Going to a yoga class at a studio can definitely get you in a calm mood, but sometimes a class just isn't possible. Fortunately, you can always practice yoga at home as long as you have the proper precautions in place. If you're not going to a yoga class, it's no excuse for skipping a yoga practice altogether. You can easily set up your home to get the same benefits of going to a yoga studio.
Home vs. Class
While you might not get the benefit of a trained yoga instructor at home, you can still practice yoga on your own. Some of the differences include the lack of a yoga teacher to walk you through the technique and posture of a given pose, as well as some of the mood-setting atmosphere benefits you get at a studio, like darker lighting, quiet and more space to stretch. However, there's nothing stopping you from getting the same benefits you get at a studio through home practice; self-led yoga practice is better than none at all.
There are some great benefits to practicing yoga at home, especially when it comes to the convenience of unrolling your mat in your home for a quick session. It's cheaper and quicker than going to a studio, even if you miss out on having a teacher walk you through each pose. And, since you're in control of the time, style of yoga, mood and atmosphere of your home, you can tailor each to your own specific needs and preferences.
Setting the Mood
One way to make a home practice more beneficial is to set the mood more like the quiet, peaceful setting of a yoga studio. Dimming the lights, using soft music and eliminating distractions can go a long way in setting aside special time to practice. If your phone is ringing, TV blaring and kids are interrupting you, you might not get in the right frame of mind for calming, beneficial yoga. Seek a space in your home that is quiet and gives you enough room to move freely.
Practicing on your own at home is great as long as you have a solid foundation and knowledge of the poses you practice. Trying a new pose at home can be difficult without a teacher to ensure you have correct posture and alignment. If you do want to try something new, try some online yoga or an app that you can use on your tablet or mobile phone; not only do you get instruction, but also a wide variety of teachers and teaching styles. Remember when you practice self-led poses you know how to execute properly to ensure you stay safe in your home practice.
Want more tips on creating a daily home practice? Check out my previous article on how to make yoga a daily routine.
Yoga is a mind-body practice, a moving meditation, it involves an piece of spiritual awakening and self-understanding that goes beyond the physical activity on the yoga mat. Setting an intention can bring your yoga practice to a deeper level. An intention can guide your practice as you stretch through increasingly challenging asanas (poses). An intention can also help direct your actions and decisions off the yoga mat to help you make more sound decisions, feel calmer and have an overall peace of mind.
Often in a yoga class an instructor will invite students to silently set an intention for their practice. Even if you practice at home on your own, you can still take a moment to set your focus during practice, as well as in your life. An intention can be a simple word you dedicate your practice to that represents a value you'd like to bring into your life. For example, love, trust, openness, compassion, truth or tenderness. Powerful intentions directly address feelings you'd like to modify. Feeling weak? Set strength as your intention. Feeling unsure? Go with belief.
To be fully effective, intentions are not a once-uttered wonder. During your practice, perhaps during your most challenging pose (Wheel or Shoulderstand) remember that intention, whether it be strength or belief in your abilities, and allow it to guide you through the posture. In the same way, when you are having difficult times in life, once your intention is set you'll be able to use it when you need it; to guide your decisions and actions and base them on your values. Intentions can keep you grounded so that you can connect with your true self, no matter what comes your way.
Intention vs. Goal
What really sets an intention apart from a goal is how an intention comes from a place of presence while a goal is a future plan of the mind. An intention represents your authenticity in the current moment and stays with you for as long as you need it. A goal, however, you have to use your mind to create images of what you want your future state of being to look like, which may or may not be a reflection of your authentic self/truth. While you may work hard to achieve certain goals, achieving them won’t necessarily keep you content or satisfied for very long afterward if you didn’t set an intention first.
Another way to look at intention in the setting of yoga practice is to ask yourself why you practice daily. What were you hoping to achieve? If you answer these questions with an open mind and heart, you will find your intention. When you begin to understand what you are seeking from your yoga practice, you can see how to direct energies and actions. Your intentions may change over time as you grow. Take the time to listen, and you will always discover your intention.
Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world. The oldest form of Sanskrit is Vedic Sanskrit that dates back to the 2nd millennium BCE. Known as “the mother of all languages,” Sanskrit is a classical language of the Indian subcontinent and one of the 22 official languages in India. Sanskrit can also be therapeutic. Pronouncing Sanskrit words involve the hard and soft palate, and the reverberating sounds create inner vibrations that are said to affect the central nervous system and the flow of prana. There are several ways to learn the names of yoga poses in Sanskrit. Here are a few ways to learn:
How to learn Sanskrit
Learn some of the basics before coming to class. There are several words repeated throughout the yoga class that you can easily understand. The word "asana" means yoga pose, so you'll hear the word asana placed after every pose. The beginning of a pose name usually relates to a natural feature, animal or person. For example, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana translates to Upward Facing Dog Pose. Other popular Sanskrit words that are used often are "adho" for downward, "hasta" for hand, "pada" for foot and "supta" for lying down or supine. Learning these Sanskrit words you'll know what poses you’re doing next.
Attend yoga classes where the classes are taught using Sanskrit pose names. It's very rare that a yoga class would be taught completely in Sanskrit, so you'll still have alignment cues in your native language. Ashtanga yoga for example, is a style of yoga that traditionally uses Sanskrit pose names. Talk to a yoga teacher prior to class to ask about whether you can expect to hear Sanskrit in the class.
Enroll in a class to learn Sanskrit or speak with a yoga teacher who can help with correct pronunciation. Each traditional yoga pose has a mythical story attached to it that explains the name of the pose and the spiritual connections. Learning the stories behind the poses helps to give background on the Sanskrit names.
Consciously think of or even say the Sanskrit name aloud when you transition into that pose. For example, every time you are in Mountain Pose, think or say to yourself “Tadasana.”
Take advantage of numerous websites and apps that offer quizzes to test your knowledge of Sanskrit. If you don’t want to use the internet or apps, you could make yourself a set of flashcards to help you memorize the poses.
Kemetic Yoga is an ancient African form of yoga based on the culture of ancient Egypt, then known as Kemet. Kemetic Yoga utilizes movement and mythology from one of the oldest civilizations on Earth, particularly the national story, the Asarian resurrection. Yoga has been practiced since ancient times in different cultures and countries. Yoga didn't originate in Egypt, however, it has been practiced there for an estimated 10,000 years.
The benefits of Kemetic yoga start with breathing. Because so much concentration is focused on breathing, lung capacity and physical endurance improve. When deepening your breathing, you are prompting a relaxation response, which eases stress and calms you, also benefiting your ability to concentrate and putting you into a positive, happy frame of mind. Yoga has also been shown to have positive effects on heart health, asthma, arthritis, back pain and insomnia.
While traditional yoga poses are practiced in Kemetic yoga, the primary focus is on meditation and breath control. Kemetic yoga integrates these two elements with yoga poses, but breaks the poses down so that the body is in continuous movement, flowing seamlessly through several stages of one movement before going on to the next (similar to Vinyasa style). Breathing is coordinated with the movements to intensify energy circulation.
In Kemetic Yoga there are a series of 28 postures and 5 phases to move into the Divine Company of the gods and goddess of ancient Egypt. Each god or goddess is understood as field of energy or cosmic principle in which to align oneself. Traditional yoga poses are typically used in Kemetic yoga and have been found depicted in ancient Egyptian artwork and spiritual texts. In a typical Kemetic Yoga class, your physical and energetic bodies symbolize the Soul's journey on earth. Among the poses used in Kemetic Yoga are Tree pose, Sphinx pose, Bow Pose and Camel pose to name a few. The Pose of Immortality appears on a chair that belonged to King Tut, a significant example of the symbology of not only the pose but Kemetic yoga as a whole practice.
Want to practice this style of yoga? Check out this video for beginners: youtu.be/Z2IJEIaBG8k
There are many opportunities in our everyday lives where we can add more yoga. Yoga is not just the physical practice on the mat, but it’s also who we are off the mat too! Here are 10 ways to incorporate the mental practice of yoga in your life:
1. Practice deep breathing when you’re on the train, stuck in traffic in your car, or doctor’s office. Place your hand on your lower stomach so you can connect deeper to your own breath and body, close your eyes and take deep breaths through the nose and into the belly. Breathe deeply.
2. Meditate on a plane, train or bus while travelling.
3. Practice peace, compassion and love; not only towards others, but to yourself as well. You can't be a loving, happy, healthy person if you don’t love yourself first. Be compassionate towards yourself even when you can’t quite accomplish that hard yoga pose (yet), practice one that feels right for your body and modify when needed!
