Yoga: How To Develop A Home Practice

Many people ask how to start a home yoga practice so here is some information to get you going. First I will review the basics and then discuss how often to practice and what to practice. Remember though, the only right practice is regular practice! Don’t let your desire for perfectionism get in your way. Just show up at your mat and practice. Yoga is a life-long journey – perhaps many lives!



Environment

The space should be quiet, and ideally used only for yoga. (Can be a section of any room)
Place a mat, blanket or towel on the floor.
The temperature should be moderate - not too cold and not too hot.
The room should have fresh air but not windy or cold.
Sunrise and sundown are desirable times for yoga (although any time works!)

Preparation

Wear light comfortable clothing.
A bath or shower before is good for limberness -wait at least 20 minutes after
practicing before bathing)
In the morning wash, urinate and move the bowels before practice.
Practice before eating or wait two hours after a meal.

Physical Practice (asanas)

Do not practice if there is a fever or deep wounds. Consult a teacher if there is an illness.
Spend five to ten minutes warming up/stretching before beginning practice.

Do not force your limbs into a difficult position. In time your body will open. We are after sensation not pain!

Beginners should hold each asana for 3-5 breaths. After about three months of regular practice this can be increased to 5 to 10 breaths.

Always inhale and exhale through the nostrils unless specified otherwise. Focus on making the breath slow and smooth.

At any time you need a rest come into child pose or shavasana (corpse pose)
Finish asanas with shavasana for five to ten minutes.

How often to practice.

The rule of thumb for how often to practice is simple: It is better to practice for short durations regularly than to practice once a week for a long time. In other words it is better to practice 4 times a week for forty-five minutes then to practice one day for two hours.

With that being said some people get what they need from practicing just a couple of times each week while other practice five or six times a week. It varies from person to person. On average though you will get the most benefit from your practice with average of four sessions per week. The length of time of each session depends on your experience with yoga, time constraints, level of fitness, and motivation. A good idea is to have a journal to keep track of your practice with information such as date, how long you practiced, what you practiced, how you felt during and after your practice, what thoughts came to mind during practice, how you felt later in the day as well as the next day, which postures were challenging and which were felt good.


General framework for your session

Always begin your practice with easy movements and build towards the more difficult postures ending with a cool down. Imagine a bell curve: at the beginning of the bell curve is a moment of centering. As you move up the curve there are warm-ups, then opening postures which help to build heat/ flexibility/strength and at the top of the curve are the most challenging postures. Moving down the other side of the bell curve are cool down postures followed by Shavasana.

Here is a template that you can use to create your own practice session:

Theme or focus (more on this below):

Centering:
Warm-ups:
Opening postures
Challenging postures:
Cool down postures:
Shavasana:

Which postures to practice.

Sometimes it is fun to have a practice without any preconceived notion of what to do and just see what comes out. Sometime it is desirable to tune into your body and see what your body is asking for. Other times you’ll want to plan your session as indicated above. It is during these session that having theme will be helpful. Some classical themes include: backbends, forward bends, twists, balance postures, standing postures, seated postures, inversions, restorative postures, hip openers, shoulder openers, strength building postures, groin openers, hamstring openers, and postures that build energy. Linking postures together (vinyasa) is yet another way to create a practice. In the Iyengar system we focus on linking alignment cues from posture to posture. Of course you may have specific health reasons that you are working with for which it would be best to consult a qualified yoga teacher to help create a practice. I encourage you to be creative – come up with your own themes and see how it is. It has been said that in yoga you are both the scientist and the experiment!

In my book “Beginning Yoga: A Practice Manual” I offer 20 different practice sequences to guide your home practice as well as a chapter on how to set up a home practice.


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