How to Start an At-Home Yoga Practice

There's a lot to be said for taking yoga at a local studio. For instance, you receive personalized feedback from the instructor, you meet other yogis in your community, and you learn more about the practice from those around you. These are all important benefits, and they're benefits that shouldn't be ignored or taken lightly.

But if you don't live near a studio, or you're the on-the-go type who struggles to make time for a regular class, doing yoga at home can help you fit the practice seamlessly into your life. For instance, you don't have to wait for a specific class time or commit to an hour-long session; you don't have to pack a bag, drive to a studio, or spend extra time small talking with fellow yogis. Simply choose the time and the length of the session that works for you, and get your "om" on at home. 

Get Your Gear

rolled up yoga mats
 Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Technically, you don't need anything but your own body to practice yoga. However, having equipment you truly enjoy using, particularly equipment you feel proud of, can help you create the "space" and atmosphere in your home that encourages a continued practice.

Plus, investing in a nice yoga mat and a few props may make you feel like you have to follow through on your good intentions and earn back the money you've put into your home practice. 

The good news is that yoga doesn't require much in the way of equipment, so even if you buy high-end gear, you're still looking at a total cost commitment that's under a couple hundred bucks. 

Veronica Parker, a Kundalini yoga teacher and meditation coach, suggests you have the following supplies on hand before starting your practice:

  • A yoga mat
  • A pair of yoga blocks
  • A belt or yoga strap
  • A cushion or bolster to sit on for meditation

Of course, there are hundreds of brands and styles to choose from, a fact that can feel overwhelming to a new practitioner. Your highest-cost item is likely to be your yoga mat. For a high-quality mat, you can expect to pay between $60 and $120. Check online retailers like YogaOutlet.com and Amazon for deals on well-respected brands like Jade and Manduka.

And while it may be tempting to buy a thick, cushiony mat, Parker suggests sticking to a thinner version, as they're easier to practice balance poses on. Look for supportive mats with 3- to 5-millimeters of thickness. For instance, the Jade Yoga Elite S Natural Rubber Yoga Mat is 5-millimeters thick and costs just under $100. 

Pair your mat with two lower-cost blocks, like the Everyday Yoga 4-Inch Foam Yoga Block, which sell for $8 each, and a strap, like the B Yoga Stretch Practice Strap, which sells for $18, and you have pretty much everything you need for your home practice. Use a pillow you have on hand as a cushion, or go ahead and buy an attractive yoga bolster, like the Chattra Oval Bolster, which sells for just under $80.

Over time, and as your practice deepens, you may decide to purchase more props or supplies for your studio, but there's no need to buy more at the start. Parker has one more tip, "If you don't consider yourself very flexible, it's useful to have a chair handy so you can use it for extra support." 

Choose Your Space

Just as you don't need much equipment to do yoga, you don't need much space, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take your space seriously. "It's ideal to have a space that's free of clutter," says Parker. "This could be a bedroom, basement, or living room area. Try to find a room where you won't be disturbed during your practice." 

You want the space you choose to feel like it's intended for yoga, so if you can, choose a corner or a room where you don't do anything else. It needs to be large enough for you to lay down your mat and have freedom of movement, so plan on an area that's at least seven feet square. Even if you can't dedicate an entire room to your practice, consider using visual cues to delineate your yoga space.

"I love creating an altar where I place objects that inspire my practice. For instance, I have my favorite lavender-scented candle, a picture of my yoga teacher trainer, Gurmukh, a picture of Yogi Bhajan, and three crystals to amplify the energy," Parker says. "Basically, anything that can inspire you to show up and keep up with your yoga practice." 

Finally, if you plan on streaming a class or watching a DVD, you'll need access to the appropriate technology. The good news is, there are countless apps, audio workouts, and streaming services that make it easy to follow along on a phone or tablet, so as long as you have an internet connection, the technology typically requires little space or setup. 

Find Your Flow

"There are thousands of options when it comes to streaming a good yoga program online," Parker says. "One of my favorites is Gaia (formerly Gaiam TV) because it gives you a wide variety of yoga classes. In this way, you can practice different styles of yoga and decide which ones are your favorites."

This is especially important for those who are new to yoga because not all classes, instructors, or styles of yoga are alike. It can take a few attempts to "find your flow" and get settled into a regular practice. 

Other popular streaming options include YogaDownload, Grokker, YogaGlo, and Black Swan Yoga TV. Yoga apps, like Pocket Yoga and Asana Rebel offer yoga on-the-go, And if you're familiar with common poses and you feel comfortable following an audio workout, YogaDownload offers free, 20-minute flows through their podcast

Most apps and streaming services cost between $5 and $20 per month, but if you're not sure which service is for you, try a few of them. Almost all offer short-term free trials with hassle-free cancellation if you decide you don't want to subscribe. 

Schedule Your Time

The good thing about a home practice is that you aren't confined to a specific class schedule or length of practice. The bad thing about a home practice is that you aren't confined to a specific class schedule or length of practice. 

See the challenge? You don't have to do your yoga practice at the exact same time every day, but if you aren't intentional about scheduling your yoga time, chances are it won't happen.

