A home practice is a great way to go deeper into your yoga practice as well as build your understanding and knowledge of yoga. Home practice can be defined as your own yoga practice outside the class setting, without a teacher guiding you. You essentially become your own teacher when you learn yoga at home.
Developing your own yoga practice at home can be challenging and even scary! It forces you to be comfortable in your own skin. Many people find it difficult not having someone guide you through it. This is the beauty of it, to create and develop it yourself and make it your own. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time or don’t know what to do for our home yoga practice.
Here are my personal tips for practicing yoga at home:
1. Listen To Your Body
During the course of my yoga practice at home, I have learned how to listen to my body. In order to maintain a consistent practice, I needed to start practicing at home. But, my first few times were not easy. I would push myself into poses that either I was not ready for or that I “thought” I could do because I saw someone else do it. I never took time to really listen to my body and what it was saying. I know better these days and I’ve learned to be in-tune with what it’s telling me.
2. Clear The Clutter
This may seem like a challenge at first, clearing out a spot in your home for your yoga practice. I remember laying down my mat in my apartment, where my only space to practice was the perimeter of my yoga mat. After the first Sun Salutation, I was looking around my room, searching for things to pick up because I hadn’t cleared out a space just for my yoga practice. I knew I needed an area that needed to be free from clutter to avoid any kind of distractions. The area you choose doesn’t have to be large, just a spot for you and your yoga that’s clear of clutter and junk.
3. Withdraw The Senses
At a yoga studio, you are asked to put away your belongings so you’re not distracted by your personal possessions so you can give yourself your undivided attention. This is not easy at home when you have things to do or people there to distract you. In Yoga, we practice Pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses. It took me a while to feel unaffected by my home environment and to remain focused in my practice.
4. Embrace The Challenge
Ask yourself, “When am I feeling compelled to step off my mat?” “When do I give up?” The answer is simple…when the practice becomes challenging. As soon as I began practicing Ashtanga yoga, I began to feel the challenge that I was searching for. Not just the asanas, but the deeper connection I felt towards my inner self. I realized over time, that I was limiting my potential to grow. By giving up on other asanas earlier and losing will power, I realized that this might probably be the way I approach different challenges off the mat as well.
5. Be Consistent
There are mornings that I just don’t feel like getting up at 5:30; I just want to hit the snooze button on my alarm and sleep! I practice every day because I know yoga requires the consistency to keep at it, to keep it a habit. I know that yoga makes me feel better, that I literally need it in my life, that it resets my days and all those reasons are enough to keep up with my practice. However, sometimes I think it would be a struggle to get going if it wasn’t a habit, my yoga would probably be much more sporadic. Consistency is key, even if you only practice 10 minutes a day!
The Rewards Of Home Practice
While it may take time to develop the discipline for a continuous session of yoga at home, it can be very rich and rewarding. You can try new things and have the freedom to explore your own creative movement. If you’re just getting started or experiencing some of these similar challenges, keep going, stay committed. Make yourself and your practice a priority. You will not regret it! Just know that a practice is anything you need that day. A quick break, a deep breath, and a little bit of patience is all you need to get yourself going. Enjoy!
Iyengar Yoga is a system of hatha yoga developed by B.K.S. Iyengar; it is rooted in the traditional eight limbs of yoga as explained by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras. Iyengar who was also direct disciple of T. Krishnamacharya with Patabbhi Jois (who developed Ashtanga Yoga) were responsible for bringing the practice of modern yoga (as we know it now) to the West.
As a widely practiced style, Iyengar Yoga continues to provide benefits to all practitioners. Although there are numerous reasons to practice Iyengar yoga, here are 4 reasons to give this practice a try:
1. It can be adapted for beginners
Iyengar Yoga offers a balanced and progressive method to Hatha yoga through its emphasis on sequencing asanas (yoga postures). Unlike classes in other styles, a typical Iyengar Yoga class for beginners always starts with basic standing poses as the grounding element. The legs and arms are part of the “karmendriya,” or organs of action. They provide the structural foundation for the rest of the body. Forward-bending and lateral twisting poses are also introduced to continuing beginners. They prepare students for inversions, backbends, and arm-balancing poses. In a class, poses are organized to improve flexibility, strength and to prepare the mind and body for pranayama (yogic breathing) and dhyana (meditation).
2. It creates a greater sense of body awareness
The practice of Iyengar Yoga helps practitioners develop body awareness through focus on postural alignment. The emphasis on alignment is the basis of the practice. Instructions on how to do the poses direct attention and awareness to different parts of the body. This awareness allows one to understand different “koshas,” or layers of the material body, like muscles, joints, organs and nadis (energy channels). This enhances a smooth flow of energy throughout the body and mind.
