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At some point, it’s necessary to develop a personal yoga practice to maintain your strength, flexibility and sanity.
A personal routine will keep you in the game, no matter where you are or how your circumstances change. While yoga classes are a wonderful way to have fun, learn good alignment and build community, realistically, you won’t always have the luxury and time to attend class. A home practice will keep you feeling healthy, grounded and pain-free. It’s simple to start, and if you make it fun and effective, it’s sustainable.
Ask a teacher. Starting your home practice can seem overwhelming at first. There are so many different poses to choose from and even more videos and online programs. Unless you’re familiar with the poses or teacher already, it will nearly be impossible to navigate through all these resources. My suggestion is to ask your favorite local yoga teacher, who already knows you well, to help you develop a short home practice. Make sure you are clear that it has to be accessible and no longer than 10 to 15 minutes, or about 15 poses. Even if your instructor simply writes the poses for you via email, that’s a great way to get started.
Make space. Have a spot designated in your house or apartment for yoga. It doesn’t have to be anything glamorous or “zen,” but it should be able to fit your mat and allow you the freedom to move around comfortably. Have a free wall nearby to help with balance, inversions and other modifications. Reserving a spot for yoga makes it easier to practice at home regularly. Mentally, a yoga space helps you commit to sticking with it.
[Read: 7 Benefits of Yoga for Men]
Have a routine. Pick a time during the day to set aside for yoga. Make it a priority for yourself. Just like brushing your teeth, it’s not negotiable. It is your health, after all. The best time for a home practice is in the morning, before anything else comes up and derails you. Have a core sequence of poses that you practice every time. A sequence that you repeat is a great way to keep you focused, strong and flexible. If you’ve been practicing and making progress, you don’t want to lose it. Stick with a regimen, and it will make you feel more at home and yourself when you practice it.
Keep it short and simple. Have a home practice that you can complete in 10 to 15 minutes. While practicing for an hour is preferable, the idea is that you get what you need in your session, even when you’re short on time. A few poses I suggest: down dog, hip-opener, thigh stretch, hamstring stretch, back-bend, twist, seated forward-fold and standing poses, such as side-angle and triangle. They are infinitely deep and powerful when opening and strengthening your body.
Mix it up. Always have a core set of poses you practice. However, if you find yourself getting bored with your sequence, include different poses and variations. Keep it fun and light-hearted. Just be sure to know your limitations and when to practice humility and patience.
Challenge yourself. When you work hard on something that you love to do, it’s rewarding, and that’s the key to keep your mind clear and happy. There is no limit to the ways to challenge your yoga practice. Work toward a new pose. Start a timer, and hold poses for a minute or two. If you work at your physical edge without crossing it, then you’re making progress. The payoff is worth the sweat and effort you put in. (Note, however, that if you’re short of breath, clenching your jaw or in pain, you’ve gone too far.)
Gather the proper supplies. Safety is key. For healthy alignment, have these props: a yoga mat, two yoga blocks, a blanket and a strap to allow for modifications in the poses. Every pose can be adjusted with or without props. The props make the postures accessible and offer more options to continue to advance while staying safe. As you become knowledgeable on how to carefully place more injury-prone parts of your body in the postures, like lowering your knees to the ground, you only need the mat beneath you and the space to move freely.
Get inspired. A great resource for all levels of yoga practitioners is the “Yoga Resource Practice Manual” e-book by Darren Rhodes. Darren is an excellent teacher and yogi. His e-book is thorough yet concise, and it provides pictures of each posture. The pictures alone are inspirational. If you’re in it for the long haul, this is a great home-practice tool.
Have no shame. Own it. Get your practice in anytime and anywhere. Bust out a down-dog or forward-fold in the airport, the office or in the hotel room.Take care of yourself first, and everyone around you will benefit from you being more grounded and happy.
Make it work for you. No matter what technique you use to continue your practice, stay with it. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Believe in yourself and believe you are worth it!