Think Outside the Studio: Guide to Starting a Home Yoga Practice

I borrowed this post from an article that has some EXCELLENT information. Enjoy! – Ami

How to do yoga at home and get results:

Fighting traffic to make it to class in time, remembering to bring your yoga gear, carving out a space for your mat amid the after-work studio crowds …. Yoga can sometimes be a less than Zen-like experience.

Starting a home yoga practice can ultimately save time, energy and money —plus, no one will be checking out your rear view as you Downward Dog from the comfort of your own living room. Twenty minutes of yoga at home is often more beneficial than driving, parking and paying to practice for an hour at a studio.

While most yoga teachers will advise you to learn the fundamentals of asana (yoga poses) in a live class before getting on the mat at home, “Nothing replaces the home practice,” says 25-year yoga veteran Rodney Yee. “Listening is the practice of yoga; it’s so important to go into your own body and ask it to be your teacher. It is a time when you can find your own rhythm. It is where the genuine knowledge arises.

“Going to classes has many benefits, of course,” he acknowledges, “but I have observed time and time again that it is when people start to practice at home that the real insights occur.”

Beyond the reasons to start a home yoga practice, today there are new ways to start one — ways that blur the lines between showing up in a live yoga class and rolling out a mat in your living room to do yoga at home.

Virtual yoga classes are more sophisticated than ever

Besides the many yoga DVDs and books on the market, online yoga classes and digital downloads are bringing home more of the benefits of a live class. While an instructor isn’t physically there to observe your alignment and adjust your limbs hands-on, multimedia is the next best thing … and for some it may be even better.

With GaiamTV.com, Gaiam’s streaming video site, you can watch hundreds of yoga and fitness videos each month for less than you’d pay for a single DVD. You can filter yoga videos by level (basic, beginner or intermediate), style of yoga (Ashtanga, Restorative, etc.), teachers (Rodney Yee, Kathryn Budig, Seane Corn, Shiva Rea and more), length of the practice (from less than 15 mintues to more than an hour), or browse special collections such as prenatal yoga or yoga for weight loss.

Yee’s online yoga studio, Gaiam Yoga Studio, gives you access to many hours of detailed how-to video demonstrating and explaining more than 75 yoga poses — plus a daily yoga practice guided via downloadable audio podcasts. Plunk those on your iPod and you’ve got the best of both worlds — an instructor’s voice in your ear (let’s face it, half the time you can’t see her over all the other bodies anyway, or your face is covered by your hair or pressed onto your mat …), plus the freedom to tailor your practice to your individual needs and pace, as Yee recommends below.

What you need to get started with yoga at home

The best reason to start a home yoga practice is that you don’t need much to begin:

Choose or create a quiet, uncluttered space in your home for your practice, and stock it with the essential basic yoga props — mat, strap, blocks, blanket, bolster, etc. The space doesn’t have to be large, but it should be quiet, clean, open and sacred. Set realistic goals, starting out with small pockets of time (10-15 minutes). Begin with basic beginner’s yoga sequences and expand your practice as your skills improve.

That said, it’s your yoga practice — so build it to best meet your individual needs.

“When I teach classes, I can tell just by watching who is practicing at home and who is not,” says Yee. “People who are not practicing at home simply try to fit their bodies into my instructions as if they were following orders …. They are concerned mainly with whether they are doing it ‘right.’ But people who are practicing at home are inquisitive about instructions and test them out in their own bodies, asking themselves, ‘How does this feel?'”

Which yoga poses should you do?

Some styles of yoga follow a set sequence of specific poses, but many instructors, including Yee, recommend a more open-ended approach, especially when you’re doing yoga at home.

“At home,” he says, “you learn to listen to what your body needs that day, move at your own pace, and develop intuition about what sequences or kinds of yoga poses you want and need to do most on any given day.”

If you are fatigued, you may want to do a more restorative yoga sequence. If you’re feeling energetic, a more flowing, fast-paced or rigorous set of yoga poses may feel more satisfying or help you channel that energy. Many like to do an energizing yoga practice in the morning and a calming restorative practice in the evenings.

But listening to what you need is more than a physical thing.

“As you practice your first poses on your own, try to cultivate an attitude of playfulness and acceptance,” says Yee. “Being present during your practice means allowing yourself to be aware of whatever physical sensations, emotions and thoughts are currently arising. Be creative and spontaneous. If you approach your practice with a sense of curiosity, rather than self-judgment or competitiveness, you will find it easier to motivate yourself to practice —and you’ll be more present when you do practice.”

Sun salutations are a time-efficient way of practicing yoga because they thread together poses that involve different parts of the body. Sun salutes are also commonly practiced as a warm-up, followed by standing poses such as Warrior I, II and II — and ending with forward bends, twists and restorative poses.

