Starting your own yoga home practice can feel daunting. You might be asking yourself questions like, "When is the best time to practice, what asana should I practice and in what order?" What do you do when there’s no yoga teacher there to tell you which asana to flow to next? Should you incorporate a meditation practice as well or not? These are just a few of the questions we are faced with when deciding to commence a home practice. To help you jump start your own practice we have compiled a list of six home practice ideas get you inspired and push forward with creating the right sadhana for you.
Schedule a Time to Practice
Schedule a specific time for your practice each day and put it on your calendar. First thing in the morning is the traditional time to practice yoga. In Mysore India, home of Ashtanga yoga, yogis get up at 3 am every morning to begin their asana practice by 5 am. They practice during Brahma muhurta, otherwise known as the ambrosial hour to boost energy levels and connect with the Divine. To increase your chances of actually doing yoga, roll out your yoga mat the night before so it’s one of the first things you see when you get up. You can even set a reminder on your smartphone. Start with 15 minutes per day, then gradually build up until you have a consistent one-hour practice each day. (Read on in What Time of Day is Brahma Muhurta?)
Listen to Your Body
What yoga poses do you naturally love to do? Pick a handful of favorites, and start with those to get in the right mindset. Relish the time you have carved out of your busy life to nurture both your mind and body through the practice of asana. It’s a lot easier to step onto your yoga mat if you know that you’re going to be doing poses that feel good to your body. Some yogi favorites are; child's pose, sukhasana, happy baby pose, and supine twist.
Salute the Sun
Sun Salutations are the foundation sequence for all Ashtanga yogis. This is partly because sun salutations were historically done to salute the sun as it rose on the horizon. It was, and still is, a way to pay homage to the sun god and rejoice in the opportunity of rebirth that each new day holds. Sun salutations are an effective way to warm up the entire body, head to toe. The sequencing inherent in sun salutations is a time-proven way to get you invigorated for the day ahead. (Learn more in 8 Benefits of Daily Surya Namaskara.)
Explore a New Sequence
Here’s a beginner friendly one to get your started. Begin on your mat with cat-cow pose. It’s an excellent asana to warm up the spine first thing in the morning. Move into balasana or child’s pose from there and then into downward-facing dog. Take a few moments to breathe in down dog.
Peddle out your feet by bending one knee first and then the other. Come into anjaneasana (low lunge) on your right side. Breathe for two to three breaths and then switch to the left side before coming back into down dog. From there, walk your feet up into uttanasana before you come up to standing in tadasana (mountain pose). Bring your hands into prayer position at your heart center. Pause and breathe, stretching your arms out wide to each side and swooping them up overhead. Grasp the left wrist with the right hand. Extending through your side body stretch to your right, so that your left side lengthens. Breath, then come back up to center and switch sides. End in tadasana, hands at heart center. This low impact beginner sequence should take 10 to 15 minutes. (Learn more in How Do I Evolve My Sadhana?)
Meditate as Part of Your Sadhana
Spend a few minutes in seated asanas like butterfly pose and seated twists to warm up the low back and hips, before settling into baddha konasana for 10 minutes of meditation. You could add five minutes of alternate nostril breathing to help ground the body further before you begin meditating. Set a timer with a chime for 10 to 15 minutes and do a simple breath awareness meditation. On each inhale, feel the breath expand your diaphragm. On each exhale, feel the breath release through your nose. Meditation is the goal of yoga, so why not make it the focal point of your home practice? Remember, a home practice is not limited to asana only. (Learn this 10-Minute Meditation.)
Include Pranayama in Your Home Practice
Practice some yogic breathing exercise. Pranayama is very effective in helping us detox and clear out stagnant energy. It’s also surprisingly warming. Try kapalabhati, or shining skull breath to focus your energy and invigorate your body. To perform kapalabhati, start seated in an upright cross-legged position. Place one hand on your belly and inhale and exhale deeply. On your next inhale, breathe in through your nose until your lungs are ¾ of the way full. Using your hand as a gentle reminder, quickly and strongly exhale through your nose using the muscles of your diaphragm to expel the air. Let your lungs inhale softly and naturally on the inhale. Do this for a round of ten breaths, and then, pause to take a deep inhale and exhale. You can repeat another round of ten, working your way up to three or four cycles. When you're done, pause and allow your breathing to return to it’s natural state. Take stock of how your body feels. (Read about how Conscious Breathing Will Boost Your Yoga Practice.)
Play around with these suggestions and then choose one to commit to for the next 30 days. As your practice evolves, feel free to modify your home practice to suite your individual needs and preferences. Creating a home practice is all about consistency and experimentation. What you need will change from day-to-day, season to season. Having your own home practice gives you the freedom to adjust to your body’s needs in a way that is most beneficial to you. It’s also a wonderful stepping stone into other spiritual practices like having a daily sadhana. (Learn How to Create Your Own Unique Sadhana.)