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Tips for Developing Your Home Yoga Practice

Updated on October 28, 2016
KarenHC profile image

Karen is a Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher, and she suggests these home practice ideas to her own students.

Practicing at home
Practicing at home | Source

Practicing Yoga at Home In Between Classes

As a yoga teacher, I urge my students to practice yoga at home in-between classes. Most of them have already experienced the benefits of yoga from attending their weekly class. I tell them that the benefits are greater still when they can commit to a regular home practice as well.

It's very difficult for many people to get into the habit of practicing yoga. I understand the difficulty! It took me some time to develop my own regular practice of yoga.

Why is it so difficult for us to begin a home yoga practice? How can we overcome this difficulty? Here are a few tips and guidelines for getting started.

Cats and yoga mat
Cats and yoga mat | Source

Getting Started With Your Yoga Home Practice

You don't need much in the way of equipment to get started with your yoga home practice, although it's useful to have a non-skid mat, and perhaps a blanket or towel for extra padding.

You also need a cleared space for practicing yoga. It could be a special room or just a corner in your house or apartment that you can set aside for your use. I practice in my living room because that's where I have the most space.

To plan for your yoga practice I suggest that you:

  • Set aside 5 - 15 minutes each day at the same time.
  • Clear your chosen practice area of unnecessary items.
  • Keep your mat and any other "props" stored within easy reach nearby.
  • Turn off your phone and computer and avoid other distractions such as laundry or the fridge.
  • If necessary, tell your spouse and kids that this is your time and to not disturb you for these few minutes (good luck!).

Then practice!

For a simple, short yoga practice you might start by:

  • Sitting quietly for a minute or so as a way to center your mind and to set your intentions.
  • Then do 2 - 4 more poses that you remember from class
  • And lie down for a short rest (savasana).

Sounds simple, doesn't it? Keep it simple for awhile, until you feel comfortable with doing more.

Why Practice Yoga at Home if You're Already Taking Classes?

Your practice of yoga in between classes will deepen your understanding of what you already do in class. In your own practice you start to internalize the poses and other yoga practices -- you're not outwardly listening to or watching your teacher, but instead you begin to listen to your own inner voice and explore more fully how your own body and mind work.

Your practice of yoga becomes a satisfying, inward quest.

Obstacles to practicing yoga at home

Why is it so hard to get on your mat?

The most common reasons that I hear for not practicing:

  • I don't have enough time
  • I don't know what to practice
  • I'm lazy, I procrastinate
  • I'm too tired
  • I'm sick or injured

Sarvangasana
Sarvangasana | Source

Work Through These Obstacles to Your Yoga Home Practice

Let's briefly address all of these reasons for not practicing:

1. I don't have enough time

This is the most common reason of course. Many of us are already very busy in our lives, and the thought of adding one more activity doesn't seem feasible. BUT....if you can find 10 - 15 minutes in your day to devote to your own practice, you'll see a big improvement in your poses. Maybe you're the type who can easily get up a little earlier in the morning and do a short practice to start your day. You'll feel more energetic during the rest of the day!

Or maybe you have a few minutes during your lunch, or in the evening for a practice. If you're a stay-at-home parent, consider taking time for your practice after the kids are off to school.

It doesn't have to be a long practice -- the trick is being consistent. If you use a planner to schedule your day, schedule yourself in for your practice, and don't cancel! Turn off your cell phone and tell your family that you need these few minutes to yourself with no interruptions, and get to work!

2. I don't know what to practice

This is a valid reason! How do you get started, especially if you're a beginner? I tell my students to practice what they remember from class each week. It's easiest to remember right after class -- you might take a few minutes to jot down some notes or diagrams and refer to them during the week. Beginners might just remember a couple poses, and not quite get them right, but it's a good start. If you do them differently in your practice, you'll figure it out next time you do them in class, and you'll learn more quickly that way.

After you've learned and can remember a few more poses, you may want to start out with a couple of your favorite poses as a way to get yourself motivated and moving, then work on a couple more difficult poses.

Also, check this resource page for yoga sequences for more ideas of what to practice.

3. I'm lazy, I procrastinate

I understand that one completely too :-). Scheduling your practice, as I mentioned above, may help. Promise yourself a treat afterward if you practice (just nothing too decadent, at least not too often!) Set up practice sessions with a buddy. It's harder to put off your practice if you've promised a friend that you'll get together to practice. Don't disappoint your friend!

Practicing with a friend
Practicing with a friend | Source

4. I'm too tired

If you're exhausted after a long day, consider doing a little when you get up in the morning or at lunch (as mentioned above). But you also might give yourself 15 minutes at the end of the day to do a restorative yoga practice -- quiet, calming poses that will soothe the body and the mind. A couple pleasant options are to lie on your back with legs up the wall, or lie with support under your trunk and head, bending the knees to the side with the soles of the feet touching (Supta baddha konasana).

