Establishing a home yoga practice

Whenever there’s a break from yoga classes because of the holidays, students often miss doing yoga. Some wish to practise at home but don’t know where, or how, to start.

This post is intended to help you start a home practice so that you continue to get some of the benefits of yoga even when there is no class.

Even very new beginners can do a simple practice.

The benefits are great: as soon as you begin to practise yoga, there will be a big  improvement in your yoga, as well as in your health, strength and flexibility,

How do you start?

The obstacles we put in our own way are the biggest barriers to starting. We are tired; too busy; we don’t know what to do in the practice; we just don’t feel like it.

The best advice to counter this is simply to let yourself sit on your mat for a few minutes, even if you don’t feel like practising. If after that time, you don’t feel like doing any yoga, then today wasn’t the day for it. Sometimes, though, because you are sitting on the mat, you will start to do a pose and before you know it, you have begun!

Don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations when you first begin. Decide that you will do 10-15 minutes every day and keep it to that. Far better to do a short amount of yoga regularly than to do a longer amount erratically.

A perfectly good practice when you first start would be to do the poses you know well from class, which we’ve done often: dog pose; the common standing poses; an inversion. Treat yourself to the poses you like. You will enjoy your practice more and you will be practising.

Dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

IMG_9892-Edit

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those newer to yoga may benefit from doing the standing poses against a wall, to be sure their alignment is good. Even experienced students should do this occasionally. As BKS Iyengar said:  “The wall is a great teacher.” You will learn where the pose is going wrong by using it.

Once regular practice is established

When you have a regular practice established, challenge yourself sometimes to do the poses you find difficult. The best way to improve at the poses which are hard for you, is to do them more frequently. But when first trying to establish a practice, don’t focus on the poses you find difficult. This will give you the perfect excuse to not carry on!

If you have a bit more time to spare, you could follow a pre-set programme from an Iyengar yoga book – most have practice programmes at the back. Alternatively you could follow practice programmes. (Click here to view some simple practice programmes; click here to view practice programmes for experienced students). You should only practise the poses that you have been taught in class and know well, leaving out any poses you haven’t been taught or do not know well.

Eventually, when your practice becomes part of your daily routine, it will feel second-nature to do it. After a practice, you will feel great; as after a good class. It will feel uncomfortable when you don’t practise! Personally, I begin to suffer when I haven’t been able to practise for a day or two. My body aches, I feel out of sorts. I’m not happy until I’ve practised.

Ultimately, if you wish to accelerate your progress in yoga, then practice is the secret.

“The student, like the teacher, needs to practise faithfully. The teacher dedicates time and effort in preparing for class and teaching; to receive the maximum benefit, the student must make the same commitment. Of course, life events may interrupt a steady practice. One may go for days or even weeks, without a solid session. But eventually, the discipline of regular practice must be established if yoga is to affect one on the deepest level.

“Guruji BKS Iyengar repeats his simple but profound advice again and again, and that is, ‘Practice’.

“Only through practice can the understanding come. And from understanding come insight, from insight – wisdom – freedom, the very essence of the art of yoga. One must experience this endlessly evolving process for oneself; it cannot be apprehended through any means, other than practice. Part of the teacher’s job is inspire the student to begin and maintain a regular practice, but the students task is to take the energy of inspiration and transform it into the reality of action.”

BKS Iyengar, Yogapushpanjali