Tips for building a home yoga practice

by May 11, 2020

Yoga is a Sanskrit word often translated as “union”. It is the union of mind and body, the union between your focus of attention and your felt sense, it is also the connection or interdependence we all have among ourselves. When we pay attention to what we are feeling in our body and in our mind, we are actively practising yoga.

Taking the time to notice and attend to the needs of our body is not a luxury but a top priority for our health and well-being. I encourage you to start preparing your own home yoga routine. Here you will find some useful tips to get you going.

PREPARING YOUR SPACE

1. Find a quiet space in your home:  a place where you have enough space to set your yoga mat where you can comfortably open your arms into a “T” shape when lying down and standing up. Make sure everyone at home can respect your “me-time” while you are practising (including turning off your phone, external noise, and any distraction).

2. Choose the time of the day: some people prefer to practice early in the morning right when they get up and before breakfast, but other people prefer to get to their mat in the evening to wind-down after their workday. The most important part of  maintaining a routine in the long term is that the time of the day you choose works with your daily schedule. Be flexible, you might only be able to find a few minutes during the workweek and have a longer practice on weekends. Set up a realistic objective, and go slowly but steady.

3. Prepare your ritual: have handy one or two blankets and cushions (yoga blocks if you have) to assist you with your poses, you can prepare a soft playlist for the duration of your practice (that way you don’t have to keep track of the time, but just of the music), use essential oils such as lavender if you like , avoid direct light on your eyes when you lie down, better to have natural light or candles. Unclutter the space so that you feel calm during this time. Create a peaceful atmosphere.  

4. Think about the time you have and want to dedicate to the practice: it might just be 5 minutes to pay attention to your breath and do gentle stretches, or it can be a longer practice closer to an hour. You can set up an alarm with a soft chime to indicate the end of your session.

5. Respect your personal limits: do not force your body into uncomfortable poses, or try new practices that you are not familiar with. Start with breathing (paying attention to your natural breath, or practicing pranayama exercises), then gentle stretches before more active poses (if you do practice yoga asanas) and finish your personal session with a relaxed pose, such as “legs up the wall” (shown in the picture) or lying down comfortably (savasana pose).  

6. Listen to your body: take a moment at the end of the session to notice your sensations and any subtle changes in your body, mind and breath as a result of your self-care practice. This is key to keeping you motivated to continue practising. 

PAYING ATTENTION TO THE PRESENT 

  • Find a comfortable posture, lying down facing up or sitting (with blankets/cushions as needed).
  • Notice your natural breath flow, pay attention to the inbreath and outbreath. Feel your breathing as it is, without changing it.
  • Place a hand on your chest area and a hand on your abdomen and feel the movement as the air passes by. Let it be a gentle and wavy movement.
  • Close your eyes if you feel comfortable (or have a soft gaze).
  • Feel the sensations in your body, follow your sensations with your mind’s attention from your feet to your head. Feel the parts of your body that are more relaxed and at ease, and feel the areas that are tense, sore or uncomfortable. Notice the sensations without wanting to change them.
  • Let your attention be one with what is happening in the moment in your body, pay attention to the “now”. Be present.

BREATHING

  • Find a comfortable posture, lying down facing up or sitting (with blankets/cushions as needed).
  • Notice your natural breath flow, pay attention to the inbreath and outbreath. Feel your breathing as it is, without changing it.
  • Place a hand on your chest area and a hand on your abdomen and feel the movement as the air passes by. Let it be a gentle and wavy movement.
  • Close your eyes if you feel comfortable (or have a soft gaze).
  • Feel the sensations in your body, follow your sensations with your mind’s attention from your feet to your head. Feel the parts of your body that are more relaxed and at ease, and feel the areas that are tense, sore or uncomfortable. Notice the sensations without wanting to change them.
  • Let your attention be one with what is happening in the moment in your body, pay attention to the “now”. Be present.

MOVEMENT

  • Start activating your body with progressive movement from the posture you started (lying down or sitting). For example, start by moving your toes, and go up through your ankles, legs, hips, back until you reach the muscles of your face.
  • Work through the main joints in your body: ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, neck, etc.
  • Try different movements: circles, from side to side, forward and back, etc. Be playful but gentle.
  • Go with gentle stretches or yoga poses that you are already familiar with, and, most importantly, notice how it feels to move in a specific way.

FINAL RELAXATION

  • When you finish your personal routine (no matter how much time you have dedicated) allow yourself to feel the effect of your practice..
  • If you have done a more vigorous and long practice, make sure you finish with at least 5-10 minutes of cooling down and relaxation in a comfortable pose for your body to calm down.

Practice whenever you can, even for just a few minutes, to keep up with your self-care plan.

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