I have received a couple of requests on how one would go about setting up a home yoga practice. This is a bit of a sticky wicket for me as a yoga teacher, but I will do my best, mkay dawgs?
OK friends, first things first. I am a 200 hour certified yoga teacher through Yogaworks, and am registered with the Yoga Alliance. I am currently furthering my studies with a Yoga Therapy program, a mentorship program and a volunteer position with my 200 hour teacher. (Yes, I am obsessed, but I assume you must have gathered that by now, no?) That being said, I do not know you, your body, or your limitations. PLEASE do not take anything I say here as law. What I have to say here is a compilation of all that I have learned so far, as well as personal experience. You and only you know what does and does not work for your body. Also, this is not meant to be a posture instruction post. I will not be covering proper form or breath techniques for any postures in this post, otherwise it would actually be the mother of all posts, and all posts to come. I am simply here to help with sequencing, assuming you have some knowledge of the yoga postures and how they are to be carried out. Practice patience, kindness, awareness and caution, as with any new fitness regime. I am not your doctor, personal yoga teacher or yo mama, so I hereby relinquish any responsibility for what you do to yo self, alright?
Fewf, I am glad we got that over with. Onto the more fun stuff.
There are a million and a half reasons that people would rather do their asana (yoga posture) practice at home, rather that at a studio. I get it. Studios can be VERY expensive. It can be challenging to find a teacher that you resonate with. Class schedule and your schedule may not always match up. It can be very time-consuming, traveling to the studio, taking the class, getting home ect. It may even be that there are no studios where you live, or only sub par studios.
That being said, it is my personal opinion that everyone should take a professional yoga class, at least a couple of times, before attempting a home practice. There you will gain experience with the postures, you will gain some self-awareness and self knowledge, and you will get hands on instruction. I know for myself that I ALWAYS thought I had good form and alignment in my postures, until I went to class and was corrected. This is a really good thing! It helps you to prevent injury. So pleasepleasepleaseprettyplease with a cherry on top, take at least a few classes at the studio, before you take your mat into your own hands.
After you have taken some classes and are feeling pretty ok with what you know, you can take your practice into your home studio. But where to start? I know that I used to want to practice at home myself, but have no idea what poses to do when, how long to do them, and especially how I should get the whole thing rolling.
I like to start with Sun Salutations. You can start seated, or in child’s pose, and warm up slower. Do a few cat-cow’s a couple downward facing dogs, and anything else you feel you need before you jump into your sun salutes. Sun Salutes are awesome for connecting breath with movement, warming up the muscles and joints, getting your mind focused on your practice and so so much more. You DO remember Sun Salutations, right?
You have Tadasana;
Reach for the sky;
Folding forward, Uttanasana;
Next, you will shoot back to Chataurungadandasana;
Up dog (dawg) yourself;
Lift your sit bones to Downward facing dog;
Jump back to the front of your mat, coming half way up for Ardha uttanasana;
And surrender to gravity again;
Circle the arms overhead, coming back up to stand;
Tada-sana! You done and did it!
Give yourself at least three rounds of sun salutes before moving on. I like to do at LEAST five, and up to ten. I loves me my sun salutes.
Next up, standing postures. There are a million to choose from, all with unique and specific benefits. They tend to be good for strengthening the legs, cultivating balance and stability, as well as being generally accessible postures for most people.
Some examples are;
And extended right angle posture’
Other options? Twisting triangle(parivritta trikonasana), twisting right angle (parivritta parshvakonasana), Parshvotanasana, warrior 1 (virabhadrasana 1) and so on and so on.
I like to hold my standing postures for at least ten breaths, but you can do more! Focus on alignment, and finding a steadiness in your posture. Do a few, I like to do them one at a time, coming back to the top of my mat in between. Another option is to sequence a couple of postures together. That could look something like;
Warrior 1 – warrior 2 – triangle – side angle – reverse warrior to Vinyasa. Repeat to the other side
After I have done some standing postures, I like to work in the balance postures. I LOVELOVELOVE balance postures! There are many to choose from, all of which can be very fun, or really hard, depending on how you want to look at it. Some popular postures;
Tree pose is a nice posture because it helps people to start to get the hang of standing on one foot, without doing to many other crazy things with your body at the same time. You can also place the floating foot on your calf or ankle, just avoid the knee.
