Updated: Oct 17, 2018
By Lizzie Braicks
I get a lot of questions about yoga. Mostly you guys are super curious about how to start practicing or how to create a home practice. Often it’s both! For a good five years of my life I lived for classes in a yoga studio. I loved the experience of getting to know my teachers, meeting other students, and feeling like I had a place where I belonged. It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to create a strong home practice, but I would get distracted, tired, lazy, or (more often than not) all of the above, when it came to practicing at home and wouldn’t be able to finish a workout.
After years of trying and failing, I’ve finally gotten into practicing at home for a TON of different reasons. My schedule usually doesn’t match up with the times that studios are offering classes, I have a lot of weird injuries I’m dealing with, and I ultimately find practicing at home to be a lot more relaxing for me mentally. Since transitioning to working for myself (and working weird hours!) practicing at home has been my most reliable way to get yoga in to my day. Initially it was really hard for me, but I played around with it a lot and have found a few tips that have helped.
I’m excited to share this with you and I hope that it helps you, too!
A HOME PRACTICE MIGHT BE RIGHT FOR YOU IF…
YOU’RE JUST GETTING STARTED WITH YOGA.
If you’re brand new to yoga, a home practice can be a great way to get comfortable with the poses, language, and pace of a yoga class before you step into a studio. I know SO many people who are terrified to go to a studio because they don’t want to be lost. Trying a few beginner style classes in the comfort of your home is a perfect way to get used to practicing yoga before you step into your first classroom.
YOU’RE SO BUSY YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS.
Clap your hands if you’re working too hard! If you have a crazy schedule (entire internet raises hand) getting to class might be…. impossible. And you don’t need to feel bad about it! You are too busy being a fucking baller to worry about making it to a studio across town for class. Find time to move when it works for YOU either at home, at your gym, or wherever you can fit it in. This also gives you the freedom to step away from traditional class lengths and fit in a time that works for you. If you only have time for 15 minutes, that’s totally OK.
YOU’RE ON A BUDGET.
Let’s call it like it is: yoga is expensive. If you’re saving for a major purchase (or just don’t really feel like spending $20+ on every yoga class you go to) yoga at home is a great option. There are some online yoga resources that you can pay for if you want more instruction from a specific teacher or want to take a series of classes, but otherwise there’s no reason to spend any money online for yoga- you can access a lot of great content for free.
THE IDEA OF GOING TO A STUDIO MAKES YOU ANXIOUS.
This is super normal. Even if you are a seasoned yogi, yoga studios aren’t for everyone. I know that for me personally, sometimes at the end of a long day I just don’t have the emotional energy to go to a yoga studio and be around a lot of people. If I’m feeling tired, it’s also really easy for me to get distracted by everything else happening around me, which doesn’t make for the most productive class experience. I really like my yoga time to be my ME time, and I’ve found that practicing solo is the best way to make that happen. Here’s some permission in case you need it: it’s OK to not want to be around people. You never have to go to a studio if you don’t want to.
YOU’RE DEALING WITH AN INJURY.
When I was initially injured from my car accident it was nearly impossible to take classes because I had to make so many modifications and/or move way slower than the general flow of class. I always advise people with injuries to practice at home if they are comfortable with it. It just gives you a lot more control over how you’re moving. The great part of practicing at home, too, is that you never have to do anything that hurts you!
TIPS FOR MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR PRACTICE
DITCH YOUR PHONE.
Full disclosure: this is super hard for me. I used to bring my phone into the same room I would practice in and set it in the corner, but inevitably I would think of something I had to do that very minute and would get distracted. Put your phone on airplane mode AND leave it far away where you can’t access it. I know it’s so hard but it is a great way to turn off your work for a while and connect with the most important person in the world: you.
SCHEDULE TIME IF YOU NEED TO.
Put it on your calendar. Tell your roommate you’re going to practice at 5 PM. Treat your workout the exact same way as you would treat an important work meeting with your supervisor: as something that you probably can’t miss. It’s so easy to push aside working out to make room for getting shit done. Moving is such an important part of keeping your body and your brain healthy, don’t neglect it! You will literally never be sorry that you took a 20 minute break to get a stretch or sweat in. You can make time for it every day, either at the same time each day or at whatever time each day fits best for your schedule. Don’t apologize for taking a little time for yourself.
PLAY AROUND WITH YOUR BACKGROUND NOISE.
I waiver between white noise and yoga playlists when I practice. For me, I need to have something on so that I don’t get distracted by sounds in my house or out on the street. For white noise, I love the Noisli app. Noisli lets you play DJ of your own white noise mix, and has a lot of different components that you can manipulate. For playlists, I like to look up Indie mixes on Spotify. I usually listen to things like Odesza, Alt-J, or Death Cab for Cutie. Find music that makes you want to move, even if that’s like… death metal.
FIND A SPACE YOU LOVE.
I am absolutely, 100% not telling you to completely redesign a room for your yoga practice. What I am saying is that you should find a place to practice in your home that you feel really excited about going to. My two favorite places in our house are our bedroom or my office. Both have great lighting and a door I can close which is a MUST for me when I practice- I need to be by myself. Both spaces also are relatively minimal (just the way I like it), so there isn’t too much to distract me visually. Think about the places in your home that make you feel the most calm and practice there. Let it evolve when it needs to. Don’t force yourself to be somewhere that doesn’t feel GREAT or that has a ton of people walking through it, it will only make you resent your practice.
YOU DON’T NEED TO PRACTICE FOR AN HOUR.
