These days, Yoga is a popular practice in North America, and for good reason: the ancient Eastern practice can bring many physical and mental benefits to its practitioners. Some of its most touted benefits include increased flexibility, weight loss, and an improved sense of well-being.
There are now over 6000 yoga studios across the U.S. which offer guided classes to seasoned yogis and beginners alike.
But yoga memberships are expensive and not everyone feels comfortable practicing yoga in a studio environment (especially if you’re just starting out).
Over the years, I’ve come to prefer practicing yoga in the comfort of my home, so that I can flow how I want, at my own pace. (Plus, there’s no one around to witness my face plants whenever I topple over in bakasana pose!)
Even better, a yoga practice from home is cost-effective and easy to start! If you’re brand new to yoga, here are seven steps to start practicing yoga at home:
1. Attend a Live Yoga Class First
Although not strictly necessary, I would highly recommend attending a few live yoga classes first if you are a total beginner. The reason is that it can be really difficult to know if you’re doing the poses correctly without a teacher there to explain how to get into the poses and how to modify them where necessary.
Even the most basic poses, like Downward facing dog, are surprisingly easy to goof up without guidance.
I can’t tell you how many moments I had in a yoga class when I was (somewhat smugly) thinking I was doing a pose correctly, but then my teacher would gently adjust me this way or that, and suddenly I’d have a lightbulb moment like, “Ahh, that’s what I should be doing!”)
Most yoga studios do offer a few free or discounted classes for new students. It’s worth the investment to go a few times just to have a foundation on which to build your home practice.
2. Pick Your Spot
One of my favorite things about Yoga is you don’t need much space to get ‘er done. If you can roll out your mat and spread your arms out without touching anything, you’re good to go.
However, there are still a few factors to consider.
If you have any pets, assume with certainty that they will get in the way. My cat loves to walk through my arms and stick her butt in my face during downward-facing dog. I make sure she is in another room while I’m practicing so that I’m not worried about stepping or tripping over her.
I’ve heard that dogs are even worse for this. (Even though you can apparently incorporate them into your practice with one of the newer yoga trends, “Doga”.)
And if you have family or housemates around, I don’t recommend using the living room unless you know for sure no one else will be using it. Trying to flow through sun salutations while your sister is watching the Kardashians is a decidedly un-Zen experience.
You could even try moving your practice outside as some yogis find that nature and sunlight help their practice.
3. Buy a Quality Yoga Mat (and Optional Accessories)
Another great thing about yoga is that you don’t need much equipment at all to get started, just comfortable clothes and a mat.
However, yoga mat shopping is not the time to be frugal. Cheap mats will cause you to slide around (possibly hurting yourself), or they may bunch up and tear.
Take it from me; a poor quality mat is really distracting and discouraging so it’s worth investing in a good one. (B Mat is hands down my favorite!)
How to Choose the Best Yoga Mat
Learn how to choose the right yoga mat for you, and see our favorites!
Other than that, you don’t need much else. Of course, there is a ton of Yoga gear you can spend money on if you want to; everything from bolsters to blocks and straps. But most of these things are easily substituted with household items, like books instead of blocks, or a belt instead of a strap.
Other nice-to-have accessories for a home yoga practice are a mirror and a portable speaker. The mirror helps if you have one available as it can help you see if you’re doing the poses correctly, and the speaker is for yoga music that gets you in the right headspace for your session.
4. Set an Intention for Your Yoga Journey
What do you want to get out of your yoga practice? More flexibility? Greater strength? A way to tame nervous energy? Just want to figure out how to stand on your head?
There are any number of reasons to practice so setting an intention before you start can help you put a game plan in place and build a consistent routine.
Then once you’ve chosen a goal, decide how often you will practice and schedule it into the calendar.
Because if you don’t schedule it, you aren’t going to do it. Trust me on this.
5. Choose a Yoga Style
When I first started looking into yoga, I was surprised and a little overwhelmed to learn that there are a plethora of yoga styles to choose from, some wildly different than others. But since you have already set goals and an intention for your practice, it should be relatively easy to narrow down which yoga styles you’d like to try.
Hatha yoga is probably the most common in the U.S. and typically a more basic style of yoga that’s great for beginners.
Ashtanga or Vinyasa will be more your speed if you’re looking for weight loss, while Restorative yoga a more passive form that’s great for relaxation and mental well-being.
But those styles are just the tip of the iceberg! Read up on a few different styles and find the one that seems to best support your yoga goals.
6. Find a Virtual Yoga Teacher
While you could practice yoga on your own without any guidance, I would really recommend finding virtual yoga classes to guide your practice. Virtual yoga classes are my favorite because they keep your practice fresh, structured, and challenging.
However, there are a ton of yoga apps and online platforms out there, and sifting through them can be a bit overwhelming. My top recommendation is MyYogaWorks which has hundreds of classes and dozens of teachers to choose from, for every style and experience level.
MyYogaWorks: The Netflix of Yoga
MyYogaWorks also has “Yoga Journeys” with pre-planned classes and you can also make your own class “playlists” and schedule them into whatever digital calendar you like to use.
7. Practice Safely
The most important thing to remember when embarking on a home yoga practice is that yoga shouldn’t hurt. Yes, yoga should be challenging, but do not force yourself into poses that are painful or you could end up with pulled muscles or worse!
I once pulled a muscle in my neck doing a supported shoulder stand and it took months to recover.
Start with easier, shorter classes and work your way up as you build more strength, flexibility, and stamina. You will be shocked at how much bendier and stronger you are after just a couple weeks of 10-15 minute classes!
If you are looking to do more advanced poses I would really recommend going to a yoga class or maybe one-on-one yoga teaching in-home. Always put safety first so that you don’t end up being transported to the hospital looking like a mangled pretzel.
Start Practicing Yoga at Home
When practiced safely and intentionally, a home yoga practice can be a great way to improve your overall health and well-being.
My favorite thing about a home yoga practice is that it truly becomes your practice. If I want to spend ten minutes in my favorite restorative pose, or work on my arm balances during my lunch break, it’s just a matter of unfurling my mat.
It’s such a great feeling when you know that a dose of physical and mental energy is just a yoga mat away!