Go ahead and look at your weekly schedule and decide in advance when you'll do your yoga practice and how long each yoga practice will be. Even pick out the classes you plan to "attend" in advance to reduce decision fatigue that might interfere with your decision to get started. Then, put your practice times into your calendar and treat them like a non-negotiable appointment.

If you have to shorten a class occasionally, or if you have to reschedule, that's fine, but don't make a habit out of it. 

It's up to you how long each practice lasts, whether it's 15 minutes or 90 (luckily there are lots of streaming options for all practice-lengths), but Parks suggests beginners aim for 35 to 45 minutes. This length of time gets you accustomed to a typical class format without overwhelming you, and it also helps you develop a steady habit.

Over time, feel free to experiment with longer formats to increase your total weekly practice time. 

Get Om-ing With a Beginner-Friendly Flow

The only thing left to do is get started! But remember, as with everything, there's a learning curve. "Be gentle with yourself and accept where you are every step of the way," Parker says. "It's a practice, so it builds upon itself. Your mind and your body are united as you flow through the poses. Connect with your breath and experience the incredible realm of yoga, flow, and connection."

Practically, this means you need to listen to your body. If it doesn't bend the way the instructor suggests, don't force anything. Take a modification, or simply rest in child's pose as needed. Your flexibility and your flow will improve over time. Enjoy the journey. 

If you're looking for a place to start, consider the following beginner-friendly flow.

Cat-Cow

woman doing cat-cow

Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Emily O'Connell

To perform cat-cow, start on hands and knees in a tabletop position. Inhale, look up, drawing your chest forward as you drop your belly toward the floor and articulate your tailbone toward the ceiling. Exhale, lower your head between your shoulders, round your back, and tuck your tailbone forward, carving out your belly as you draw your belly button toward your spine. 

Repeat three times. 

Downward Facing Dog to Down Dog Split

Down Dog Split

Photo: Ben Goldstein

On your next exhale, tuck your toes and press through the balls of your feet and your palms as you lift your hips, reaching your glutes toward the ceiling. When your body forms an inverted "v," relax your head and neck between your arms, press your heels toward the floor (it's fine if they don't touch), draw your shoulders away from your ears, articulate your tailbone toward the ceiling, and engage your quadriceps. "Pedal" your feet, bending one knee, then the other to stretch each leg independently. 

Stay here for five deep breaths. 

On your next inhale, reach your right leg up toward the ceiling. Try to keep your hips square so your right hip doesn't open toward the side of the room. 

Low Lunge

Lunge Pose

Photo: Ben Goldstein

From your down dog split, on your exhale, step your right foot forward between your hands. Keep your left leg strong, your knee straight, your quadricep engaged.

Warrior II

Warrior II

Photo: Ben Goldstein

On your inhale, rotate your left heel to the ground, so your left foot is positioned at a 45-degree angle to the side of the room, and press through both feet to rise to standing. Your right knee should remain bent at a roughly 90-degree angle and your left leg should remain straight.

Reach your right arm toward the front of the room and your left arm toward the back of the room. Your core should be engaged, your torso evenly positioned between both legs, your shoulders pulled down away from your ears, and your right heel aligned roughly with the arch of your left foot. Ground all four corners of both feet into your mat. 

Stay here for five deep breaths. 

Humble Warrior

Humble warrior

Photo: Ben Goldstein

On your next inhale, interlace your fingers behind your back, reaching your hands down toward the ground as you look up, opening your chest.

On your next exhale, fold forward, so your right shoulder touches the inside of your right thigh as you reach your interlaced hands toward the ceiling for a shoulder stretch. Allow your head and neck to relax, and draw your shoulders away from your ears. 

Stay here for three deep breaths. 

Chaturanga

woman doing chaturanga pose

Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Melissa Castro Schmidt

On your next exhale, release both hands, placing them on the mat to either side of your right foot. Step your right foot back to a plank position, then, as you keep your core engaged, bend both elbows and lower your chest toward the ground. Stop just before you touch down.

Upward Facing Dog

Photo: Ben Goldstein

On your next inhale, roll over your toes so the tops of your feet are pressed into the ground, then press through your palms, drawing your chest up and forward between your arms as you extend your elbows, looking up. Keep your quads engaged and lifted from the mat.

Downward Facing Dog

woman doing downward dog

Photo: Ben Goldstein

On your next exhale, tuck your toes and press back through your palms and feet to return to downward dog. 

Stay here for five deep breaths.

Repeat Sequence to Left Side

Repeat the same sequence you performed to the right side, this time performing it to the left: 

  • Downward dog split: Inhale, reach your left leg up
  • Low lunge: Exhale, step your left foot forward
  • Warrior II: Inhale, rotate your right heel down and rise to standing, reaching your left arm to the front of the room and your right arm back
  • Humble warrior: Inhale, interlace your fingers behind your back, exhale, fold forward, your left shoulder coming to the inside of your left thigh
  • Chaturanga: Exhale, bring hands to ground, step left foot back, lower your chest toward the floor
  • Upward facing dog: Inhale, press tops of feet into the ground, reach chest forward and up as you extend your elbows
  • Downward facing dog: Exhale, place balls of feet on the mat, press through palms and feet and reach hips toward the ceiling
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