I was recently in Los Angeles, and I took a yoga class with a friend at her favorite local studio. I must say, I was aghast at the $25 price tag. Back in my hometown of Brooklyn, I practice yoga at a studio a few times a week by doing a work-study program that allows me to enjoy unlimited classes (super lucky, I know), and I also practice at home. Home practice, for me, has been a game-changer, and best of all, super affordable (aka free!). Plus, learning how to practice yoga at home isn't just easy on your wallet -- it can be really fun and super rewarding.
By the way, it may be worth mentioning here that I'm not the type of person who wakes up at 6 a.m. and does a vigorous vinyasa flow to start my day. I'm actually really liberal when it comes to what constitutes my yoga practice. It doesn't always look like your average downward-dog followed by upward-dog kind of thing, even though I often add in lots of traditional yoga poses and sequences.
For me, what is most important as a practice is setting aside time to do intentional movement and stretching.
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj," which translates “to yoke” or “to join.” In my own yoga, I consider that to mean a sort of joint effort of all aspects of the body -- mind, body, and the ever elusive spirit, all coming together to work and move deliberately and with consciousness. While some days feel more harmonious than others, I like to consider any attempt a genuine success.
So, if you want to shoot for that same harmony, here are a few ways to get started with an at-home yoga practice.
1. It Starts With Just Getting Your Butt On The Mat
Something transformative can happen when you just allow yourself to get onto your mat.
Yes, it sounds corny, but I'm serious. You give yourself a small plot of land that is safe and entirely your own. So what if you just sit there? Or breathe? Or lay down? At least you made it there.
2. Take The Time To Do A Little Research On Your Practice
There are lots of different types of yoga and movement practices out there, so it's up to you to do the research and figure out what works and feels best for you.
Do you like breath-based work and meditation? Try kundalini. How about a more dance-and-shake-infused practice? Buti is great for that. Or maybe you want to work toward something a bit more structured? Try learning some of the beginning sequences to ashtanga.
Trust me, there's a flow for everyone.
3. Use A Guide
Use a book, a video, an audio flow, or a print-out you got from a friend.
The beauty of practicing yoga at home rather than in a class is that you can learn poses at your own pace, and there's no pressure at all to figure out what to do next.
4. Put On Some Tasty Jams
Sometimes, all it takes is some good tunes to get you in the right mood to flow.
Music can help to clear your mind, and it offers a rhythm to connect your body and movement to.
5. Remember That There Is No "Right" Way To Practice Yoga
The thing you hear yoga teachers say a lot when they guide you through a flow is that these are “just suggestions” and that “you are your own best teacher.” That's because nobody knows your body like you do.
Starting your own practice can be intimidating when you hear that voice in your head that says “this doesn't look like yoga,” or “I have no idea what I'm doing.”
If you're on your mat and listening to your body, trust me, you're doing yoga.
6. Move The Way You Want To Move
Take a minute to really feel your body. The sensations you notice can guide you, because your body is actually a really, really smart mechanism.
Perhaps you have tension in your shoulders, or a little static there that's suggesting you roll them around and stretch your arms over your head. Or maybe you've noticed some tickling static energy in your legs alerting you that shaking them would feel good.
Whatever you're feeling, let the sensations be your guide. Who needs a yoga teacher, right?
7. Choose A Consistent Time Of Day To Practice
Getting into a consistent habit of doing yoga s one of the major keys to developing an actual practice.
I find it helpful to do things at (generally) the same time each day, because we are creatures of habit, aren't we? Personally, I do like to stretch in the morning, but I've found before bed is my favorite time to flow. I find it helps me process and let go of my day, and prepares my body ready for a deep, restful night of sleep.
8. Practice Your Practice
Whatever type of yoga you ultimately fall in love with, just try to stick to practicing that practice. And yeah, maybe that means doing it every other day, or just once a week. Consider it a project you're working on, and give yourself the proper time and space to devote yourself to really and truly developing it.
And hey, if you miss the group aspect of a yoga class, feel free to invite a friend or two to join you. It's a really lovely way to spend an evening, and much cheaper than going out for dinner and drinks, amirite?