After teaching hundreds of yoga practitioners and spending over a decade building my own regular yoga practice, I’ve found that there is a strong link between practicing yoga at home and becoming more flexible, stronger, and feel balanced in your yoga practice.
If you practice yoga at home you’re also more likely to be or become a long term yoga practitioner that feels motivated in your yoga practice. But what is the best way to practice yoga at home? And is it possible and effective to do yoga at home by yourself even if you are beginner?
Despite the many benefits to having a yoga routine at home there are many obstacles that you could come across when looking to start a yoga practice at home.
So let’s explore some of the things to watch out for when practicing yoga at home.
(1) Planning a Daily Yoga Practice
It’s common to have good intentions to start yoga at home, but to have difficulty putting this into practice. You might struggle to find the time and motivation to practice regularly, or find that the weeks pass by quickly, without you finding a moment to practice at home.
One of the main barriers you might come across when starting a yoga practice at home is that you try to do too much too soon. If you don’t yet have a home practice routine you’ll find it a big jump going from not practicing yoga at all at home to practicing yoga daily at home.
So instead of planning to practice yoga everyday at home and then feeling dissatisfied when you only manage it two or three times a week, start by planning to practice yoga two or three times a week at home.
You could also choose a preferred time of day to do your yoga practice. This can often be useful when creating a new habit. So perhaps always choosing to do your home yoga practice in the morning when you wake up or after you finish work.
Try keeping this regular rhythm of home yoga practice for a period of time until it becomes part of your weekly routine. If this new routine feels enjoyable and manageable, you could then choose to gradually increase the number of days that you practice.
(2) Making Your Home Yoga Practices Too Long
Just like the pitfall of trying to start a daily yoga practice, you might make the mistake of trying to make your yoga practice at home too long.
I certainly made this mistake when I started doing yoga at home. I tried to practice for around 60 to 90 minutes since that is the typical time of a group yoga class.
Despite my good intentions I found this resulted in me often skipping my yoga practice because I either didn’t have that amount of time available or I felt overwhelmed by doing such a long practice by myself.
To begin with it can be helpful to choose a manageable length of your yoga practice that feels possible to do and maintain. For example, you might aim to practice for 20 minutes. Remembering that even though you are aiming for 20 minutes it is still ok to sometimes only manage 5 or 10 minutes.
Like with the frequency of your yoga practice, see if you can keep this commitment for a period of time until it becomes part of your routine before trying to increase the length of your home yoga practice.
(3) Not Knowing What to Practice
One challenge you might encounter is not knowing what to do in your yoga practice. Often when we don’t have a plan of what to practice it results in us not practicing yoga at all or overthinking our yoga practice and making it too complex.
Practicing with a set sequence of yoga poses can be useful when you start practicing alone at home. This allows you to focus on your body and breath in the yoga poses themselves, instead of getting distracted by worrying about what to practice.
Set sequences also ensure that you have a well-rounded practice, that builds up gradually to poses that require preparation, and eases off at the end for relaxation.
To learn a sequence off by heart you’re best to start slow. See if you can first learn the first part of the sequence, like sun salutations, and then gradually build up to a longer sequence over a series of practices.
Once you have been practicing consistently for a while you will find it easier to practice in a continuous flow without referencing practice sheets.
If you’re also following some in person yoga classes with a teacher you could pick a short part of the sequence you can remember from class and try that out at home. Or follow along with an online yoga class or practice series at home.
(4) Pushing Too Hard and Not Listening to Your Body
You want to aim to work at around 70-80 % of your maximum ability in your physical yoga practice. This means letting go of the idea of pushing yourself to your maximum threshold of flexibility or muscular endurance in a given yoga pose.
Particularly if you’re newer to yoga you might find it hard to know where that limit is. And this is where tuning into your breath can be very helpful.
One of the first signs that you’re moving too deep into postures in your yoga practice is that your breathing starts to feel strained or that you even start to hold your breath. So if you notice that your breathing becomes less smooth and deep, see if you can allow yourself to ease a little out of the pose to re-establish a connection with your breath.