3. It’s totally safe practice
Iyengar Yoga offers a flexible and safe instruction, suited to the student’s needs through the use of props. Iyengar adopted the use of props to get students to move deeper into a pose. For students with physical or mental limitations, props provide invaluable support and feedback. The use of props builds flexibility and endurance. For example, in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose), feet are on blocks to lift the pelvis and create more length in the lower back.
4. Like other styles of yoga, it’s universal
Iyengar Yoga is for everyone, at all ages and physical levels. Iyengar was the first modern yoga master to conduct “group classes.” Young or old, fit or weak, athletic or injured, people are drawn to Iyengar Yoga for its accessibility. Iyengar Yoga is available for all in their healing and rehabilitative process. In this sense, Iyengar Yoga clearly offers more benefits than just physical fitness. It is a holistic lifestyle of self-care and well-being.
In Hatha yoga, Sun Salutations warm-up the body. This Hatha yoga sequence gives the body time to settle into the posture and the mind a chance to go inward. Sun Salutation has twelve postures or asanas in it. Surya in Sanskrit means Sun and Namaskar means to bow down. Sun Salutation is one of the most powerful sequences in yoga; it is our basic source of energy and is one of the pranic forces (life forces, chi) that keep us alive. Classical Hatha Yoga has its own Sun Salutation system, which differs from the traditional Ashtanga Yoga Sun Salutation method. The main difference between the two sun salutation methods are the postures and the order of sequence they are in. There are many benefits in the daily practice of Sun Salutations. It strengthens the digestive system and improves the functioning of the whole body. The whole process purifies the blood and improves blood circulation throughout the entire body.
This sequence of twelve classical yoga postures flow into each other and works almost every muscle in the body. Each movement is accompanied by either an inhalation and an exhalation and it is important for the rhythm of the breath to match the rhythm of the movement as not to become breathless and tired. The yoga breath (ujjayi breath) is essential to this practice. Attempt to keep your breathing as long and as even as possible. This sequence should be done in an even flowing manner. If you have never practiced this sequence before, then start off by only doing one round. This would mean that you do the sequence twice: the first time taking the right leg back and then doing the sequence again, taking the left leg back.
More and more often today we hear the expression "being mindful" being used in general conversation. For those of us that have meditation and/or yoga practices this term is very much a part of our vocabulary but are we really comfortable with what it means for us in our day to day living. Mindfulness means being in the "moment", a conscious awareness of what is in our minds before we say or do anything. Not only being aware but of then examining those thoughts and deciding if they are negative in any way to ourselves or others.
"Before you speak, think - Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence". - Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Hurting ourselves or others through our words, actions or inaction's, brings negative energy into the lives of all affected. Even if what we are saying is true we have to ask ourselves what is the probable outcome of telling this truth. By withholding a truth are we saving someone from an unnecessary hurt or will their life be better in the long run? However, we also have to ask ourselves if we have enough real information on which to base our decision and if the answer is "no" or we are in doubt then we should withhold our comment. This is being mindful.
Even if someone has done something you consider careless - let it go. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes. We have no way of knowing what’s going on in a person's life that may have contributed to the perceived infraction. Take a deep breath and let go of any physical tension that has started to take hold of your body. Mindfulness exercises come from thousands of years of traditions and Eastern practices of meditation. By practicing mindfulness exercises, we can learn to focus our awareness/consciousness on the present moment without judging the thoughts that come in our mind. It's about letting the present become a reality in total consciousness and total awareness.
In yoga practice we learn to distinguish between when our bodies and our minds are in a state of tension/anxiety and when they are relaxed and we feel in control. Being mindful of what is happening to us and how we feel, allows us to lead a more organized and fulfilling life as we can direct our energies, both physical and mental towards being positive and productive.
Uttanasana, or intense forward-bending pose, is a component of Sun Salutes and vinyasa, as well as, a dynamic part of the transition between standing and Chaturanga Dandasana. In Sanskrit, Ut means Intense, Tana means stretched and Asana means a yogic pose.
Uttasana is often dismissed as an uninteresting and basic pose; yet it offers a wealth of opportunities to develop muscle actions that support other standing poses like Warriors and Pyramid Pose. Practicing this foundation pose brings numerous benefits. Uttasana is also an inversion. Albeit a much more accessible inversion than head stand or handstand but with many of the usual benefits and more. Personally, I lovepracticing Uttansana because the weight of the head hanging heavy is enough to give my neck a gentle stretch. The stretch decompresses the spinal joints allowing a little stretch of the muscles and ligaments as well as a burst of nourishment.
