One of the best things about pursuing my yoga teacher training certificate was truly developing my at-home yoga practice. I had already developed a fairly strong at-home practice, but it wasn’t quite habit, or a structured part of my day.
I originally started my home practice for the reasons a lot of people do, that it’s the most affordable option to practice yoga. The other reason was because developing a home practice deepens your practice in a way that a studio practice cannot quite achieve. I love practicing in a studio, seeing other teacher’s styles and hearing their words, and feeling a sense of spiritual community, but practicing at home develops a connection with the self. It instills a deeper sense of self-care, compassion, self-discipline, and develops an inner peace.
Yoga is not just repetition of few postures – it is more about the exploration and discovery of the subtle energies of life.
One of the eight limbs of yoga is Niyama. There are five Niyamas, and they represent the self-disciplines, or self-restraints of yoga. One of the more meaningful of these to me in my daily yogic practice is Iswara Pranidhana. This translates to “surrender to God.” While this can be interpreted in many ways, I think in regards to a yoga practice and accompanying meditation practice, the biggest thing that a home practice does is give us the forum in which to surrender to God. This may mean sitting in a pose slightly longer than we’d like, to show up on our mat as an act of meditation and an act of coming closer to God.
Through surrender the aspirant’s ego is effaced… and grace…pours down upon him like torrential rain.
As we step onto our mats, we start to surrender immediately. The surrender starts when we start to melt away the stress of the day and the constant current preoccupation of the mind. We push through that as we start to focus on the breath, the life force energy inside all of us. The force of God, truly. When those things start happening, we become closer to the true versions of us as human, spiritual beings. The ego starts to melt away, and that’s when we truly become closer to God, and more godlike.
There’s a few simple ways to start a home practice. If yoga is completely new to you, it’s hard to know the poses that you want to incorporate daily. If purchasing a resource is an option for you, The Yoga Bible is a beautiful place to start. It lists the poses with clear photographs with a description, poses to do before this pose and counter poses.
The Internet has so many resources that will help with your practice. The best websites that I have found for learning about yoga, the history of yoga, and more in-depth articles about specific poses and practices for certain muscle groups AND online classes are:
Once you become more familiar with some poses you like, you can start to create your own practice without guidance from videos.
Basic Structure of a Home Practice Yoga Routine:
- Centering: come to your mat to a comfortable position, perhaps cross-legged, or on your back. Begin with drawing the consciousness to the breath.
- Warm-Up: here is where you want to warm-up the body, and the spine. The best way to do this is to move the spine in all six directions (this is a great article and accompanying videos to help give a sense of what I mean by this): side to side, twists both directions, arched and hollowed. Do a few poses to open the hips, and start to engage the abdominals.
- Sun Salutations: A great way to build a home practice is to learn a couple of sun salutations. A lot of teachers use these as a base for their sequencing. These are energizing fluid postures that are a wonderful way to start your day and give you energy (conversely, they may not be the best poses to do at the end of your day if you’re trying to wind down). These sequences are a great way to start to understand how to incorporate the breath into a yoga practice.
- the best way to find these sun salutations is to head to YouTube and simply search for Sun Salutations
- Peak Pose: Pick a pose that provides some difficulty and is the pose you work to during your practice. Examples of a peak pose might be tree pose, eagle pose, warrior III or dancer. If you’re new to yoga, don’t worry about working on poses that you find too challenging. Start with five-pointed star, warrior II or goddess pose.
- Cooling: cooling poses help you wind down. These are poses that are a lot of times all on the floor. These are the poses right before the end of your practice so they help counter the poses you did for your peak pose. Happy baby, child’s pose and supine spinal twists are examples of things you may do during this part of your practice.
- Savasana (Corpse Pose): This pose requires only you to lie on your back, melt away the stress, let the ankles fall to the side, palms lie upward, and all muscles slowly relax. Slowly relax face muscles and fingers. Savasana is one of the most important poses and closes your practice. Hold this pose for at least five minutes.
Starting a home practice has no rules. This practice is for you, and it is your own, so feel free to do that. The more you practice, the more confidence you gain in yourself and in your practice. Think about starting a meditation practice to complement your yoga practice. These moments you set aside for yourself will provide so much more peace and harmony throughout your day and connect you to your breath for the rest of your day. It’ll begin to act as a way to slowly help you become more connected with your breath, not only during your practice but during your day.