6 Tips to Inspire Your Home Yoga Practice
Article At A Glance
Whether you’re new to practicing yoga or a seasoned yoga practitioner, very often the most difficult part of practicing is actually starting. That can mean the challenge of first establishing a home yoga practice, but it’s also true for getting yourself onto the mat each day even after you’ve been practicing for years or, in my case, decades. But home yoga practice is always worthwhile. Here are 5 ways to inspire your daily practice.
Whether you’re new to practicing or a seasoned yoga practitioner, very often the most difficult part of practicing is actually starting. That can mean the challenge of first establishing a home yoga practice, but it’s also true for getting yourself onto the mat each day even after you’ve been practicing for years or, in my case, decades.
Obstacles to Home Yoga Practice
There are always many obstacles to practicing and plenty of reasons not to do it each day. We all have competing priorities, such as household chores, socializing, and the lure of our electronics. During the years of the COVID lockdown, when many more people began working from home, the boundaries between work and personal time became much fuzzier, presenting yet one more obstacle to getting onto the mat. As one friend described it to me, it felt more like we were now living at work than working from home. And when you are constantly at work, there is always one more email to respond to or work task to tick off the list.
There can be deeper reasons for avoiding home yoga practice as well. When I was a yoga teacher trainer, one of my students perceptively wrote in her practice journal that she attributed her procrastination to getting to her mat as a resistance to “going there.” What she meant by “there” was that very often during her yoga practice, as with meditation, she found that she was starkly face to face with herself. That can be a hard place to be for all of us.
Why Practice Yoga at Home?
Despite all of that, and even though the word “should” has never seemed like anything other than an annoyance to me, I’ve been practicing regularly for decades; the biggest motivator is that I always know I’m going to feel better when I do, and, as a result, my day will go better. All these years and thousands of practices later, I’m still sometimes astonished by the physical and emotional uplift I get from my practice and how tangible the “before and after” sense of well-being is from even a short practice.
In addition to those immediate benefits, there are cumulative ones, such as, well into middle age, still having my youthful mobility and not feeling stiff or achy when I wake up in the mornings. There’s quite a bit of research to back up my lived experience of this, which shows stronger telomeric activity—a biological process that helps keep our cells healthy as we age—in yoga practitioners. Another motivator is that time on my mat can feel like a refuge, a peaceful “time out” from a demanding and increasingly harsh and chaotic world.
Others have different motivations for wanting or continuing to practice, but the obstacles are common to most of us: time constraints, distractions, competing demands and priorities, needs of other household members, procrastination, and biological realities.
An example of that last one is that if I don’t practice fairly soon after rising, I get too hungry to practice. And then, after I’ve had breakfast, I have to navigate my practice around my meal schedule to find a time to practice when my stomach isn’t full of food, but I’m not yet hungry again!
6 Ways to Cultivate a Consistent Home Yoga Practice
Practice Yoga Early in the Day
For me, by far, the best thing is when I get onto my mat shortly after rising in the morning and before plugging into any devices. The earlier I get up, the easier it is to do this, so I turn my phone off at night and try to get my practice in before I turn it on again in the morning and before working hours. I’m very consistent with the first part, turning off my phone, but less consistent with not checking it again before getting onto my mat. I’m working on cultivating that second one as a more regular habit, though, because it’s such a lovely way to meet the day.
While this first-thing-in-the-morning practice time is what works for me, the best time to practice is very individual. My body type is naturally flexible, something that is true only for a minority of people (estimated to be somewhere around 15 percent of the general population), and that is a likely factor in why I can comfortably do forward bends without much warmup.
I have some friends who hate practicing early in the day and carve out their practice time in the afternoon. Others can only find time to practice after work or after their kids have gone to sleep. Two guidelines to help with this are: 1) The best time for home yoga practice is the time that works best for you—and finding that may take some experimentation—and 2) Once you’ve found your preferred time, put it on your calendar or daily schedule; otherwise it’s unlikely to actually happen.
If Nothing Else, Meditate!