As you advance, you may want to move into more challenging intermediate and advanced yoga poses such as arm balances, inversions and backbends.

How to stay motivated to do keep doing yoga regularly

Setting up a home yoga practice is only half the battle — now you have to roll out your mat and do it.

“The best advice I can give you,” says Yee, “is to make your yoga part of your morning ritual. This means getting to bed 15 minutes earlier so your yoga practice does not cut into your sleep time. The second piece of advice is to sit down with your weekly calendar and begin to cross out any activity that is not serving you anymore (this takes being brutally honest).

But in this interview clip from the intro to his A.M. Yoga for Your Week DVD, Yee says the real key to staying motivated to keep doing yoga at home gets back to listening to yourself and exploring what you need with a sense of curiosity and creativity.

“Another significant way to support your home practice,” Yee adds, “is to practice with a member of your family or a friend. Being held accountable by others can get you to the mat on the dreariest of days. Once you get to the mat, the magic often takes over after a couple of minutes, and you find yourself vibrating with the music of yoga.”

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Confessions of a Yoga Practitioner

I admit it: I started practicing yoga not for some highly evolved, spiritual-sounding reason, but because I was desperate for peace and quiet.

Five years ago, I was working as a live-in caregiver for adults with special needs.

I loved my job, but as an introvert living and working in a house with 13 other people, I craved solitude.

My housemates’ needs filled my thoughts when their voices weren’t filling my ears.

It was then that I found sanctuary, in the form of the yoga studio down the street. And yoga didn’t just give me an escape; it helped make me a better caregiver.

Here are three lessons that my yoga practice (and caregiving commitments) taught me:

1. The unavoidable truth: Persistence precedes mastery.

My first experience with yoga came courtesy of my mother, an instructor who encouraged me to practice with her. When I first started, I couldn’t stay in downward dog for more than a few seconds. My upper body lacked strength, and postures like plank made me tremble. As such, I’d get discouraged, making witty comments like, “Plank sucks!”

But to her credit, my mom didn’t give up on me. She kept sharing her love of yoga, and I kept trying. And gradually, I noticed: I was getting stronger. Postures that had seemed impossible were now doable. I could stay in plank. Then side plank. Then side plank with my leg extended.

And when I started working as a caregiver, I saw how valuable those early sessions had been. My mother didn’t just teach me poses; she taught me that faithful practice can yield major changes over time. As such, I persisted at my new job, even though my caregiving routines seemed incredibly challenging at first. Yet I knew that if I could build enough muscle to maintain a strong plank pose, I could build my knowledge and learn a complex morning routine, too. Soon, I felt a sense of flow in my work; I started moving through routines as though they were sun salutations, one building upon the next.

Fast-forward several years, and I’m considering yoga teacher training. Arm balances are my favorite type of pose, and so it’s only fair to acknowledge another truth: My mother knew best.

2. The decision to show up is the one that matters.

Yoga rewards those who show up. If you keep coming to your mat, your practice will deepen. Likewise, as a caregiver, I discovered that a commitment to showing up for my housemates allowed our relationships to grow. It was freeing not to give myself an option to ‘skip out’. Unless I was physically unwell, I performed my caregiving duties, and I kept up with my yoga practice as well. True, I didn’t always feel like going down the stairs to set up breakfast (or getting myself out the door for yoga), but I knew that once I showed up, that would change.

Furthermore, taking time out to go to my yoga practice empowered me get more done when I returned home. The energy I gained from my practice was priceless, especially considering my responsibilities as a caregiver. Thanks to yoga, I had the stamina to lift wheelchairs, haul laundry, and cook dinner for dozens … and then crash into bed. (I’m only human.)

3. Tending the body can also tend the soul.

Sometimes, the best way to heal the soul is to care for the body. When I’d do spinal twists after a long day of sitting in a waiting room, those postures nourished my body and my spirit. Doing yoga gave me a sense that my body was worth listening to, that it had wisdom to share. And in extending care and attention to my own body, I learned to care for the bodies of others as well.

For example, during my time as a caregiver, part of my routine involved cleaning an older gentleman’s feet. Sometimes we’d banter as I held his feet in my gloved hands, and sometimes we’d just smile at one another. Either way, this small, intimate task became a favorite for me.

And then one day, I participated in a spiritual service that involved a foot-washing ceremony. And who should be my partner but the man whose feet I cleaned every day? As I later wrote, “During that ceremony, as I touched the feet I knew so well, I felt the sacred and the ordinary collide. And I realized that there is no separation; that the ordinary things we do out of love for one another are sacred.”

Borrowed from: Mind.Body.Green