4. When standing in line at the grocery store think of three things that you're grateful for. Express gratitude (whether verbally or mentally) before eating. Allow this to become a habit; it will help you cultivate gratitude in your life.
5. Practice Utthanasana (Standing Forward Fold) when you feel stressed. Utthanasana calms anxiety and brings more oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
6. Practice Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall pose) after exercise, work, or after sitting for extended periods. This pose has many benefits including regulating blood flow, calming anxiety, relieving head and back aches; just to name a few.
7. Eat for health, not for weight loss. Nourishing our bodies with healthy, wholesome food is essential for wellness and vitality. Incorporate more plant-based food in your diet like beans, lentils, nuts and grains. Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables along with healthy fats.
8. Counterbalance your daily activities. For example, do a chest opener after spending time on a computer, writing, or driving; most of our daily routines involve slumped shoulders and rounding of the back. Open your chest by practicing back-bends daily.
9. Practice inversions every day. Inversions are great for your health! Remember you don’t have to do fancy inversions like handstands, you can practice something as simple as Legs Up the Wall pose or even Child’s pose after a long day.
10. Be in the moment: turn off your phone, computer, or television and be open to the present moment. Spend some time (maybe a day) completely unplugged from the electronic world.
Yin Yoga is a non-heated, slow-paced style of yoga in which asanas (postures), are held for longer times (sometimes for 5-10 minutes). This spiritual, meditative style of yoga is beneficial for recovery after injury, pain management and enhancing the mind-body connection. While more active yang styles, such as vinyasa yoga, focus on movement with the breath, strengthening and toning, yin is the opposite. Yin yoga targets the deep connective tissues, known as the fascia, within the body. This meditative style helps regulate energy flow throughout the body.
Yin Yoga Poses
Most yin poses are seated or reclined postures. You follow a more meditative approach to release tension from the fascia. Meditation is an important component to this style of yoga. You might initially struggle with sitting still and working through feelings and sensations that come up during each posture. Cultivating a meditative mindset is important for finding spiritual stillness, harmony and balance. Yin teaches you to truly sit still and listen to your body. Often it can be difficult to find moments of stillness and surrender. In yin practice, it is the perfect time to come into one's own body and mind, accept what is, and simply learn to be. This spiritual practice is important for working through not only physical limitations, but also past emotional ordeals.
Benefits of Yin Yoga
Benefits of a non-heated yin practice include: regulating energy levels in the body; calming and balancing the mind and body; increasing mobility, especially in the joints and hips; lower stress levels; and faster recovery from injury. Releasing tension from the fascia not only for movement, stamina and flexibility, but also achieving greater relaxation. Once you get into a regular practice, you can sit still longer for meditation and find the practice of meditating more rewarding and calming.
In yoga, the word inversion is used to describe any asana (pose) where the head is below the heart. Most of us think of headstand, handstand or one of these more advanced asanas when we hear “inversions,” but there are many approachable inversions that can be practiced even for a beginner.
There are numerous benefits to inversions: bringing the head below the heart reverses blood flow and improves circulation, builds core strength and confidence, promotes diaphragmatic breathing, stimulates the lymphatic system, and soothes the nervous system. Seniors especially can benefit from inversion poses, but everyone can enjoy improved circulation, reduced foot and leg swelling and of course, rush of oxygen to the brain by including regular inversions in their yoga practice.
While you can practice inverted yoga poses at any time during the day, practicing them early in the morning will help keep you energized and refreshed throughout the day. All inverted yoga poses for beginners can act as elixirs of life, provided they are practiced regularly (and safely). Remember, yoga is a lifelong journey. You don’t need to practice any fancy arm balances to reap the benefits of inversions. Starting with these beginner-friendly inversions is a great way to turn your world upside down. 😊
Caution: Before attempting any inversions, be sure to check with your doctor, particularly if you have elevated blood pressure. Ladies will also want to refrain from inversions during their menstrual cycles.
Meditation is a great way to unplug, take a break, and relieve stress and anxiety. It’s all about taking a break from everything: phone notifications, computer/tablet screens, talking, and even your own thoughts. Oftentimes, stress stems from over-thinking. Over-thinking can nag at you bringing upon worry that repeats itself over and over in your brain; which will thus cause anxiety. Meditation is one possible cure to this condition. For 5,10, 15, minutes, or more meditation helps put a healthy distance between you and all the problems swirling inside your head. Although it seems simple, meditation works. In fact, evidence shows that meditation is an effective tool against anxiety, stress, and panic disorder. Need more proof? Check out the above for more benefits of meditation.
