by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 17th July, 2018
A home yoga practice is exactly what it sounds like, a yoga practice from the comfort of your own home. No anxiety about farting or crying in front of an entire yoga class here, and no pressure to "look the part". Maybe you're new to yoga, or you've been practicing for years but have never practiced much at home. No matter what level of yogi you are, a home yoga practice can be incredibly empowering and beneficial, especially if you're looking to get into yoga but can't afford regular yoga lessons. Or maybe you just want to practice more at home and get into some good habits.
First of all, what is yoga? If you're new to the practice, you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people practicing, and all the different types of practice that fall under the yoga umbrella. Really, there is no one set definition of yoga, it means something different to everyone. However, for the brand new yogi's here's a little background knowledge.
Yoga originated in India, as a Hindu spiritual discipline. It is typically a set of specific poses accompanied by breath-work and meditation to calm the body and mind. It is used in both a spiritual and non-spiritual setting, and there are yogi's all over the world of all faiths. Some use it to heal themselves, some use it to stay grounded and calm, some treat it solely as a way to get more flexible (and generally, this is discouraged). Yoga is one of the most popular forms of physical exercise worldwide, but as you'll soon discover, it is much more than just a workout. It also embodies a philosophy and way of life, which leads many new yogi's to quickly fall in love with it.
For many new yogi's (and even some more advanced ones) the idea of practicing yoga at home is daunting. There's so much technicality involved, how can you be sure that you're getting it right? In reality, there is no right, and while I'd recommend that you do seek out a qualified yoga teacher to enhance your yoga practice, an at-home practice can be just as, if not more beneficial. That's one of the awesome things about yoga, it's completely accessible to anyone, especially in the age of the internet.
Having a home yoga practice will allow you to start exploring yoga more, outside of the realms of a yoga studio. You can more deeply explore movements and sequences that interest you, and have the chance to try out lot's of different types of yoga. At home, you can be completely yourself, without the pressure that practicing in a yoga studio can bring. Yoga can be used to help heal emotional and physical trauma, as well as manage stress, so you can start to tailor your practice to dealing with whatever it is that's bothering you in life.
Of course, it almost goes without saying that developing a consistent yoga practice will help to cultivate discipline and a calmer attitude in life, as well as helping you to prepare your body and mind for whatever life may throw at it.
The yoga movement is huge, and there's probably hundreds of different ways to practice. To the beginner yogi, this abundance of technical and foreign-sounding terminology can be very overwhelming, if not off-putting, especially if you don't have a yoga teacher to explain things to you. So, if you're starting to cultivate a home yoga practice, here are some of the basic, commonly used terms you might come across:
In yoga, pranayama means the regulation of the breath, otherwise known as breath work. It is being conscious of and controlling your breath, which allows us to create a deeper and more rhythmic yoga practice, and helps to relax and prepare the mind for meditation. It is derived from two Sanskrit words: prana, meaning "life force' and ayama, meaning extension".
Traditionally, Asana is a specific seated position, but now the term is used to refer to any yoga pose. It can also be interpreted to mean "holding a position".
Vinyasa can be a complicated term to define, as a lot of yoga teachers use it differently. In short though it is a type of yoga that generally involves a sequence of poses that flow together, regulated and coordinated with the breath. It's usually associated with more difficult, sweaty classes.
Ashtanga is another type of yoga, similar to vinyasa, but more structured. It's a sequence of pre-determined poses that are carried out in quick succession, along with a lot of controlled breathwork to create a tough, sweaty but also very rewarding session.
Yin yoga is a type of yoga that aims to calm and steady the mind and body. It is based off the Taoist principles of Yin and Yang. Yin is slow and calm, whereas yang is changeable and quickly moving. Yin yoga incorporates a lot of passive poses and deep breathing. Poses are held for long periods of time and aim to really calm the body and mind. It is designed to combat the business and stress of everyday life.
Kundalini yoga is another type of yoga that uses poses and meditation to unlock "kundalini energy". Kundalini energy is believed to be a feminine energy that lies at the base of the spine and when released, can have transformative effects. It's probably not something you'll be getting into as a beginner yogi, but it's something to be aware of.
Ayurveda is sometimes called yoga's "sister science". It is a system of Hindu medicine that takes a holistic approach to wellness and is based on the idea of creating balance within the bodily systems. Although not strictly yoga related, you'll find many yoga teachers talking about it, so it's worth knowing what it is.
When cultivating an at-home yoga practice, books and the internet are going to be your most valuable resource. If you've practiced for a while already, you probably already have an idea of the style of yoga you like to do and might be able to sequence your own routines accordingly, but it's still a good idea to look around and get inspiration from other yogi's as to how to further develop your practice.
If you're looking for books to help you start your practice and delve more into yoga philosophy, then Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar, Yoga: The Poetry of the Body by Rodney Yee and Moving Towards Balance: 8 weeks of Yoga also by Rodney Yee are all great starting points.
Once you're done devouring all those books, you might want to take a look at some online yoga classes. While it's true you can create your own sequences, having someone to explain and guide you through a yoga practice is invaluable. There are hundreds of YouTube yoga classes and websites offering free yoga classes online, it can actually get kind of overwhelming. To start off with, Yoga with Adriene is a great beginner yoga resource. She has a huge collection of yoga classes on her channel, ranging from 30-day beginner series, 10 minute quick classes, to 40-minute advanced yoga classes, so you're free to take your pick. If you're not a fan of her style however, the DoYogaWithMe website is a fantastic free yoga resource, as well as The Yoga Collective.
Finally, now that you've got this wealth of information to guide you on your way, how do you actually create and stick to a yoga practice? The answer is simple, you just start. Starting is always the first step. Making your yoga practice a priority in your life is also important. Remember that this isn't just a workout, cultivating a healthy mindset towards yoga is just as important as practicing itself. View your yoga practice as not only a time to improve your physical fitness and flexibility, but also as a chance to reconnect with yourself and give yourself a break. You have nothing if you do not have your health, so make sure that your yoga practice is beneficial, enjoyable and prioritized in your life.
Make sure that your yoga practice is something that you actually enjoy doing. If you really enjoy and find hot, sweaty vinyasa practices, then do more vinyasa yoga, your practice if yours to have and enjoy, and having that enjoyment of your yoga practice will make you all the more likely to stick with it.
Lastly, don't beat yourself up about it. If you miss a few days or are getting frustrated because you struggle with a certain pose, don't sweat it. Your mat will always be there for you to come back to, even if it's just for five minutes every morning.
Yoga is different for everyone and a home practice can really let you dive in and explore yourself and what you want from yoga further. Even if you've been going to yoga classes every week for years, you might be surprised by how much you can learn about yourself from starting a home practice, which is why so many yoga teachers encourage their students to do so. Yoga is supposed to benefit you, so make sure you're having fun with it.