Updated: Sep 29
One of the things I get asked about the most is getting started practicing yoga at home. Let me preface this article by saying I am speaking to a fairly new practitioner here, someone just discovering yoga. But if you've been practicing for years but can't do it alone - my friend this article is also for you. I began my yoga journey by myself, at home, and am so glad I did. It meant that when I did finally step into a studio space I knew a bit about different lineages, what felt good in my body and mind, and what my goals were.
Whether you are just starting or have practiced for decades, a personal practice is paramount to understanding the full philosophical system of Yoga. As we gaze inward and practice intentional self study, we can become over time more intuitive to our multilayered and complex physical system and the experience of being human. Yoga is much more than just a physical exercise, but people say that a lot. What does it mean? Yoga is a millennia old system of understanding our place in the universe and with daily, lifelong effort, becoming better at doing it. The physical work, or asana, is incredibly beneficial but makes up just a small part of that complete system. My point here is to look at your personal practice as a way to explore. While attending yoga classes at studios with experienced instructors is incredibly enriching, there's something special about cultivating your own practice.
In this article, we'll explore the benefits of practicing yoga at home, how to get started, and tips for creating a personal practice that suits your needs and lifestyle.
Benefits of At-Home Practice
Creating a Yoga Space
When to Practice...
The Yogic System
Yoga is more than just physical postures; it's a holistic life science.
Yoga is not about learning to handstand. It is not about doing the splits, or putting your toes on your forehead, and whether or not you ever do those things does not having any bearing on your connection to the practice, or reflect anything about you as a practitioner. Yoga is about creating a life well-lived that benefits not only you but all living beings. Embrace the mindfulness and meditative aspects of yoga, deepen your practice and enrich your life.
Benefits of At-Home Yoga Practice
One of the most significant advantages of practicing yoga at home is the ability to tailor your practice to your unique needs. You can create personal goals for asanas (yoga poses) to learn and dive deeper into meditation styles that resonate with you. Your practice can flow at the pace you need for each unique day, and it can even become a creative outlet.
While studio classes offer valuable guidance, they may not always align with your schedule or budget. At-home practice provides flexibility, allowing daily connection without financial constraints. It's a practice that adapts to your lifestyle, not the other way around. Practice under the guidance of a teacher is an essential part of the yoga system, the teacher student relationship and lineage, but it is not the only way.
The beauty of personal practice is that it doesn't require much. Actually, it requires nothing more that curiosity and a desire to try with consistent effort. You don’t need a fancy space, mat, clothes, oils, blah blah blah. Basically all the things instagram and insta-yogis will quickly try to sell you if you spend more than two minutes in the yoga section of the algorithm. Yoga does not need to be cost prohibitive!! I have heard from countless people they took forever to start because they couldn’t afford it and that, my friends, honestly breaks my heart. So, to get started all you need is you.
If you know you want to and are able to make an investment, then let’s address space and equipment. While having a dedicated space is helpful, dedicated spaces for asana and meditation practice are recommended in some traditions to cultivate ritual and energy, it's not imperative. Yoga can be done in small spaces almost anywhere so don’t overthink it. A good-quality yoga mat is a nice investment, as it provides stability and support. Don’t bother with a cheap one as the plastic will quickly fall apart. You’d be better to start on the ground or rug, just try to find a place you won’t slide around. If you’re going to spend some money, go for a good eco-conscious one like Manduka’s eKO Series 5mm Mat. As for clothes, though should be comfy for *you* and easy to move around in. Don’t get me wrong, I love a yoga outfit… but that’s because I love an outfit in general. It’s just that it's well, a luxury. 'Yoga clothes' are absolutely completely unnecessary and will not get you into a lotus seat any faster or easier.
Start with small steps, a gradual progression like sliding in a hot bath. Dip your toe in first. Begin with short sessions, and don't pressure yourself to practice for extended periods right away. The only thing pressure will do is make you feel bad about yourself when you do it for two days and never roll out that hundred dollar yoga mat again. Seriously, start by doing 5-15 minutes everyday for a week and then reflect on what you’re doing so you can expand, modify or stay doing the same. Maybe a 5 minute guided meditation or pranayama (breath work) like this one and 10 minutes of beginner movement like this, both from the lovely Kassandra Reinhardt. Your practice should seamlessly integrate into your daily routine, whether you prefer morning meditation or evening asanas. The key is dedication to trying to make a change, and knowing that change is hard.
