Now might be the greatest time in history to start practicing yoga at home. Many of us are in lockdown, without access to gyms and yoga studios and the circumstances of our incarceration make it even more imperative that we stay strong, supple and clear-headed.
In researching this article, I spoke to several Yoga 15 students, many of whom have practiced the videos for more than 100 days in a row. They were kind enough to share their experience and some invaluable pro tips.
1. YOUR AT-HOME YOGA SET UP
“A decent mat makes the world of difference, and making your experience more enjoyable will increase your motivation to stick at it.” (Lee, Longest Streak—413 days)
All you need to practice yoga is a mat. You often hear teachers calling yoga mats sticky mats because their most crucial job is to stop your hands and feet from slipping. Regular fitness mats, unfortunately, do not work. They’re too short and won’t give you the grip that you need.
My favourite mat is the Manduka Pro (6mm) but I have several others that I like. A beautiful, black Reversible Lululemon Mat (5mm), a super light travel mat that I bought in France (2mm) and a couple of Gaiam mats that are less expensive and work just fine.
The correct length of your mat is vital. Regular mats are 68” long which will be too short if you’re over 5’8” or 170 cm. If you’re squeezing yourself onto a shorter mat (or a fitness mat), you’re likely to be compromising your alignment.
Props and other equipment
If you have tight hips, a couple of yoga blocks (4” x 6” x 9”) are well worth your investment. I recommend that you sit on a block when you’re sitting cross-legged if your knees are higher than your hips. Other poses where they can come in useful are Low Lunge with Sidebend, Lizard, Modified Warrior 3, Half Monkey and Supported Bridge.
In each video, I give you my recommendations for props but please ask if you have any questions. A yoga strap is great for Reclining Hand-To-Big-Toe pose and the ones I have double-up as mat carriers.
A couple of other pieces of equipment that Yoga 15 students recommend include a water bottle, towel, small fan, liquid chalk (for extra grip) and knee pads or a thin cushion.
No socks, loose or stretchy bottoms—shorts or yoga pants, and shirtless or in a snug-fitting top that doesn’t end up over your head in Downward Facing Dog.
If you’re practicing yoga at home, you don’t have to do it in the same place every day but there are a couple of reasons why it might be worth considering.
Firstly, seeing your yoga mat laid out can act as a reminder to practice. (The same things goes for ensuring that the healthiest food options are the first thing you see when you look in your fridge).
Secondly, your environment impacts you psychologically and physiologically. An uncluttered yoga space with natural light will instantly calm your nervous system and allow you to drop easily in a state conducive for rest and recovery.
And thirdly, by creating a dedicated space, you elevate the importance of your yoga practice, which will motivate you to be consistent and continue progressing towards your goals.
2. WHY PRACTICE YOGA AT HOME?
“For me, yoga is like cheating because I feel so much better with it. Do it for a month and you will see the difference.” (Björn)
You now have all the information that you need to set up your yoga at home practice but what if you’re not convinced that this is something that you should even be investing your time in. Here are some of the more surprising benefits reported by the students that I spoke to for this article:
- The confidence to push myself harder, knowing that I can recover faster.
- A better understanding of my body.
- The benefit to my how my hips feel is nothing short of miraculous.
- If I use the meditation videos before I go to sleep, I sleep a lot better.
- My back, arms and core are much stronger, helping my swimming, cycling and running.
- It’s always a surprise when what used to hurt, doesn’t anymore!
- I’m finding that I have fewer aches and pains after training and racing.
- My injuries are definitely fewer and farther between!
- My joints move better.
- Since starting yoga, I’ve dramatically reduced every run PB I track from 100m to marathon distance.
- Yoga starts my day in a good way—relaxed and focused.
3. REFINING YOUR AT-HOME YOGA PRACTICE
“I use yoga as part of my fitness tool kit. What I do and when I do it is based on what else I have in my programme. It may be a standalone session to wake me up. Or, as I paint in the mornings, I may do a session before lunch to relieve my body from its sedentary position. If I have a strength session I’ll use a yoga activation session to warm up and if I have a hard ride, I’ll do a post-workout session afterwards.” (Rachel)
There’s no best practice when it comes to timing but it’s still something to think about carefully.
- When you’re establishing a daily habit, it’s easier if you keep the time consistent.
- Anchoring your practice to an existing daily habit, such as getting out of bed or straight after a workout, is also a great habit formation hack.
- As for the time of day, if you’re lucky enough to be super supple, the morning can be a great time to practice, when motivation and willpower are high. It’s also typically quieter and you get to start the day off on the right foot.
- If you’re less supple, you’ll see greater benefits if you practice later in the day, warm up first or schedule your session directly after your workout.
- If you practice in the evening, it can help to relax and unwind you from your day.
- And if you want to practice multiple times a day, I recommend Strength or Balance routines in the morning, Mobility in the afternoon, Flexibility after a workout and Recovery in the evening.
“I just got into the habit of having 15 minutes to myself—to look after myself and take care of my needs.” (Helen, Longest streak—640 days)
“I realised I had better days when I started with a yoga session, even if it was just Breathing.” (Jo, Longest streak—153 days)
Nothing beats a daily yoga practice for fast-tracking your results. For some people, twice a day is the sweet spot but you’ll notice the difference if it’s not at least once. That doesn’t mean that you have to do 15 minutes every day. You could practice a 3-minute breathing exercise or the 5-minute morning poses but I recommend that you spend some amount of time on your mat every single day, tuning into your body.
“Not wanting to end my streak gave me the motivation to keep at it on days where I couldn’t really be bothered otherwise.” (Matt—Longest Streak 820 days)
I track all my daily habits on a great app called Streaks. I recommend you start by committing to a 15 or 30-day program—for variety and so that you don’t have to think about which video you’re going to do each day. (There are a number of options for you to choose from on the site.) And once you start tracking, you’ll fast become addicted to seeing your progress and maintaining your practice will be effortless.
4. SOME COMMON OBSTACLES TO PRACTICING YOGA
“Because I know that the yoga will help me ride better in my next bike session, or recover quicker from a hard day or sleep better at night, it becomes too important to not do it.” (Rachel)
If any of the following reasons have come into your mind, don’t worry. You’re in good company. All of the students that I spoke to faced some resistance to starting. As did I, 10 years ago!
- You’re stiff as a board.
- Your mind is super busy.
- You’re nervous about doing it wrong and causing more harm than good.
- You don’t know where to start.
- The breathing is confusing.
- You don’t know what the poses will do for you.
- You don’t think you have time. (We all have 15 minutes!)
- You haven’t found a time of day that works for you.
- You haven’t noticed any benefits from the occasional, longer classes that you have attended.
5. PRO TIPS
“Take it easy, this is the “nice” part of training. It’s easy to think you have to attack this like a HIIT session.” (Tim)
Here are some of my favourite pro tips from the guys: practice sequences that you enjoy, as well as those that you benefit from physically and mentally. Don’t try to force the postures. Be prepared to adapt your plan if your chosen routine isn’t appropriate that day. Don’t be afraid of the meditations. Don’t feel guilty about taking 15 minutes to yourself. Find a time that works for you. If you need to, start small with breathing exercises and individual poses and build it up from there. Take on a challenge and track your sessions. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up.
Please let me know in the COMMENTS below if you have personal experiences to share and consider forwarding this article to friends and family who are still on the fence.