Lots and lots of you lovely yoga folks ask me what you should do to develop a home yoga practice. I can’t TELL you how happy this makes me!
Here is Some Useful Information that I wish I’d had when I first started cobbling together a bunch of yoga poses at home, all those years ago.
First, it’s important to know that you are very unlikely to hurt yourself doing yoga, unless you do something well beyond your current ability level, or something plain ridiculous, like headstand on the dining room table.
BUT. If something hurts or feels wrong, either during or after your practice, you need to check in with your teacher to make sure your technique is correct and the pose is appropriate for you.
Here are some guidelines that will make your practice more balanced and useful (they do teach us SOMETHING at Yoga Teacher School, you know!)
- Breath is paramount. Breath starts and ends every movement, and your yoga practice exists to serve breath and bandha.
- Your yoga should balance strength and flexibility. Don’t emphasize one over the other – we tend to do this, for example spending more time on stretching than strength if we are already naturally flexible. That will eventually destabilise your joints. I speak from experience. Follow the advice of the yoga sutras: sthiram sukham asanam – asana should be both stable and easeful. You are basically working with the polarity of opposites here, which is what all yoga is about.
- Your spine should move in all five directions: lengthening (which we call extension, not to be confused with anatomical extension), forward bending, back bending (anatomical extension), twisting, and lateral bending.
- All poses need to be counterposed or neutralised. No matter how beneficial a pose, it probably has a few not-so-desirable effects in your body or nervous system, and those need to be balanced out. Forward bends are the counterpose to everything, like neutral gear in a car, and backbends are the counterpose to forward bends. This is a rather involved topic, practically the subject of a book, but when in doubt, do a symmetrical forward bend.
- Pose and counterpose should ideally come from the same group – standing, reclining, prone, seated.
- Warm up your biggest muscle groups first. A useful structure for your practice might go something like this: sun salutes and standing poses to warm up the big muscle groups, reclining core strength and backbending to prepare for inversion, inversion (only if appropriate), prone backbends to counterpose inversion and strengthen your back, seated forward bends and twists, relaxation (sarvangasana).
- Five minutes is enough. One of the most certain ways to make sure you don’t practice is to put pressure on yourself to do an hour every day or something silly like that. One pose is enough; it will begin building a habit. Start small!
- Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon. All of us do from time to time. It’s a practice, not a perfect, as I am so fond of saying! Just start again tomorrow.
- It’s OK to use the resources at hand. For example, my archives. Loads of posture goodness there, and here’s an old old Yoga Home Practice sheet for you to use if you want to. New one coming soon, stay tuned!