Body awareness and knowledge of alignment will also help guide you in finding the right way for your body to move into different poses.
Body awareness is one of the key skills that you gain from practicing yoga. However, it can be hard to know if you are doing the poses correctly. Alignment in yoga is all about finding the correct position for your body in each yoga pose.
The more you practice the same poses, the more you start to tune into your body and feel how to adjust and modify the pose in a way that works for your body. To avoid injury and get the most benefits from yoga you need to learn the specific alignment principles modifications that are necessary for your body when in each yoga pose.
Yoga pose tutorial videos are useful to gain understanding in the correct way to approach the most common yoga poses. You can use these short videos the same way that you would use the verbal cues that yoga teachers give in class.
This will give you guidance on the overall alignment of a pose, and new insights on to how to approach the fundamentals of a pose. Based on this guidance you can start to build your own inner compass of finding alignment within each yoga pose.
(5) Trying Challenging Yoga Poses Without the Guidance of a Teacher
It can be difficult to know if you’re doing a yoga posture correctly when you’re practicing on your own at home. For this reason you want to watch out if you start attempting some of the more advanced yoga poses at home without the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher.
Postural technique videos are a useful starting point to understand the general positioning of your body in a given yoga pose. These will generally give you guidance on how to come in and out of a posture, and what physical actions to work on when in the pose.
Since this guidance is for the average yoga practitioner it won’t however give you personal guidance on whether your body is ready to do a specific posture and what are the most important things for you to work on when in a given pose.
This is why practicing yoga at home can be very helpful to do in combination with some sort of yoga practice with a teacher. So that you have that direction from the teacher on what to focus on during your home practice to help reach your individual goals.
If you aren’t able to often practice with a yoga teacher but want to learn more about your alignment in a specific pose that you’re working on you could also try filming yourself doing the pose. This will help you become more aware of the general positioning of your body in the pose. Something that is hard to see yourself when you’re in most yoga poses.
The only disadvantage with filming yourself is that you can’t get real time feedback of what actions and movements to make when in the pose to improve your alignment. For certain yoga poses you could try doing them against a wall to get immediate feedback on your positioning.
(6) Not Leaving Time for Relaxation
There’s a reason why all physical yoga practices finish with a breathing technique, meditation or relaxation in Savasana.
Even if you are doing a short yoga practice of 10-15 minutes its worth giving yourself at least a couple of minutes at the end to sit or lie in stillness and down regulate your practice.
One of the benefits of taking time to round off your practice with a relaxation is that you can allow your body to take a conscious rest. Even sitting for just a few minutes and being mindful of your breath will help down regulate your practice and allow your body, breath and mind to find a sense of stillness.
So if you find it particularly difficult to finish your home yoga practice with a relaxation, see if you can plan in just 3-5 minutes where you either sit or lie comfortably and watch your breath.
Over time this should get easier and help you improve your concentration and reduce stress.
(7) Multi-tasking and Getting Distracted During Your Practice
I probably don’t have to tell you how distracting your mobile phone can be. We’ve all been there when we picked up our phone intending to do one thing and before we know it we’ve checked our messages, emails, social media, news updates, weather forecast, and completely forgotten when we got out our phone in the first place.
Let’s face it, there are many more distractions at home than our local yoga studio. And so in order to build a home yoga practice we want to do our best to avoid any distractions we can during the time we’ve set aside to practice.
So see if you can put your phone in the other room, tell your friends/family you’re busy, and lock out any distracting pets.
Music can sometimes be helpful to listen to during your yoga practice and sometimes distracting. So experiment with and without music and see what works for you.
Watching TV or listening to audio books or podcasts will generally always be a distraction from your ability to concentrate in your yoga practice. So while it might be fun once in a while to work on your physical mobility by doing yoga and watching TV, it won’t allow you to fully focus on the more subtle aspects of yoga like your breath.
And then once you’ve finished your yoga practice you can be fully present to that conversation with a loved one or your favourite show on Netflix.
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