~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Yoga Basics: Practicing at Home

August 28, 2010

In the beginning, attending a class or following a video once or twice a week may feel like enough yoga to steep you in its benefits. As your interest in the practice deepens, however, you may find yourself eager to embark on a more personalized practice.

How do you get started? A few tips can help you find your way to a balanced and enthusiastic home practice.

Less is more. In the beginning, a little yoga every day is likely to be more manageable than trying to squeeze in a longer session a few times a week. Set aside just ten or fifteen minutes daily for a few moments of quiet exploration, perhaps when you first wake up, when you return home from work, or just before you sink into bed at night.

Focus on a single pose. Each week pick one pose you’d like to explore more deeply and commit to practicing it each day. Choose an asana that your teacher focused on in class that week, or peruse an introductory yoga book until you find one that inspires you. Stick with your exploration until you feel as comfortable in it as you do in your favorite pair of jeans.

Slip short yoga breaks into your day. Just a moment of grounding and mindfulness can go a long way toward cultivating a more balanced and joyful life. Focus on your steady breathing while waiting at a stoplight. Practice mountain pose while standing in line at the grocery store. Slip into a standing forward bend while waiting for your tea water to boil. With a little ingenuity, you can make room for dozens of yoga breaks each day.

Follow along. Base your practice on an established sequence of postures offered in your favorite book or video. This can be a source of inspiration, as well as an excellent way to learn the fundamentals of sequencing and of cultivating a well-rounded daily practice.

Practice yoga with a friend. Roll up your sticky mat and head over to a friend’s house. Together explore a few postures that you’ve learned in class or a video. Share your favorite asanas, as well as those impossible ones you’re struggling to master. As you move through the postures, share your questions, observations and insights. You may find yourselves inspiring each other in ways you hadn’t expected.

Look inward. At the beginning of each practice, sit quietly for a few moments and observe your state of being. Ask yourself what you need in order to bring yourself into a deeper state of balance. Are you in need of a little heat and invigoration? Include a few sun salutes or standing postures into your practice. Are you looking for a little relaxation? Try a few seated postures and restorative poses instead. Tailor your yoga to the poses and practices that move you in the direction of balance, wisdom and ease.

This article was originally published in Yoga Journal (March 2004)