5. I'm sick or injured

It's often a good idea to just rest if you're sick or injured. But if you already have some background in yoga, you might be able to find poses that you can do to help recover more quickly. Again, a restorative yoga practice, or the two poses mentioned in the paragraph above are very good to do if you're sick with a cold or flu or some other relatively mild illness. If you're injured, your yoga teacher may be able to show you a few ways to safely modify poses that will also allow the injured area to heal more quickly. Don't push though! If you feel that your practice is hurting, rather than helping, do stop until you heal or can get help!

Restorative Yoga Video

If you're feeling tired or stressed, you can do a restorative yoga practice. This video is of a nice, soothing restorative sequence.

Even if you don't do the full sequence, just a couple poses to your own ability will be very useful as a way to gently stretch the body and soothe your mind.


Yoga Practice Sequences

Having a set of printed sequences of poses can help you decide what to practice.

Iyengar Yoga Home Practice Sequences: A Resource Page lists a number of sources for finding sequences of poses for you to practice. The first two links are to general practice sequences for Level 1 (beginning) students and Level 2 (intermediate) students. Print these out and keep them near your props for easy access.

If you don't have time to do a whole sequence all the way through, pick a few of the poses and do them in the order that they're listed. Try to include an "inverted" pose (legs higher than heart) even if it's something very simple like lying on your back with the legs up the wall. Also give yourself a little time at the end to rest.

Learn These Poses to Practice at Home

Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher, John Schumacher, gives clear and concise instructions for individual poses. Listening and watching him teach are great ways to learn more about each of these poses, and will help your own home practice evolve.

The last video is of John teaching a class one of the more difficult standing poses, Parivrtta parsvakonasana, Revolved lateral angle pose.

Yoga for the Rest of Us - Peggy Cappy

Peggy Cappy's well-done Yoga for the Rest of Us programs on PBS stations are very popular, because they're designed for the "average" person who might be stiff, out-of-shape, aging, or feeling aches and pains.

"You don't need to be thin, young, and a contortionist to do this program," says instructor Peggy Cappy.

From the product description:

Yoga for the Rest of Us will ease you into the world of yoga-whatever your age and ability-and can become your personal at-home yoga trainer. Use it in the morning or at night and discover how easily yoga can be incorporated into your daily routine and how quickly you'll see the benefits for your body and spirit.

Books I recommend to help you with your yoga practice

These two books are the ones I recommend most to students who are looking for good references for their own practice.

Yoga:  The Iyengar Way: The New Definitive Illustrated Guide
Yoga: The Iyengar Way: The New Definitive Illustrated Guide

Still probably my favorite book for referring to poses. Includes beginning poses and more difficult poses. Even if you are never able to do some of the more difficult poses, the photos are gorgeous and inspiring! This book lists sequences at the back, but by name only and not by picture. This is a good way to start learning the pose names for yourself.

 
Essential Yoga: The Practical Step-by-Step Course. Iyengar yoga for everyone, shown in 400 clear colour photographs
Essential Yoga: The Practical Step-by-Step Course. Iyengar yoga for everyone, shown in 400 clear colour photographs

This is a newer book that I've recently discovered, and I'm starting to recommend it more frequently to my students. It has clear pictures, good instructions, and sequences at the back of the book for doing general practices, as well as suggested sequences for various ailments (indigestion, insomnia, asthma, colds, stiff areas, etc.) The sequences are accompanied by pictures of the poses.

 
Ardha matsyendrasana
Ardha matsyendrasana

Don't Give Up!

As I mentioned earlier, it took me awhile to establish a strong personal practice.

You might go through times of strong, easy practices, followed by times that you just can't make yourself do it. Don't be hard on yourself, but don't give up either! Maybe you were attempting too much to begin with. Change your goals to something more reasonable -- make it easier for yourself for awhile. Maybe practice your two favorite poses and let that be your practice for the day. If the spirit moves you, you can always do more.

(Photo purchased through iStockPhoto.com)

Do you take yoga classes? Do you practice in between, or do you have difficulty with a home practice? Any tips that have made practicing easier for you?

Thanks for your comments!

What do you think? - Do You Practice Yoga?

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    • KarenHC profile image
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      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      @Tamara14: It's such a wonderful practice to develop! I have a hard time convincing many of my students to practice between classes, but those that do feel much better for it. I'm glad you were able to make it a part of your morning routine :-)

    • Tamara14 profile image

      Tamara Kajari 3 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

      I honestly never thought I'd be telling this, but I'm addicted to my morning yoga sessions :) It was only weird and hard the first couple of days, but then my mornings became weird WITHOUT yoga. Now, after three months of regular exercise it is just as normal as my morning coffee and it's for one reason alone - yoga made me start feeling great in a super short period of time :)

    • KarenHC profile image
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      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      @SmartYoga: Thanks, I'm glad you like them :-) I see you haven't written any lenses yet, at least not under "SmartYoga". Are you planning to?