This is my strategy for when I miss my early morning window, either because I woke up late and didn’t have time for a full practice before getting to work, or I did check my phone before hitting my mat and then got caught up in responding to texts and playing the New York Times word games. In this case, I take a break to do a few warm-up stretches and meditate for 10 to 15 minutes, either before or after eating breakfast (depending on how hungry I am!). You, too, can do this if you don’t have time for a full practice, whenever your scheduled time is.
Plan B: Afternoon or Evening Yoga Practice
When that happens, I aim to also fit in a home yoga practice session later in the day, either afternoon or evening. Since I work mostly from home now, finding time in the afternoon is easier for me than it used to be. When that wasn’t the case, I would try to do a short evening practice, either right when getting home from work or after dinner on days when I’d missed my morning practice. You may also be able to do a short evening practice if you’ve missed your time earlier in the day.
Plan B: Home Yoga Practice Strategy
Practicing later in the day is trickier. You have to navigate around meals, your energy may be flagging, and a strenuous practice later in the day might interfere with sleep. I plan on a gentler practice when it’s afternoon, and that generally means staying closer to the floor and perhaps a restorative pose, such as Supported Bound Angle Pose (Salamba Baddha Konasana) or Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani).
Work-to-Home Transition Yoga Practice
Speaking of Viparita Karani, that can be a great pose to practice when arriving home from work. And if you work from home, a practice to help delineate the boundary between your work and personal lives can be very helpful.
If I’m practicing in the evening, whether or not it’s before or after dinner depends mostly on how hungry I am. That pesky need to eat can really interfere with my practice plans! If it’s an after-dinner practice, that means it’s going to be mostly restorative, along with stretches and poses that can be done comfortably on a full stomach (for sure no deep twists, something I learned the hard way long ago!).
Either way, I always do at least some restoratives when practicing in the evening. My approach is that if I’m revved up from the day, I start with some gentle floor stretches and then move into a restorative pose or two, while if I’m fatigued, I do the opposite, and start with restoratives, followed by some gentle asanas and/or pranayama and meditation. My ideal is to bookend my days with both a morning and an evening practice, and although I manage that only rarely, it’s wonderful when I do.
Back-Pocket Home Yoga Practice Sequences
Since I know that all of the above scenarios are possibilities, the most helpful thing for me has been to have personal practice sequences that will fit easily into each of them. I love to practice from between 45 minutes to an hour and a half in the mornings. And when that happens, I can just sit down on my mat, see how I’m feeling, and either let my practice take off from there or use a pre-planned sequence that fits my energy and needs of the day. (I have plenty of in-depth practices I’ve developed from so many years of both practicing and teaching, but there are also books and online resources you can draw on for everything from inspiration to detailed sequences.)
But also having a morning meditation plan and sequences that work for those different possibilities—later in the day, or for a 20-minute window, or on a full stomach—on hand makes it easier to get those Plan B practices in.
Your daily schedule and preferences, and therefore, your strategies, may be different from mine, but identifying what you’re likely to come up against and planning practices that work for the variety of circumstances in context of your real life will make it easier not to get derailed altogether when your ideal version doesn’t work out on a given day. And that brings me to …
2 Home Yoga Practice Rules to Live By
It Doesn’t Matter What You Practice, Just That You Practice
This is something I used to stress as a teacher trainer and still have to remind myself of at times. Even a very short practice is incomparably better than none at all. Having a couple of go-to short “busy day” sequences—one for morning and one for later in the day—is extremely useful. And if all that happens is that short meditation practice or one restorative pose, that’s still a win, not a failure.
Your Practice is Meant to Serve You, and Not the Other Way Around
This means that there are no “shoulds” when it comes to practicing. There are no poses you have to practice and no goals you have to reach beyond doing what feels good for you, both mentally and physically, what helps keep you healthy and mobile, and what lets you meet the next part of your day from a more centered, open-hearted place. Approaching your yoga mat with that in mind can make it a lot easier to get there.
Finally, a lifetime practice is a bit like a marriage or any long relationship. It will have its own cycles, seasons, and ups and downs. But there’s a richness and a lot of learning that comes from sticking with it, and, the more you put into it, the more it will give you.