Yoga for Beginners: 4 Steps for Starting an At-Home Practice
Yoga is a powerful mode of exercise. It’s associated with an almost endless list of substantial health and fitness benefits and one of the best aspects of all is that you can practice almost anywhere.
So long as you stick to the basics, it doesn’t really matter where you place your mat; regular yoga practice will allow you to experience improved muscular strength and endurance, increased flexibility, reduced cortisol levels (a hormone that is associated with stress and immune system suppression), enhanced cognitive function, and a reduced risk for injury.
There are plenty of good reasons to practice yoga at home. Maybe you’re simply just more comfortable exercising in a private setting. Maybe you’re not up for splurging on pricey studio or gym memberships. Or maybe your schedule is so crunched that getting to a class on time is more of a challenge than finally nailing handstand pose.
Whatever the reason, practicing yoga at home is a perfectly viable alternative to studio and gym classes, and getting started is fairly simple. These tips will help guide you through starting an at-home yoga practice in a few simple steps.
1. Identify your goals.
This is the first step in starting any exercise routine. Identifying why you want to begin practicing yoga will help you develop an appropriate routine. As mentioned earlier, yoga will provide you with many different benefits, so figure out what you want most from your practice so that your sessions will have purpose and focus.
Be sure to start out with realistic goals. For example, if you don’t yet exercise regularly, try aiming for 15 to 20 minute sessions three days per week at first and then add on from there as you get better and progress.
Once you’ve clearly identified your goals, it’s a good idea to write down a yoga schedule. Take the time to plan out exactly when and how often you’ll practice. For some this might mean fitting a session in before work right after waking up and for others it might mean spending time on the mat at night right before bed. Whatever you choose, make sure that it will routinely work well with your schedule so that you can sustain your practice over the long-term.
2. Get your gear.
Likely all you will need is a mat. However, beginners who are practicing for the very first time might consider investing in DVDs that will teach basic poses and yoga fundamentals. You can also browse YouTube and websites like Do Yoga With Me, which offer free online yoga classes for exercisers of all levels.
As your practice progresses you may also consider investing in gear like blocks and straps to help enhance your poses and stretches.
The only other things that you’ll need are a quiet space that’s clutter-free with enough room for you to move freely and a designated block of uninterrupted time.
3. Choose an appropriate session.
This means that when it’s time to begin your yoga workout for the day, choosing a sequence of poses or a pre-planned session (like an online video or yoga DVD) that will reflect how you’re feeling and what your body needs. For example, if you’re feeling more tired than usual, a restorative sequence might be more appropriate than a fast-paced vinyasa sequence.
4. Sustain your practice.
Maintaining an at-home yoga practice doesn’t come without certain challenges. The biggest one may come in the form of sustaining the habit. Whether you find difficulty in motivating yourself to get a session started or you don’t feel like you know certain poses well enough to do them on your own, the key to creating a consistent practice lies in making sure that each session is made up of engaging sequences and poses that will help you continue to progress and improve.
Aim for a well-balanced and organized practice that will help you explore new poses while emphasizing all areas of the body.
Yoga Journal expert Judith Hanson Lasater explains:
“The foundation of a home practice is a basic, well-rounded pose sequence. Such a well-rounded sequence does not emphasize any particular area of your body. Instead, it attempts to move your spine in all directions and thus includes vertical stretching, inversion, forward bending, backbending, twisting, as well as relaxation. This basic sequence should also attempt to equally increase balance, strength, and flexibility.”
If you’re completely new to yoga, you might benefit from participating in several studio classes with a professional instructor before you begin a practice at home.
In the end, achieving a balanced at-home practice will involve some trial and error. Yoga is about learning and listening to your body; figuring out what works best for you. Overall, your practice will be an experience that takes time and patience.