Doing yoga asanas at home is enjoyable and convenient. Numerous benefits include freedom from traffic, ability to schedule on your own time, and no studio costs to name a few. Although home yoga lacks social interaction, are you really going to yoga for community? In this post I explore how to get the most out of your home-based yoga practice through discipline and creativity.
1. Make a Sacred Space
This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to compromise on the psychological, spiritual and physical benefits of creating a unique area at home to fully let go. Part of yoga is about celebrating your body, mind and spirit as you work to improve. If you don’t like the environment you’re in, making regular progress will be hard.
Yoga is multidimensional and multi-beneficial because it promotes physical strength, flexibility, stress release, mood enhancement, and spiritual awareness. If yoga is merely another form of exercise done in a place that doesn’t cultivate peace and joy—you’re missing the whole point.
Maybe you don’t always have the ideal living conditions to practice yoga the way you want. Maybe you don’t have a wooden floor, but only rugs. Perhaps you have roommates, small rooms with not enough space, noise distractions, etc. In that case, you must improvise. Do your best to facilitate oneness and inner focus of your whole being in a meaningful, cultivated space.
I have had my share of not-so-great living conditions. I started doing yoga in 2010 while on active duty in the US Marine Corps. I was living at my birth home for a while which worked out great. I often attended classes in Cambridge and Newton, MA. Then, I moved to Quantico, VA, and had to really adapt in my ‘barracks room.’
At the time I had roommates, which really changed the dynamic. Before resigning my commission in 2012 I did yoga in my barracks room when my roommates weren’t there.
Actually, that’s when I started doing naked yoga. Whenever my roommates weren’t around I’d lock the door, strip naked and get on the mat. What an experience this was. I felt like a total rebel. In fact, I was.
When I moved home to Massachusetts after getting an honorable discharge, I had a great spare room with a hardwood floor that was not cluttered with furniture. The advantage of having a sacred space dedicated for yoga and meditation practice was truly enjoyable.
Furthermore, making a space specifically for yoga has psychological benefits on the mind and spirit. Not only do you use it without interference from others, but it becomes a habitat to feel grounded and centered. You can relax and let loose in your sacred space. It’s familiarity might make you feel erotic, beautiful, accomplished, or at home with yourself.
You should decorate it with candles, incense, pillows and tapestry, or anything that invokes the moods and feelings you want to have. A sacred space free of noise and clutter is an essential part of having a successful home yoga practice in the longterm. Otherwise, you are likely to give up due to the subconscious notion that it’s not where your heart is, and not where you can work on yourself.
2. Place Your Mat on a Wood Floor
Yoga works better if you have a wooden floor below your mat. At the least, a hard rug will do, but it gets quite annoying to place your mat on a thick, soft carpet. I have had to deal with the latter at times while in transitional living conditions at law school.
The importance of a wood floor, which I thankfully have now, is vital if you want to reap the most from your yoga practice. When you place your mat on a soft surface it causes ‘sinking’ while in poses. Whether in down-dog, up-dog, warrior poses, inversions, etc., you are force to put extra effort into your position.
I have first-hand knowledge of this. I distinctly remember doing yoga in the room I had to live in for a few months when I first moved to California. It had a soft rug which caused all my poses to be compromised. I had previously come from Massachusetts where I enjoyed wood floor under my mat for years. The constant sinking into the mat while in handstand, headstand, and standing poses caused my grip to be compromised. My balance suffered as a result.
Then, I remember moving to where I live now: what a difference. As soon as I got back on a spacious hardwood floor my long-yearned satisfaction returned. It had been a year, and I nearly forgot how good it felt to rest my crown in headstand against a hardwood floor. It just felt so much better under my Lululemon mat.
My stability improved in every pose and I could flow easier between them. Remaining in asanas for extended periods was almost effortless—without the shakiness or uneven footing.
No matter how advanced you are at yoga, doing asanas on sand or other soft surfaces is not only difficult but unenjoyable. One may assume that it works your body more, but in my own experience it just makes unneeded stress.
3. Rearrange Furniture for a Spacious Area
When doing yoga, nothing gets more frustrating than having your legs or arms touch against couches or other furniture when trying to ‘stretch.’ Yoga is about letting go and relieving stress as you go within and focus on your inner self. Moreover, if you’re in a cramped location without the ability to harness the fullest extent of your practice, why are you doing it?
Make it priority to rearrange furniture. You’ll want the maximum space available to place your mat. Even if you cannot touch a chair, desk or couch when extending your arm—frustration amounts if you can ‘almost’ touch it.
When I’ve moved to various living spaces I would take the bed (unless I brought my own) and move it to the farthest corner against the wall. I would also do this with chairs, a desks and other furniture. That way my yoga space was maximized with a greater ability to stretch and relax.
4. Have Proper Temperature and Ventilation
Air flow is vitally important for a successful and enjoyable yoga practice. There is nothing more frustrating than staying in a room with no fresh air coming in from the outside. Never mind trying to exercise, do yoga or meditate—just being in a room without good ventilation is bad for your health.
So many toxins exist within the fabrics of furniture, carpets, and other substances like paint and varnish. If you live in a moist environment you might have mold spores floating around in the air. Though you don’t see them, those microscopic particles wreak havoc on your health via their entrance through the airway—and into the bloodstream.
If it’s too hot, you might want to still have a window open even with an air conditioner on. The constant recycling of air becomes stale, which of course you rebreathe. I personally like a fan during hot days along with maximum ventilation, unless the heat is just unbearable.
During a hot day, if you can tolerate the room without the AC on, the extra sweating helps release toxins as well as allow for better flexibility. Higher temperatures really help muscles to stretch.