    • profile image

      SmartYoga 3 years ago

      Just wanted to add that I've checked out your other lenses, and they're all so useful and inspirational! Good karma to you:-)!!

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      @SmartYoga: Practicing at home definitely gives us more options!

    • profile image

      SmartYoga 3 years ago

      I practice yoga at home a lot! Started out doing classes, but don't have access to a good studio where I live now. I like practicing at home though, because it's so flexible. I can choose between different styles and do my practice whenever and bring it wherever I go. Very beneficial!

      Thank you for this lens, it addresses an important aspect of doing yoga, and it's very informative! Good quality stuff.

    • pjsart profile image

      pjsart 3 years ago

      If I didn't have a home practice I wouldn't have anything as I live in a very rural area. I love all the youtube videos as they are free, but for a regular online class I can do the one at classeyoga.net

      I am a great grandma so I am cautious and do gentle yoga, but love the benefits. I am sold on it and created a lens hoping more people will teach. I love the young man's free videos that this promotes.He gives so much away I am amazed so I want to support his work.

      https://hubpages.com/health/teaching-yoga-and-medi...

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      @dakadare: Yes, it's very important to have both the home practice and to attend classes to continue to learn the correct placement and alignment in the postures. Thanks for the link to the online site. That's helpful.

    • dakadare profile image

      dakadare 3 years ago

      It is important to have a home practice. It is also important to go to a class regularly. That way, you get to learn the postures correctly from a certified teacher and mix with like minded people. You can then take that knowledge and apply it to your home practice. But sometimes it's hard to know where to begin with a practice at home. How do you put a sequence together?

      A good way to start is to look online. There are many places that offer classes to download. One geat place that I use is Live Yoga Life. Their classes are excellent quality, easy to follow and reasonably priced.

      Check them out here:

      www.yogastretches.net

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      @GrowthSpark: I'm glad you found some good ideas here for getting started on a home practice for yoga!

    • profile image

      wave2codon 4 years ago

      spot on

    • GrowthSpark profile image

      GrowthSpark 3 years ago

      Lots of great ideas for getting started, many thanks, it's been on the back burner for way way longer than it should!

    • profile image

      shrikrishnap 4 years ago

      This is a nice post on practicing yoga at home. I practice yoga & meditation at home & it really makes my day. Apart from stress relief it makes me confident due to improved posture. Thanks for sharing this nice lense.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 4 years ago

      My daughter wants us to start practicing yoga at home - I feel more inspired after reading this!

    • profile image

      lilpixiedust 4 years ago

      Yeah, I am too lazy to do yoga, but your lens might give me some encouragements.

    • bjj james profile image

      bjj james 4 years ago

      I really need to find more time for this!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      Lol...it so looks like your cats appreciate your yoga mat as much as you do. My old girl liked to do yoga with me as well. Maybe because we don't move too fast?

    • Aster56 profile image

      Aster56 4 years ago

      Very good lens and I will begin again my yoga. After reading your lens I feel motivated to start again. Thanks Kajohu.

    • Aster56 profile image

      Aster56 4 years ago

      I Learnt yoga and was doing it regularly but I have not been doing for sometime now , I need to get back to it, but I do pranayama.

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 4 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      I have a small body rolling ball that I use, along with stretching and hot baths. Like you say there is no excuse not to try yoga at home, especially now that I know you are here to advise. Thanks for that :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I like your lens. It's very difficult at home, because my 2-year old can't understand I need some time. Thanks for sharing.

    • seanpro profile image

      seanpro 5 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for sharing!

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 5 years ago from U.S.

      @armidabooks: Yes, exactly! The best combination is a class where you can get pointers and adjustments, and practicing at home what you've learned in class. Thanks for your comment!

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 5 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      I love yoga. Never took any classes, maybe I should to correct some positions... Thanks for reminding me!

    • armidabooks profile image

      armidabooks 5 years ago

      i love yoga and i have found that the best combination is both practice at home and class. there's no substitute like a teacher who can guide and advise you. great lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Also a great way to make a good individual practice (while the weather is good anyway!) is to go to a local park, if it's within walking distance - even better. I find that it's a good discipline to practice away from class, to get more confidence as you take time with asanas and not feel like you need to keep up to the pace of class. It's also a great way to reconnect with nature, and no emails or laundry to distract! Many gyms also have free time in the 'dance studio' when no one is using it - and when weather is inclement I often head there!

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 5 years ago from U.S.

