How to start a home yoga practice

If you'd like to complement your studio classes with a home yoga practice, here's how.

Practising yoga at home has loads of benefits - it's a great complement to studio classes, you can practise anywhere (within reason!), day or night, wear what you like and you don’t need much in the way of equipment. It’s also pretty inexpensive - free if you do a self-guided practice - and there’s no travel required. 

Best of all, yoga at home teaches you to pay attention to your own body, to understand what it needs on any given day and practise in a way that supports you both physically, mentally and emotionally. 

Here are some tips to get you started: 

1. Get a mat and grab some props

One of the best things about yoga is that you don’t need much equipment. However, a mat and props can help your alignment and make some poses more comfortable. When yoga first became prevalent in the West, yogis practised on towels or cotton mats; it wasn’t until around the 1980s that ‘sticky mats’ became more widely used. Nowadays, the yoga mat and accessories industry is a booming business, with a huge array of choice to suit almost every requirement. To help you choose the best mat for you, read our Best yoga mat review. Yoga accessories can take up a bit of space (and cash) but you can easily substitute the real thing with common household items.

2. Make some space

If possible, try and find a place to practise that’s peaceful and quiet. Having a wall nearby might be helpful too but it’s not essential. Some people like to decorate their practice space with things like candles and incense, a photograph that inspires them or a quote, but the most important thing is that you have enough space to stretch out without bumping into tables, chairs, shelves etc. Also, you’re more likely to declutter your mind if the space you are practising in is also clutter-free.

3. Commit to a time and make it achievable

Consider what works best for you - are you a morning person or an evening person? Could you squeeze in some yoga on your lunch break? As for the ‘ideal’ length of time to practise, forget about whether your friend practises for an hour each day or what you think constitutes a ‘proper’ yoga practice and go with what works best for you. Perhaps start by making a commitment to practise for 10 minutes a day. Alternatively, you could try blocking out a particular time on a certain day if that works better. The key is, it has to fit in with your life - if it doesn’t you won’t keep maintain it.

4. Watch out for the 3 Ps

Always honour your body’s boundaries and avoid pain, pinching and pushing. If you’re new to yoga it might be difficult to distinguish between pain and discomfort. Pain feels hot and sharp, whereas discomfort is more of a dull, nagging sensation. Generally speaking, STOP if it's inside the joint structure (knees, spine, hips, neck, etc.) If you do feel pain, move gently rather than suddenly out of the pose. If you feel discomfort, perhaps you can soften or adjust or even use props to assist you. 

It’s always advisable to warm up properly before attempting advanced poses and be especially mindful of the transitions between poses.

5. Plan and play

Another advantage of doing a home yoga practice, particularly if you’re doing an online class and your time is really stretched, is you can decide which class you’re going to do the day before so there's no decision-making when you get on your mat. Set up the class on your laptop the night before, then all you have to do is hit Play.

6. Follow your body’s lead

If you’re used to following a particular sequence or type of class, just once a week close your laptop or book, get on your mat and do your own thing. This can feel really daunting at first but ignore that nagging worry that you won’t know what to do; yoga doesn’t need to be a seamlessly structured series of poses. Just get on your mat and wriggle around for five minutes doing what feels nice for your body, or perhaps just sit quietly.

Build up to it by adding your 'freeform' practice at the end of a shorter online class or sequence. Just pause the video before Savasana and restart it when you’re done if you prefer to be guided. Any time that you take to tune in to truly listen to your body and let it lead the way, rather than your mind, is yoga.

Any time that you take to tune in to truly listen to your body and let it lead the way, rather than your mind, is yoga.

7. Make it fun!

When you’re starting out, practise a class or sequence that you enjoy so you’ll have an incentive to roll out your mat. What about putting some music on or practising with friends? You could decide to do this physically and go to one another’s houses - or commit to doing an online class at the same time / day each week. This helps to keep you motivated and you can share your experiences.

8. Don't forget about meditation and Pranayama

A home practice can be a great opportunity to build a meditation and pranayama practice - especially if your studio class doesn’t usually include time for it. Even five minutes of ujjayi breathing incorporated into your asana practice will leave you feeling more centered and relaxed. If you think you're not a 'meditation person', this article may change your mind.

9. See it through

If you’re one of those people who seeks the "perfect" practice, know that it doesn't exist! In practical terms, try not to spend the time you’ve allocated to yoga procrastinating (i.e. reading hundreds of class descriptions if you’re doing an online class, or flicking through sequences in a book). When you do finally decide on a class or sequence, unless there’s a genuine reason to stop practising, try and see it through. It’s the nature of the monkey mind to keep searching for “perfection” but whatever unfolds you will learn something (whether about yoga or yourself). Know too that the biggest lessons are usually learned from doing what you find challenging - be this physically or mentally.

10....but at the same time, cut yourself some slack :)

For all its benefits, practising at home can, of course, sometimes be more challenging than going to a studio. If finding time to squeeze your yoga practice in between work and family commitments causes you more stress than going to an external class, then that's fine too. The key thing is that you just show up on your mat open, present, accepting and curious - wherever it happens to be.

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