There are as many reasons for hip pain as there are approaches to resolving it. Hip joints connect the pelvis and leg bones. No wonder hip health relates to the back, knees, ankles and feet. So, what can you do? If you have a regular yoga practice, notice if your hips feel the same, better or worse after your practice and up to 48 hours after. Move in a way that does not increase the pain. Starting a yoga practice that includes gentle hip exercises can help relieve pain in the hips safely. Relieving hip pain can also relieve pain in the lower back, as tight hip flexors can misalign the pelvis and affect the muscles of the back. You may even want to consider a yoga therapy session. Here, you can find out which muscles are supporting your hips and which are overworking that should be resting. You don't need to understand the anatomy but you will learn to listen to your body for the answers. Here are 4 yoga poses for hip pain relief:
Bound Angle Pose can relieve hip pain caused by sciatica, while also stretching the inner thighs and groin. You may wish to sit on a folded blanket before starting, as this helps your pelvis tilt forward, aiding in the stretch. Start in a sitting position with your knees bent and the soles of your feet pressed together. Hold your feet, bringing your heels as close to your pelvis as is comfortable. If you can't comfortably hold your feet, hold your ankles or shins. Sit up straight, keeping your shoulders pressed down.
Happy Baby Pose gently stretches the hip flexors. Start by lying on your back. Bend your knees and bring them towards your chest so that you can grab the outsides of your feet. If you can't reach your feet, use a yoga strap or belt. Widen your legs, gently pulling your knees towards your armpits. Keep your shoulders pressed into the floor, and press your feet into your hands. Push your tailbone down towards the floor to release pressure on your lower back.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold stretches the hip flexors, while also stretching the spine and legs. Step your feet out so that they are hip-width apart (about 2 of your fists in between your feet). Put your hands on your hips and keep your spine long as you bend forward from the hips. Release your fingers to the floor directly under your shoulders. Relax your shoulders down your back so they don't press up around your ears. Place your hands back on your hips and keep your spine straight as you bend upward out of the pose.
Fire Log Pose is a hip opener that can be as gentle or as challenging as you'd like it to be. If needed, sit on a blanket to help your pelvis tilt forward. Place your left leg on top of your right leg so that your shins are lined up straight in front of you. Your left ankle should sit just outside of your right knee. Keep your torso straight and let your fingers graze the floor for support. For many, this is enough of a stretch, though you may also fold forward if you want to increase the stretch. Switch legs.
A lot of people (including yogis) have questions on why they should meditate. Questions such as, Is meditation just another “fad”? Am I doing it the “right way”? or, what will I gain from practicing meditation?
We spend much of our days rethinking things we’ve already experienced or thought of or plan future scenarios that may or may not occur. We expend so much energy by allowing our brain and thinking mind to take over. In doing so, we lose connection with the source. Enter meditation. Meditation allows us to take the time quiet the brain. It allows us a time to reconnect with our higher selves and our higher purpose. We begin to stop allowing the caricature of life to play through our minds like a movie; we bring our focus to one thing only. That one thing is the present moment. By meditating, we not only connect with the Divine in ourselves and in the world, we make space for new, creative thoughts.
The first time you meditate, you likely will not experience any of that (you may, which is be great!). Instead, you will likely struggle with attempting to quiet the mind for perhaps the first time in your life. To help yourself, find a meditation instructor, use a guide to begin with, and follow these steps to lead yourself into meditation:
Go to a place dedicated to meditating where there are no other distractions. Begin with simple breathing exercises. Becoming aware of the breath is the fastest way to get yourself in the present moment.
Practice yoga asanas for 10 minutes to an hour to get your body relaxed and clear away any blockages or stale energy.
Sit in a “natural” position. This isn’t a straight spine as many believe. Feeling relaxed, yet sitting upward is key here.
Begin with a simple mantra meditation to keep your breath and mind focused. Only after you have become fully immersed in the one-pointedness of your meditation can you start to let go of the mantra and relax into your bliss.
Give thanks! to the Universe and to yourself, you did it!
You should meditate to give yourself the great gift of quiet, of connectedness and of peace. Even a few minutes a day will help bring your awareness to the non-thinking part of yourself. Ultimately, your meditation practice will give you not only the answers you seek, but also a calm and peaceful sense of just being..
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