      @anonymous: It's great that you're taking a class a week! If you're able to practice in between classes, even 10 - 15 minutes a couple times a week, you'll feel even better. But don't worry if you just can't get a home practice started right away. I sputtered on and off for quite awhile before I was able to practice consistently at home.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am taking a yoga class once a week, I´ve planning to take a second class. I´ve tried to practice it at home, but many of the reason you gave on the lens make difficult the practice. I am a beginner, I started around one month ago, but I am feeling pretty well so far.

      Thanks for the tips, I´ll do my best to practice a few poses at home.

    • profile image

      maryctucker 6 years ago

      This is fabulous work.I will try at this my home.

    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 6 years ago

      LOL at the cats on the yoga mat. That's exactly what would happen (plus dogs) if I tried to do any on-the-floor exercise at home. Still, it'd be a good idea to get a few extra sessions in. I even have a few DVDs already. ;)

    • teemu profile image

      teemu 6 years ago

      I love yoga because it does not take much equipment. A mat is great to have, and some good clothes. It's not like weight training where you need tons of weights, machines, racks, etc. That's part of what makes it so easy to do in your own home. Thanks for the hard work you put into this lens.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 6 years ago

      It seems the goal is for yoga to become a lifestyle, and not be separated into home and class. Kudos to you for encouraging "homework".

    • SmBizGuru LM profile image

      SmBizGuru LM 6 years ago

      I need a yoga buddy. I've done it off & on by myself and I get bored. I do like the yoga pilates combination.

    • Tamara14 profile image

      Tamara Kajari 6 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

      I practice pilates yoga combination and I feel great! I'd never go back to just aerobics or jogging or stuff like that. Yoga elements are so much more that being physically fit.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      For comfort when practicing yoga at home check out some Low Priced, High QualityYoga Pants with most outfits (Top & Foldover yoga pants) UNDER $20

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 6 years ago from U.S.

      @jameswill2010: As the first sentence of this lens said "I urge my students to practice yoga at home, between their classes." I've found that my students who regularly take class AND practice regularly in between classes do so much better than just coming to classes. Practicing in between classes helps the student to internalize the poses and the concepts better than only taking classes, even if they take multiple classes a week.

    • profile image

      jameswill2010 6 years ago

      I have been going to yoga classes regularly. Practicing yoga at home and in class are quite different. Doing yoga under proper guidance is much helpful rather doing on own.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      What a useful guide to yoga home practice, and beautifully presented too! Looks like your cats want to join in, maybe that is how they stay so supple! :)

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 6 years ago from U.S.

      @AnnRadley: I'm glad you're feeling the effects of a home practice. A weekly class by itself is certainly helpful, but the home practice really makes this "our own practice", and we see much deeper results. Happy practicing!

    • AnnRadley profile image

      AnnRadley 6 years ago

      A very inspiring lens! I've been taking classes once a week from a wonderful teacher locally for a couple of years. I've just started a home practice (using DVD's ) during the past 2 weeks. It makes ALLthe difference. My muscles are a bit sore (slightly in shock). But my body feels so much more fluid and deliciously alive. I feel stronger in my tendons and bones.

    • aquariann profile image

      aquariann 6 years ago

      Lovely lens! I used to take svaroopa classes, but then my work schedule changed and I haven't been able to make it back in months. I really miss it! I still practice some of the poses at home, but rarely - I think you may have just motivated me to make more time for yoga!

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 6 years ago from U.S.

      @NickOng: Yoga is such a great activity to do, for the body AND the mind! I hope you enjoy it if you decide to take it up. Let me know!

    • NickOng profile image

      NickOng 6 years ago

      hey there ! your lens really inspires me to take up yoga! Rock on!

    • michelleart profile image

      Michelle Collins 7 years ago from Florida

      I do but not enoug :( I must get back to it! I always feel better then! Great lens!

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @JenOfChicago LM: Glad you like it! A couple of my students also use the Wii Fit to practice yoga -- they find it's beneficial for them too. And thanks so much for the blessing!

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 7 years ago

      Nicely done lens - it's good to hear it from an expert. I like using the Wii Fit to practice yoga. Blessed by a squidangel

    • profile image

      brian182cm 7 years ago

      I practice yoga ,and I really enjoyed your lens

    • profile image

      brian182cm 7 years ago

      Thanks I really enjoyed reading your lens

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      A well-done informative lens on yoga at home. it's good that you included the pictures and links as well as the tips.

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @LoKackl: Thanks for the blessing! Your 1 - 2 hour walks sound delightfull -- you can do "walking yoga" -- just being mindful of what's going on around you :-)

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 7 years ago

      This would be a great lens to use to get going on yoga at home! Several of my friends do yoga with admiral results; though with my hour, sometimes two-hour walks every morning it's not likely I'll ever devote enough to classes. SquidAngel Blessed.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 7 years ago

      I'll have to try yoga one day :) Blessed by a SquidAngel ...

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 7 years ago

      Great lens! Way to inspire at-home practice!

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