5. Be Creative and Take Your Time
When you do yoga at your own home you aren’t paying by the hour. This means you have all the time that your schedule allows. Your home yoga routine can be rewarding and satisfying, beyond going out to a studio, because you can take your time for free. Your focus gets stronger and you can go deeper in your asanas. Rather than changing poses by the leading of a teacher, your inherent intuition tells you when it’s time to switch.
While doing yoga with a group, the teacher might give you 5 minutes in headstand. However, some people may want to stay there longer. We are all at unique phases in our body and mind. Some may find that a particular pose is just what their body needs. Thus in a home yoga practice that is self directed, you drive the ship of your session.
Creativity gets broader with a home yoga practice because there are no limits to what you might want to try. You may like naked yoga, or doing yoga with limited clothing. In contrast to a studio, you can practice however you want in the privacy of your own room.
Not that doing yoga in community at a studio is bad; it has its own benefits. However, when it comes to personal healing and ambition to reach your highest goals, there’s nothing like being alone.
6. Develop a Meditation Time
Many of us like to meditate first thing in the morning, while others fit it in during afternoon or evening. Whatever works for you is what you should honor. Your sacred space for yoga is also your meditation or contemplation place.
There are times when you may not feel like doing yoga, but instead just want to sit in silence. This is normal. It’s good to have a balance between keeping a strict schedule and allowing yourself to flow. Life has its challenges and unexpected circumstances. In my post on the evolution of my yoga practice over the years, I shared how my schedule often varies depending on how I feel, even though I do keep a steady routine as a rule of thumb.
Meditation is so helpful though beyond calming down. The biological effects are outstanding. Studies have been done on the lengthening of telomeres via the increase in the enzyme telomerase from regular meditation. The parasympathetic nervous system is key for all forms of healing—you can’t restore in a stressed, sympathetic state.
The beauty of cultivating a home meditation routine allows you to explore yourself in a deeper way, by listening to yourself. There’s no external teacher guiding you—you ‘are’ the teacher. You can go beyond the boundaries of whatever a studio can provide because only YOU know what’s best for your body, mind and spirit at a given time. Therefore, craft your practice based on what you ‘need’ individually, rather than conforming to the norms of a group.
7. Use the Internet: Share Your Home Practice with the Outside World
Just because you are doing yoga alone at home doesn’t mean you cannot reveal it to anyone else. The advantage of our interconnected world via the Internet makes sharing your personal home practice with others a virtue. You can contribute tips, knowledge, encouragement, or simply express your unique and authentic self.
I never ascribed to the notion that yoga had to be separate or nullified from ‘ego.’ In fact, the term originated from Sigmund Freud, and there is really no part of the brain labeled as such. There is a difference between being haughty and being expressive of your individual, authentic self. There’s nothing wrong with taking selfies and sharing your poses with the world. Whether you choose to blog about your practice and post photo galleries on your own website, or just share on social media, a home yoga practice can be very ‘public.’
8. Make Music Playlists to Drive Your Efforts
There is something powerful about music that moves you to go beyond your preconditioned state. Lyrics and beats enliven the heart. They infuse passion and motivation to thrust you out of your comfort zone toward your goals.
I have personally found music to play an integral role in the productivity. Yoga is about letting go, but it still takes discipline. There is a work-rest process in asana flow. You are disciplining yourself to hold in a pose or thrust yourself up to a new one; however you then rest and relax in between. Yogic sequencing offers so much benefits because the nervous system is toned through breath-work and fluctuations in muscle intensity. This has immense benefits on both the endocrine and musculoskeletal systems.
Thus making yourself do this—day in and day out—you are promoting your wellness profoundly. Music will make this easier, even if you are all alone.
9. Find Your Favorite Guided Yoga Classes on DVD and the Internet
Perhaps you like to be guided by a teacher. This is common. In addition to disciplining yourself to move through poses, you can have a virtual coach—and there are PLENTY to choose from.
Some people like naked yoga. I personally love it. My favorite guided yoga session on DVD is available on Amazon:
Yoga Undressed: The Goddess Series Collection (Naked Yoga for the Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
9. Drink Organic Tea or Coffee with Nothing Added
Moderate amounts of caffeine will actually help you focus. In addition, drinking coffee or tea with no added sugar (to not raise blood sugar) will give you polyphenols while you workout. Some form of stimulant such as coffee or tea can actually help you concentrate on yourself while alone at your practice.
I have found organic yerba maté to be an excellent drink to accompany my home yoga practice. I also drink matcha or coffee sometimes, but always organic. I neither want nor need the pesticides.
10. Use Props and Equipment to Aid Your Practice
Quality yoga mats and other accessories cause less stress and more enjoyment while doing your asanas. When you don’t have partners or a teacher to assist you with body alignment or helping you get into challenging poses, straps, blocks and thick mats help a lot!
I have come a long way in my home practice ever since I stopped going to studious so much. The combination of having a sacred space in a welcoming environment, with proper equipment—made my practice a lot easier and more fun. I really have come a long way in my skill level on my own, and I attribute this to having used quality equipment.
11. Start Early in the Morning
Completing a home yoga session everyday first thing in the morning is very satisfying and rewarding. I have found 4:45 am to be an ideal time to wake up. This will not work for everyone. Perhaps you like doing yoga in the afternoon or when its more convenient, depending on your schedule. Find what works for you.
We all have unique circumstances and living conditions. That said, the less distractions, the better. There is something mystical about getting up early in the morning before most people are awake. This is YOUR time, to do whatever you want. Early in the morning you can plan your day and accomplish tasks with less stress. This is because it’s quite and your mood is fresh from having just woken up.
Thus, doing yoga early in the morning before everything else kickstarts your day. You get a boost of healthy hormones and endorphins that charge your body and lift your mood. The habits that you cultivate each morning having powerful benefits in the long run.