Many people say that the best way to learn and practice yoga is in a yoga studio. Studio practice works because you don’t have to fumble around with a DVD, squeeze your long yoga mat into a tiny space, try to improvise on the fly when you find yourself without the correct yoga props and yoga accessories, or try to come up with your own routine off the top of your head when you should be practicing meditation. The phone could ring, the kids could come home from soccer practice, or most commonly, you could decide you don’t really feel like following through with an entire routine once the going gets tough. When you are in a studio, the instructors or mirrored walls can help you perform the asana correctly, correcting alignment and posture. There’s no distractions, you have the energy of other students keeping you motivated, and you are likely to finish the entire 60 or 90 minute workout without pausing or giving up to go drink diet coke instead.
That being said, there are lots of scenarios in which practicing in a yoga studio isn’t exactly practical. Maybe you live in a rural area, miles away from the closest studio. Maybe your yoga studio’s schedule conflicts with your work schedule, or you have an short open window of free time in which you feel like practicing, but no classes are available at that time. Maybe it’s been two weeks since your last paycheck and shelling out $25 for a single hot yoga class sounds like it would bring about more pain than pleasure. Maybe it’s super nice outside after raining all week and you just want to practice on the grass in the privacy of your backyard after being stuck inside the office all day … I could go on and on but you get the idea: Practicing yoga at home is sometimes an attractive alternative to the studio. A successful home practice is all about comfort, surroundings, and proper instruction.
Comfort and Surroundings
You will need to get the environment right and have the correct yoga tools handy to make sure things go smoothly -- you will be less inclined to quit if you are feeling good while practicing. First things first, you will need to find a large room that is clutter-free. Have you ever seen a messy yoga studio? Me neither. At least, find the largest room (with a TV and DVD player if you are going that route), clear out the furniture in the middle of the room and grab a yoga mat. If you are on top of carpet, a dense performance mat is the best choice to keep balanced and rooted into the ground. If you commonly practice on the carpet or are outside on the grass often, you might want to also invest in a yoga board -- a hard surface that goes under the mat for adaptation across terrain. Make sure there are no objects -- especially breakable ones -- in arm or leg length around your mat. You might fall over or hit something while flowing through your vinyasa and hurt yourself or break something: no bueno! Remember Murphy’s Law: “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”, so hope for the best but prepare for the worst!
In addition to a nice stable mat, you will want to grab a cup of water and a yoga block and yoga strap, at least. Other props may be necessary depending on what style you will be undertaking. Turn your phone off and make sure there are no distractions. Make sure you are in a serene, peaceful environment. Purify your space with a sage smudge stick if things don’t feel right, and lighting a candle can help set the mood. Use soft lighting, such as non-fluorescent lamps or bulbs. Close the curtains if you are in an urban area. Sometimes yoga videos and DVDs are unaccompanied by music. If so, play your favorite mood music in the background to distract from the sounds innate to your home. Lastly, wear comfortable clothes or designated yoga apparel, as you would to a studio.
If you don’t have a set group of asanas planned out or better yet memorized, you will need to utilize the assistance of an instructional yoga DVD. Instructional videos usually feature professional (and many times, the world-renowned) yoga instructors in front of a serene backdrop and accompanied by tranquil mood music softly playing in the background. Even if you do have a routine memorized, a yoga video is a great tool to help with timing and concentration. When I work through a routine I have memorized, I am constantly thinking of the next best move to go into and my mind is not focused on the intended meditation. Which DVD you prefer is up to you, but there are hundreds of styles and teachers to choose from. If you are new, buy a few and test them out.
Another option is online yoga. This is actually a fast-growing trend, with many websites offering monthly subscriptions and mobile options (for use on your smartphone or tablet) There are even apps like yogify.com that can simultaneously monitor progress and have the option to customize music. I’ve asked around and have heard many people say that yogaglo.com is their favorite source for online yoga classes. You pay a monthly fee of $18 (about the same as one class in a studio) for an unlimited number of classes for all levels and styles. If you are skeptical about online yoga videos, most of these sites offer free trial periods, or you can go to youtube and play a short ten minute video for free. I recommend the videos by Tara Stiles on the Livestrong Woman Channel. Of course, the downside of playing online yoga videos is that you are tethered to and dependent on connection speeds and buffering, which -- if not operating properly -- can lead to immeasurable frustration. I speak from personal experience, here …
When I practice outdoors on the roof of my garage, I go low-tech and just run through several sun salutations, throwing in my favorite poses throughout. The use of asana cards can help here as well. Here’s a great intro on the basics of sequencing if you plan on taking your home practice a step further (or are thinking about possibly teaching someday).
We want to hear from you! Do you practice at home? If so, what are some of your methods and techniques that have been most helpful?