysitters, Kids need rides to gymnastics, co-workers schedule mandatory lunch meetings, work deadlines must be met, happy hour specials should be enjoyed. Or, it’s snowing. Or raining. Or sunny. Or hot. Or just too stinking early in the morning to get to a 6:00 am class.
If any of these excuses ring a bell: you need a Home Practice.
Home Yoga Practice has benefits: I engage in home practice at least twice a week because I’m usually teaching my own classes at ‘yoga class times of the day.’ I also use this time as exploration of poses and sequences that I’m going to teach; my classes are always intentional and my lesson plans detailed.
However, I strongly believe you NEED A TEACHER. The Yoga History is very clear on this subject: yoga was originally taught from teacher to pupil in a 1:1 ratio. Teachers can offer you the appropriate modifications for injuries and for body type. Teachers can point out to you when a pose needs to be tweaked to avoid injury. Teachers can offer pointers on breath control, guide you through meditation, and share their own wisdom regarding the philosophy of a yogic lifestyle. They may show you a few poses, but that’s not the important part. Teachers actually, um, teach you.
During your search for your yoga teacher (if you don’t already have one or live too far away from me to attend my classes) here are some tips for “Starting a Home Practice.”
- Find a space.
My home yoga space is actually a home office. (And a ‘bike room’ a perk of living with an IronMan.) It’s not a state-of-the-art bamboo-floored softly lit yoga haven like you would imagine a yoga teacher would own. Actually, we don’t even own my office, we live in a 900 square foot rented house. Read: there are a LOT of distractions in my ‘yoga space’ including my computer, my books, my to-do pile, a closet, a doggie bed, and an area rug always in need of a vacuum. My point? No space in your home is ever going to be ‘perfect’ but do not let that be an excuse. Turn down the lights, clear away a space big enough for your mat (preferably not carpeted) and light some candles. Commit to your space and invite the Sacred to meet you there. In my yoga space are pictures of loved ones, landscapes of mountains, reminders of the beach, and a small altar. Make the space meaningful to you.
- Outfit with Yoga Props.
You’ll need the following: your own yoga mat. Everything else is optional. Seriously. But if you do want to buy props, here are my recommendations:
- 2 Yoga Blocks. I prefer foam blocks which can be purchased at retail outfitters such as Target and Sporting Goods Stores.
- 1 Yoga Strap. I prefer an 8 or 10 foot yoga strap with a plastic buckle available from Yoga Direct.
- 1 Yoga Bolster for Meditation. I love this “Sukasana Pillow” which helps me sit in ‘easy-pose’ for meditation.
- 1 Eye Pillow for Savasana. I love this Hugger Mugger Silk Eye-Bag with flaxseed filling.
- Choose a Guide.
Again, there is no substitute for the guidance and expertise of a teacher in the room with you. However, if you are looking for a guided session at home, here are my recommendations from trusted teachers.
Yoga Upload with Maris Aylward. Maris teaches for me at Westport Yoga and is an excellent guide. Her YouTube channel is free, but it is quality. A unique class that caters to beginners is her “Wrist Free” Yoga Class which doesn’t require Downward Facing Dog or Yoga Push-ups. Ideal for strong beginners and anyone who has a wrist or shoulder injury.
YogaGlo is an online forum of yoga classes from some of the most popular and respected yoga teachers in the country. YogaGlo requires a monthly fee of $18 but the first two-week trial is free. Classes can be sorted by class level (making it easy for beginners to find an appropriate pace) and time frame (for busy-bees!). You can also add classes to your ‘que’ and for easy referencing. My teacher Tiffany Cruikshank of Yoga Medicine is featured on this website and her classes are super fun!
YogaVibes offers the option to purchase per-online-class. If you are an Ashtanga Practioner and need to practice at home, you can download a Full Led Primary Series Class with my teacher Wade Mortenson here.
- Schedule it in your day.
Write it in your calendar and treat your Home Practice as an appointment that cannot be missed. It’s easy to become distracted during a home practice: you’ll suddenly notice your house needs cleaning or that the laundry isn’t done. You’ll put it off until after your NetFlix original series ends. You’ll sit down to answer one email and end up on Facebook an hour later. The key is discipline and commitment. Set a time for your home practice every week and respect that time. Make a schedule and stick to it!
No home practice is going to perfect, but then again, no yoga practice is ever perfect. That’s why it is called ‘practice.’ And it’s worth it, because yoga is the good life and can change your life in a million ways (or at least 10). Remember: when it comes to yoga, there are 2 lessons to learn.
Go. Get learning. Let me know how I can help along the way.