Beginner’s Tip: If you cannot touch the ground, hold onto the backs of the legs wherever the hands fall (except for the knees) or cross the arms in front of the body holding onto the elbows. Let the head hang with gravity. If this is still too intense, take tension off the hamstrings and low back by bending the knees. Working with the breath, try “inhaling, bending”, “exhaling, straightening”. Deepen the Uttanasana pose to increase the stretch on the backs of the legs, stand in the forward bend with the balls of your feet elevated an inch or more off the floor on a sand bag or thick book or lean slightly forward and lift up onto the balls of your feet, pulling your heels a half-inch or so away from the floor. Draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis, and then, from the height of the groins, lengthen your heels back onto the floor.
Caution: Uttanasana requires patience and practice. It can take a while to reach the deepest variation of the pose. Those with back injuries can practice this pose with bent knees, use a block for support under the hands, or substitute Half Forward Bend instead.
The holidays can a time of high stress for many people; between family gatherings, shopping, office parties, and travel, it’s no wonder so many people become stressed out and rundown this time of year.
In order to deal with this stressful time of year, a lot of people turn to unhealthy habits. The good news is you don’t have to indulge in unhealthy behavior to make it through the season. Studies have shown yoga reduces stress and makes people feel calmer.
With all the celebration, the cooking, the shopping, fake smiling and the over played Christmas music, it can all make even the most cheery person think about clobbering Santa🎅 Luckily, you won’t have to take those drastic measures! Above are 6 yoga poses that can be practiced at any time you begin to feel overwhelmed and stressed during the holiday season.
These restorative poses allow the body to drop into the parasympathetic nervous system inducing a state of relaxation; it can also address the effects of stress on the internal organs as well. To make the poses even more restorative, use yoga blocks, bolsters, pillows and even blankets! These poses are best done for 5-10 minutes followed by another of my favorite stress antidotes: meditation. 😉
We use our wrists every day, but the majority of us have no idea what they are constructed of, or how to prevent long-term damage and pain. Without the mobility of our wrists our range of motion would be limited, thus understanding their complexity and learning about the anatomy of our wrists is crucial in order to protect them and provide them with strength, support and flexibility; especially during yoga practice.
Yoga can help in the healing process, however the kind of yoga you practice and how you practice it is important. If you are experiencing pain, make sure you talk to your yoga teacher and if necessary, your physician for their advice. It is key to proactively think about your weight distribution and the alignment of your body for poses that put pressure on your wrists.
The use of props to modify poses can also aid in wrist recovery. Certain yoga styles demand a lot out of our wrists and quick movements do not allow time for modification. Until you heal, you may want to consider finding a different yoga style that does not put as much pressure on your wrists. Some styles of yoga to consider are Yin, Gentle and even Restorative yoga; return to your usual practice once your wrists feel better.
Prior to your yoga practice make sure you warm-up: circle your wrists left and right in both directions which helps with blood flow. Below are some postures to help you modify your practice. Making a few simple modifications can be enough for your practice to receive the same benefits while being careful in regards to your injury.
Here are some poses to consider for modifications:
Downward-Facing Dog Pose – with the arms and torso parallel to the floor
Downward-Facing Dog Pose – while bending your knees, so you avoid pressure on the wrists but the weight is evenly distributed
Shalabhasana – Locust Pose allows blood flow to flourish throughout the elbows and wrists while straighten them and helping to get rid of scar tissue. Do this posture cautiously!
Modified plank - Elbow plank is a great alternative to full plank and also has the added benefit of working your core muscles. Press your inner forearms and elbows onto the floor - hands can be flat on the floor or fingers interlaced. Firm your shoulder blades against your back by pressing the elbows into the floor, lengthen your tailbone towards the heels and press the tops of the thighs towards the ceiling.
It is important to be aware of how fatigued you get while doing any weight bearing on the hands and to give yourself enough rest between poses. Good wrist strength is essential to our everyday activities and yoga can be a great tool to teach us more about how to take care of our wrists.
Caution: For those suffering from acute arthritis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it’s advisable to avoid practicing weight-bearing yoga poses entirely until the acute phase has passed. Always consult with your healthcare professional if you have any questions.
Using a yoga mat for yoga may seem to be a necessity, but is this true? The yoga mat developed from the practice originally taking place on grass, then using animal skins for cushioning and grip. However, yoga mats as we know them now were created by a yoga teacher named Angela Farmer in 1967 when she used a piece of foam carpeting underlay to aid her while practicing and teaching. The idea was shared with the underlay manufacturer and developed from there.
