Starting a Home Yoga Practice

home yoga

Most of us in the United States are home now in some sort of self-quarantine or self-isolation due to COVID-19. If we go out, we are practicing social distancing. All of this in order to flatten the curve and not overwhelm the health system.

Right now, things are quite dire in New York and cases of coronavirus illness and related deaths are growing all over the country. It’s one of the scariest times that many of us have ever experienced.

Most brick and mortar businesses are currently closed. Yoga studios have gone virtual in order to continue teaching students. Following along with online yoga classes is a great way to continue your yoga practice. During this uncertain moment in time, we especially need to find ways to practice self-care.

Yoga has been shown to help fight stress, so if you’ve never practiced before, this is a great time to try. If you normally attend yoga classes, continuing your practice at home may be helpful. If you haven’t been active at all recently, before starting a new exercise regimen, take due care and you may want to consult a doctor.

So once you decide to start a home yoga practice, how do you actually do it? I emailed and spoke with six Boston area yoga instructors to give us some tips. Hopefully you can takeaway a few of these suggestions and put them to good use!

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Ali Singer, Founder: Yoga Hub  (Boston, MA)

Make sure you’re doing something that you want to do. That it’s not a chore.

Pick a time of day that you can commit to so you won’t skip it.

Do the exact same postures or sequences every time. It gives you a framework for measurement. Otherwise you have no means of measuring yourself on a day to day basis. This way you can see how you change. Ashtanga yoga is the same series of poses over and over. Some people stay on this same series their whole life.

You can use a mirror to see that you’re stacking your joints correctly, but it can become a distraction if you’re looking for validation. It’s better to use video, so you can see if you are where you think you are in space.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Connect with yoga teachers that you may follow online. If you notice something on their social media feed and have a question, reach out and comment.

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For more yoga pointers from Ali, check out her free online course, which will be happening soon and will be updated here.

Ginette Mayas Samwel (Framingham, MA)

Clear space, clear mind. You need to project clarity in your thoughts, actions and space. It doesn’t have to be a big space at all, just clear.

Margie Kirstein, Founder: Yoga For The Spine (Dedham, MA)

I think people still need personal attention when starting a home yoga practice. One recommendation is to reach out to the studio where they were practicing to find out what style of yoga they were doing, if they want to keep doing that style. They could ask for suggestions if they want to try something different.

Also consider asking a yoga teacher to make up a sequence for them, taking into account their preferences. I sent my students a Yoga for the Spine home sequence that would be familiar and not too challenging. I also included links to yoga pose dictionaries.

Yogic Way of Life Yoga Asanas

Pocket Yoga Poses

Yoga Journal Pose Finder

Finally, if they can have a yoga buddy, that’s so helpful.

Malaika Bonafide of Ms. Bonafide Creations & Yoga with Malaika (Cambridge, MA)

Some of the tools I find helpful in my home practice are yoga blocks, which offer support. Think of the blocks as an extension of your reach. They can be used in downward facing dog under your hands or feet to bring the ground closer to you.

I also use a yoga strap, but an old tie will do the trick as well. You can use the tie in a seated forward fold as an extension of your hands as you reach for your feet/foot. Lasso the strap around your feet/foot pulling you closer.

Two face cloths or hand towels are helpful for padding under your knees if you tend to have knee pain or discomfort in your knees.

Be sure to listen to your body and know that everyday is different. And most importantly that yoga is a practice and most helpful if you practice as often as possible.

If you’re able to dedicate a space in your home to your practice, that’s awesome. If not, make sure that whatever space you do end up using for that moment is clean and free of clutter and work related items.

Turn off or silence distractions. Really dedicate this time to your self and your practice.

Meghan “Meg” Gaucher, Founder: Sweet Squeeze Events (Boston, MA)

There IS a home practice for everyone. Routine is important. The time you get on your mat matters. It will set you up for a good behavior to find your mat.

The space you set up is important. Find a quiet place where you can roll out your mat. Nothing fancy — just quiet and big enough to move up, down and around on your mat.

Susan Lovett, Founder: Hands To Heart Center (Boston, MA)

Don’t feel as if you have to do a daily 75-minute yoga class.

Maybe you’ll find 30 minutes or 20 or even 10 to move your body and breathe intentionally. Even a few minutes a day makes a difference, especially if you’re currently doing a lot of sitting or lying down. Sometimes, you’ll find that, once you start, you have more energy than you initially thought and you’ll want to keep going. Or not, Just do what you can.

Forget about setting up a perfect home yoga studio.

If you can clear a place on the floor and stand on something that’s not slippery, you’re good to go. It’s also a possibility to do some chair yoga. So, instead of stressing about having an immaculate, lovely setting,  just get started. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not bumping into any furniture – or anyone else’s body – but if you have some room to move, you’ll be fine.

Find an online teacher who’s a good fit for you.

There’s so much free, online yoga right now that you’ll have a lot of choices. If you start with one teacher and don’t feel inspired, you can choose someone else. You might not find your perfect match, but you’re likely to find someone whose voice and teaching style are appealing to you. I like Yoga with Adrienne and she has free online classes!

You can be your own teacher.

You might start seated with some breathing and grounding. Then, you could choose any ways to move your body that are useful and/or interesting to you. Don’t worry if you’re not doing “classical yoga poses” or seamless sequences. The essence of yoga is breath, movement and stillness, focused attention and deep rest. Be curious about what sensations you may feel in your body. Know that it doesn’t matter what your yoga looks like and focus, instead, on what you’re able to notice.

Don’t judge yourself.

In a home practice, you may feel less self-conscious than you might in a studio. Take advantage of making any sounds that would feel right to you. Give yourself permission to be goofy awkward, messy. Wear your most comfortable pajamas, if that’s your mood. It’s YOUR yoga, do what works for you.