It took me years to get over the urge to practice for an hour… or more. Realistically I just don’t have time for that anymore. I would love to tell you that I wake up every morning and practice for 75 minutes, but that’s not my reality anymore. And you know what? More often than not I talk to people who only have like… 30 minutes to workout, tops. You know how I fit my practice in now? YouTube. I’m not kidding. You can find pretty much any type of yoga on YouTube, I promise. I like to search for length of class, style of yoga, or a specific focus. So, for instance, if my hips are feeling really tight and I only have 20 minutes to practice, I would search something like “20 minute restorative yoga hips”. If you need suggestions on what to search for, let me know how I can help! I’ve also linked four online classes I enjoyed below.
I've tried for years to create a solid home practice and it's never really stuck. A few months ago I realized what I needed: videos. As an athlete, I like being told what to do. I like learning new things and getting inspired to mix poses together in way I would not have thought of. Videos are a great way to get a quality home practice!
BE HONEST ABOUT WHAT YOUR BODY NEEDS.
This is my forever exercise mantra. We have a LOT of opportunities to force our bodies to do things they don’t want to do: getting up earlier than we want, eating things that are good for us but maybe not the most appetizing, past terrible diet experiences, you get the idea. Yoga is not the time to fight your body. It’s your time to fucking listen to it. If you aren’t sure what your body needs, just lay on your mat and close your eyes for a few minutes. Are you feeling stiff? Energized? Stressed? Something in your body hurting? Wanting to strengthen something? Use that information to inform the kind of practice you want to have that day. Listening to your body is really hard at first, but it gets easier over time.
HELPFUL ITEMS TO HAVE ON HAND
A STURDY YOGA MAT.
Having a good yoga mat that is also durable is a huge component of having a great practice. Find a mat that your hands grip to easily that will also grip to whatever floor you’re practicing on- you don’t want something that will slide around and make you lose your balance. I love the Jade Mat. I bought my first one in 2012 (I now have 2) and it’s still in great condition despite regular use. It’s made of natural rubber, which was important to me. If you want to hear other options, I wrote this post a few years ago on how to pick a great yoga mat.
TWO YOGA BLOCKS AND A STRAP.
I like this pack because it comes with two blocks and a strap, all of which are super important to have on hand.
Blocks are great tools for a ton of different reasons. You can use them to help you balance, to support your body in poses that you might be uncomfortable in otherwise, or to relax onto in a deep stretch. I always practice with at least one block, no exceptions. I prefer foam blocks because they are more forgiving, but cork blocks are also really popular.
Straps are great for yogis of all levels because they can help you reach things that you might not be quite flexible enough to reach otherwise, and can also help you build strength in yoga drills. Gaiam is a highly regarded brand in the fitness world in that it’s good quality but not super expensive. I love that they sell blocks and straps together because it saves the hassle of having to hunt down each item individually.
If you think you are going to be doing more restorative yoga (or anything that involves deep stretching) a bolster is helpful to have on-hand. Think of a bolster like a pillow that was specially designed for your yoga practice! They come in all different shapes and sizes, but are designed to contour to your body. I’ve found that most bolsters are designed to be laid on or placed under your back, so they are usually super long.
Bolsters are a great tool for supporting your body in a deep stretch that you aren’t quite flexible enough for yet, or are also just a great way to find deeper relaxation. Laying flat on a yoga mat can be really uncomfortable for a lot of bodies. Bolsters are a good tool to use to help make things more comfortable. Also an incredible tool to have on hand if you are rehabbing an injury and need to be extra careful. Try to find one that’s right in between firm and soft.
You can also use a rolled-up towel or a pillow if you aren’t sure yet that you need a bolster!
A SAMPLE OF MY HOME PRACTICE
My body was feeling so tight. I had done some rowing over the weekend and my entire body felt like a rice crispy treat (snap, crackle, pop) in the worst possible way. I slammed a few drops of CBD but it wasn't subsiding, so thirty minutes of deep stretching seemed appropriate. I got slightly irritated by how many times this instructor messed up right and left, but ultimately I felt like human putty at the end so I can't complain too much.
My legs were still feeling pretty tight on this particular day, which made my lower back and hips feel like true death.I decided to search for hips and hamstrings in the hopes of finding something that would offer relief but not be too chill. I've been following Patrick and Carling since I started my instagram account and haven't taken any of their classes yet. 30 minutes is usually the sweet spot for me in the middle of my day if I try to fit a workout in. What I hadn't realized what that this was such a strong mix of strength and flexibility. It wasn't what I had intended to search for, but it felt good and my legs were pleasantly tired after. That being said, this video involves a shit-ton of forward folds, so if those bug you in any way this might not be the yoga video for you.
I like to go-go-go, which makes my body get wound up quickly. I was craving some yin (and more deep stretching) so I searched for a relaxing yin class. I often feel the pressure for my movement time to make me sweat a lot, but there is nothing wrong with doing something slower that will serve your body well in the long run. This class was delightful and so chill that I almost nodded off a few times. 10/10 would absolutely do it again.
I wanted a simple 20 minute vinyasa flow because I was craving more power. I liked how this fit a lot of the foundations of Vinyasa in without feeling like the class was too cluttered. This would be a great class for beginner yogis since nothing moved too quickly and the instructor did an awesome job explaining basic alignment. There also were very few chaturangas, which was perfect for my shoulders
I hope that this gave you resources that you find helpful! If you have any questions, please let me know. I would love love love (as always) to hear your thoughts on creating a rad home practice!
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