Another one of my faves is dancers posture;
Other standing balance postures include Uttita hasta padangustasana-and all the variations, Ardha chandrasana, Eagle posture and on and on.
There are also these fun little things called arm balances! They are my very favorite, because they can really feel like play. Crow posture is the best to start with. Other arm balances? Vasisthasana (side arm balance), bakasana (crane posture), titibasana and my fave of the moment;
Also known as flying crane posture. I also love the scales posture;
These postures are meant to be fun, so wipe off your serious face and just be like a child, alrighty friends?
After all the balance fun, it is time for abs! Yoga is all about the core, and you really should be engaging it all the time. There are however some specific core postures that can
get you that six pack help strengthen that core of yours in a focused way.
One of the best, most accessable, and most common is plank posture;
In plank, you can alternately bring one knee into your chest, bring your knee to the same or opposing elbow, and then repeat to the other side. You can also take your plank to your forearms.
Other abdominal focused postures? Navasana or boat pose is awesome. You can do it with bend knees or straight legs, arms holding on to the back of your thighs, straight out, out to the side or up in the air. You can twist your boat, taking one elbow to the opposite knee, or you can lift and lower your boat. Another fun one is done lying on your back. Youi start by bending your knees and lowering them to the side, about an inch from the ground, holding for a breath or two and then taking them to the other side. You can practice that last exercise with straight legs as well!
SO! We have done our sun salutations, we have done our standing postures, balance postures and abdominal postures. Now it is time for inversions! There are several inversions to choose from. If you are totally new, I think dolphin is your best bet;
This posture strengthens all the muscles you need to invert. Then you can do Sirsasana;
Other options include Halasana (plough posture) Adho Mukha Vrksasana (hand stand) Pincha Mayurasana (peacock pose) and so on and so forth. You can use shoulderstand as your inversion if you want here, but I like to hold onto that pose until the end of practice. Always do a counter pose to your inversion. Balasana (childs pose) is always a good option.
Next, we move on to the heart openers! These postures are soooooo good for us, because they reverse our Westernwe tendency to hunch forward. I used to hate heart openers because I was so used to rounding forward. Now I love them! Some excellent heart openers include; Bhujangasana (cobra pose);
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog);
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge posture);
Ustrasana (camel posture);
And the big finish, Urdhva Dhanurasana! (upward facing bow pose);
Other options? Supta Virasana (supine hero pose), Salabasana (locust Pose), Dhanurasana (bow posture) and matsyasana (fish pose). Do at least one heart opener every practice, you will feel awesome!
Now that you have done all the bending of you back, we will move into twist! Twists are awesome counter postures (postures that help to bring the body back into balance after a posture series) for inversions and back bends. That’s why many wise people say to put them here in your practice.
I love twisting lunge;
Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose);
And Bharadvajasana 2 (pose named of a sage)
You can also twist your chair, twist your triangle, twist your right angle and so and and so forth. You can even do a supine twist with your knees drawn into your chest, and then released to the floor beside you.
After all of that, it is time to cool down. Here you will do your forward bends and other stretches.
Ardha hanumanasana (half monkey posture);
Full Hanumanasana (monkey posture);
Nice hip openers, with your calves stacked one on the other, reaching forward;
Paschimottanasana(west side intense stretch post);
I also love Janu Sirsasana (head to knee pose), Upavistha Kinasana (I have no translation for this), Kurmasana (tortoise pose) and so on and so forth. ust stretch out whatever you feel needs stretching here!
I like to end my practice the Ashtanga way. After your forward bends, you could easily move into savasana and be a happy camper. But I like to close with shoulder stand;
On account of it being the best counter pose for everything! I esspecially recomend practicing shoulder stand every time you practice head stand. This posture is calming and cooling and will bring everything back into balance. That is why I agree with the ashtangies to put it here, and not with the other inverstions. Then I do Halasana (plough pose)
And now the reason we all came;
- Imma corps.
Savasana. Give yourself ample time for this posture, at least five minutes. It is the most important.
So there you have it! My ABC’s guide to practicing at home. Please let me know if you have any other questions, or any other readers requests at all! I love hearing from you!