Is a yoga mat necessary?
The answer to this question is both yes and no, however it is by no means required as to whether you use a yoga mat or not and the decision is yours. Some people believe the mat’s sticky texture that helps to grip could lead to sprains or other injuries in the joints and over flexibility without sufficient muscle protection. Due to the grip the mat provides, the leg and arm muscles aren’t having to work as hard to keep you balanced which may feel easier initially, however if muscles supporting joints are not strengthened and maintained, this could leave you more susceptible to injury.
Should I use a yoga mat?
It is of course your choice, there are benefits of using a yoga mat. Aside from providing a sticky surface, the foam texture cushions and insulates your body when practicing on solid, wooden floors, like the ones in most yoga studios. This alleviates any harmful and uncomfortable pressure on the knees as well as, helps your body regulate it’s temperature to avoid injury. To many yogis a yoga mat is our personal space; our yoga mat gives us control over the space we occupy during a yoga class and keeps others outside of that space during class. A yoga mat makes us feel ready for practice, it’s part of our ritual to unroll the mat. The choice of design, color and material we choose for our yoga mats is much like our choice of clothing we practice in. Just be sure to do your research when shopping and choosing a yoga mat. Find a yoga mat that will be best suited for you and your needs.
Yoga mats are not mandatory for a yoga practice, but they can make your practice more comfortable than using the floor alone. However, if you practice yoga at home, a carpeted floor can provide cushioning with slightly less grip than a mat, alternatively, you can take your practice outside, and use a grassy area or the beach for a cushioned experience.
Before you get out of bed in the morning to check your email, your social media, or put the kettle on for tea or coffee, try my new morning yoga routine. Each posture is designed to wake up the body and energize the mind. The best part? It only takes about 20 minutes. Rev-up your morning by trying these easy to do moves.
Finish this sequence in Easy Pose (cross-legged) with a few moments of stillness and meditation. Connecting to your breathing not only gives you the opportunity to be in the present moment, but also enables you to watch each gentle breath enter and exit the body. Each deep breath enriches you with oxygen, helping the flow of blood to muscles, tissues cells and bones, while aiding clarity of thought and a sense of calm and focus to start your day.
Begin and end this sequence in a seated position; avoid Savasana in the morning since the idea here is to “wake-up” the body.
Modify the above poses to suit your practice; use a yoga block or blanket if needed.
Oftentimes, practicing yoga at home can be very challenging. It’s easy to become distracted or get busy with life! Taking a class with a yoga teacher may seem like the better alternative, but it cannot compare to practicing on your own. Here are some tips that can help you to establish a home yoga practice:
1. Set a yoga schedule
Make a schedule on when to do your yoga practice, as well as, the amount of times each week. If possible, choose particular days and times that you will practice before the week starts. Aim for at least 3 times in a week, in order to achieve real benefits and progress.
If you intend on practicing more intermediate or more challenging poses and practicing 5 to 7 times a week, try adding some Yin, Restorative or even Gentle yoga that are more stretch-based styles. This will give your body reset. On a side note, practicing yin yoga at least once in a week (which is a stretch-based yoga with long holds to open up the fascia) has proven to greatly improve mobility in a yoga practice.
2. Target thirty to sixty minutes
Most yoga classes last for 75 to 90 minutes. If you try to practice it on your own, you may feel frustrated or discouraged. Without the guidance of a teacher and the collective energy of a classroom, it is very difficult to maintain a longer class. Starting off with a home yoga practice of 30-60 minutes is ideal and you’re much more likely to continue a yoga routine.
3. Have a plan and keep it simple
Before you step on your yoga mat, it is important that you have a specific plan for what you intend to accomplish. For example, maybe you want to work on building strength with chaturanga, or you want to begin practicing yoga inversions. Whatever your plan is, keep it simple.
4. If you can’t do it, don’t do it
In a yoga class setting, a trained yoga teacher can give you guidance in order for you to move forward to poses you have not yet learned on your own. This is very important especially for poses that could harm you if not done properly. It is important for you to know that if you are not comfortable in a pose or are not sure of the alignment, then it’s best to skip it.
5. Be consistent
One thing about yoga is that it delivers benefits after practice. If you want your body to be more flexible, and also strong by making use of yoga, you have to commit the time; days, week, months and years. You will discover that each time you come to your yoga mat, there will be a sign of your body changing and evolving.
The best way to enjoy maximum benefits from yoga is to practice it regularly.
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