Creating a Yoga Space
If you are able to carve out a little dedicated space in your home, choose a place that feels good. Trust your intuition in choosing the right spot. Your yoga space should resonate with you on a sensory level—how it looks, smells, and sounds... maybe even tastes. It's your personal sanctuary, so don't worry about adhering to conventional or popular aesthetics. Your space should be conducive to focus, relaxation, and restoration.
For me, I like a view of trees or sky, uncluttered space, maybe an incense lit if it’s not too strong and music. For me personally, sound is something that can make or break my practice. I have carefully curated playlists like these two from a retreat I led this spring at Barbarenas in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.
When to practice...
There is advice within yogic and Ayurvedic tradition around the time of practice that I encourage you to look into and maybe play with experiencing for yourself, but for most of us the timing is about fitting it into life. Fit it into your life in a way that feels natural. Consistency is ideal, but more important is just showing up for yourself, whenever that is, at whatever time works for your day.
Absolutely one of the most beautiful parts of Yoga, is how many styles and lines of knowledge there are to follow. Do some research and read about styles like Hatha, Ashtanga, Dharma, Kundalini, Yin and Restorative to name a few. Look into the philosophy and texts behind those practices. Do some exploration, what intrigues you? I recommend sticking to some more traditional paths as others have strayed a *bit* off track in my opinion (I’m looking at you Beer Yoga).
If you’ve practiced in studio maybe you already know a style you love, or maybe you don't. It doesn't matter is the point. I found studio practice intimidating and started at home, by myself, fumbling along until I found what felt good. I think no matter what there are a few ground rules:
Listen to Your Body: Only you know what something feels like. Pay attention to physical, emotional, and energetic signals. What do you need today vs. What do you want today and where can they intersect?
Prioritize Safety: Nothing should ever never ever hurt. Ever.
Embrace Simplicity: To get into our practice we have to get out of the thinking mind. Don’t overthink it. Move. Meditate. See what happens.
Set Goals Thoughtfully: Reflect on what you want to achieve in your practice. Before you get on the mat take a little time for self study. Maybe learn and become precise about a Surya Namaskar series. Try a new meditation style. Look up an asana flow that works toward a posture that interests you, and then try to do it.
There are countless online yoga resources, and some of them are absolutely amazing. It's an incredible privilege to have access to master practitioners from around the world in our homes. In seeking them out you have to find your own path. Some teachers that I lean into as a student include Dr. Lorin Roche, Sri Dharma Mittra, ISHTA School, Dr. Richard Miller and Stephanie Lopez, Tracee Stanley, the Kamini Desai, Jared McCann, Eoin Finn, and Kristen Leal to name a few. Each of them offers a unique perspective and philosophy that I respect for a myriad of reasons, and who challenge me as a student and teacher.
In your personal practice, the goal isn't about achieving specific poses or milestones. Instead, aim for consistency. Whether it's five minutes or three hours. Yoga is a practice for a lifetime. Your motivation may vary from day to day, but remember that your practice can positively shift your mood and energy, even on challenging days.
Yoga is skill in action…
There is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita that has always been forefront in my own practice that says, ‘yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam’ or ‘yoga is skill in action’. The complete verse refers to yoga as a life science will develop the wisdom to release expectations and work with an even mind toward skill. So what does that mean in your practice? It means to look at it as something to be created over time, and to build a strong foundation so that full expressions and advancements can be understood not achieved. Use your personal practice to delicately explore the edge of your boundaries, find strength and a sense lightness in the body and mind.
The journey in yoga is a transformative one. It's a path to holistic well-being, deep personal understanding and service to a greater whole. Embrace your unique journey, you really can’t do it ‘wrong’ because if it resonates it means it is authentic to your individuality. A personal yoga practice has innumerable benefits, so don’t wait. The first step is the hardest.
In case you’re like me and want to read everything you can get your hands on, here’s my recommended book list :)
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda
Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swatmarama
Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar
Vijnana Bhairava as translated by Dr. Lorin Roche (The Radiance Sutras)
Tantra of the Yoga Sutras by Alan Finger
Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith
MetaAnatomy by Kristen Leal
The Language of Yin by Gabrielle Harris
Radiant Rest by Tracee Stanley
Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff