I just wanted to put together a simple guide to creating a home yoga practice for those of you who would like to establish a yoga practice at home to supplement your attendance at yoga classes. It really is very simple and following a few simple guidelines can ensure you get a rounded practice.
First of all you will need a yoga mat and then you will need to find a space within your home where you can practise. It doesn’t have to be huge, just enough room for your mat and some space around the mat so you will feel comfortable to move about. Remember this can be inside your home or in your garden and you can even take your mat on holiday with you so it is a completely portable practice! Decide whether or not you wish to use music and select from relaxing tunes to play in the background.
Once you have your mat and practice space organised you need to know where to begin. There are many and varied ways to sequence a yoga practice but the most important aspect is just to get started so I am going to keep it really simple so you can just get going.
I always begin my classes with a few minutes to bring your awareness inwards – the simplest way to do this – and a very pleasant and beneficial way – is to focus on your breathing (Pranayama). It can be as simple as closing the eyes and following the natural flow of your breath, watching it ebb and flow or you can work, for example, with Full Yogic Breath (Dirga Pranayama) or Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodana).
After an opening breath focus, begin by gently warming up the body: seated side bends, seated twists, moving into Cat-Cow, thread the needle, extended puppy, etc. any of the gentle opening postures that we might usually begin a class with. You can lay down for this or stay seated depending on the postures you wish to include. The aim is to start gently moving through all the joints, think neck, shoulders, spine, hips – movements to gently mobilise the joints.
Once your body is a little warmer you can move to your Sun Salutations. We only usually do two rounds of either Surya Namaskar A or B in class simply due to time constraints but if you want to build more heat then include more rounds. Equally, I tend to guide you to perform your Sun Salutations in a slow, juicy way to focus on the stretch and building strength, but if you want more of a “power” yoga feel just don’t hold the postures as long and perform more rounds, this will definitely get your heart pumping!
Once you have completed your Sun Salutations it is time to include some Standing Postures (Asanas). Select according to your mood or what you want to focus on in your practice. Choose from the Warrior Postures (Warriors I, II and III), Balances (Eagle, Tree, Dancer’s Pose, etc.), Standing Forward Folds, Standing Backbends, Standing Twists. This is your home practice so include whatever you want!
Move from standing postures down to Seated Postures – perhaps come to seated via a wide squat or a toe squat (just as an option). Now you have a wide variety of postures available to you – seated twists, seated forward folds, seated backbends, inversions maybe and even balances! Choose from Ardha Matsyendrasana, Janu Sirsasana, Upavista Konasana, Paschimottanasana, Navasana, to name but a few and even Arm Balances such as Bakasana (Crow Pose) could fit in here.
From seated postures move onto Supine Postures, i.e. postures where you get to lie down or maybe even go upside down: Sarvangasana, Salabasana, Dhanurasana, Setu Bandasana, Matsyasana spring to mind but there are many more.
I always close our practice with a twist and then we lead into Savasana. This is a crucial part of the session, important for the body to process what it has experienced during the practice and equally to reap the benefits of the practice. It is also important as a way of grounding us after moving energy around our body in different ways.
Don’t be tempted to omit Savasana – even if you only manage a few minutes, make sure you conclude your practice in this way.
When selecting which postures to include it is important to consider the six movements of the spine so try to think of this when selecting your postures. The six movements are forward folds, backbends, twists to left and to right and side bends to left and right. If you include all these movements then this creates a rounded practice.
This guide is just to give you a basic idea about how to approach a home practice. You don’t have to do an hour every time – you could condense this into 20 minutes. You don’t have to follow the sequence I have detailed either, this is just to help you get started – you can focus on releasing your hips or shoulders or your back but just ensure to include the six movements of the spine. The important thing is to make a start and then as you practice more regularly you will be able to tailor your practice to what your body and/or mind needs on any given day.
Hopefully these ideas will help you to kick start a home practice. If you’re not yet feeling creative, however, I do have a few sequences on my YouTube channel which you are of course welcome to use in the meantime. ૐ