How to Start a Home Yoga Practice + My 5 Favorite Yoga Guides
Want to hear something crazy? I've never gone to a yoga class.
When I started my yoga journey over seven years ago, I was still living in my hometown, which, at that time, didn't have a yoga studio. Plus, I really only started yoga because I wanted a body like Jennifer Aniston's, and I read that Mandy Ingber was her yoga instructor/trainer. So I ordered the Yogalosophy DVD, did the squats and pulses once, then again, then a few more times. Fast forward about a year later, and while there was nothing daily - not even regular - about my practice, I knew the difference in down dog and up dog, and could flow through a sun salutation with relative ease.
Now, almost eight years later, my practice couldn't look any more different. First of all, I don't do it for a body like Jennifer Aniston's. I accepted a long time ago that I will never look like her, mostly because I'm not her (and also because I like cookies before bed too much!). Secondly, I don't skip savasana anymore. It doesn't sound like much, but it was a huge milestone for me. And thirdly, I practice regularly, six to seven days a week.
But it doesn't come easy. Having the discipline to get out of bed and onto the mat every morning is a habit that requires commitment, to your practice and yourself, but it pays off, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Read on for a few tips for starting - and maintaining - a home yoga practice.
1. Make the time.
The big shift came for me when I started practicing as soon as I got up in the mornings. I always hated morning workouts, but I know how easy it is to let the day's ToDo List - and more than a few excuses - convince me to "just do it tomorrow." Once I made the decision to practice in the morning, my excuses (other than a desire for five more minutes in bed) were a lot less convincing.
2. Listen to your body.
My flows became gentler and more intuitive, as well. Partially because I just woke up, and I've never liked being rushed or pushed in the mornings. But as I settled onto my mat, checked in with my breath, and began to move in a way that honored my body and what I was feeling, I realized that all of the advanced poses, arm balances, and sweaty, bikini body vinyasas weren't for me. I thought that was the kind of yoga I was supposed to do, because that's what I saw online, and I told myself, "That's what it looks like to be a good yogi." (Hello, Type A personality!)
That's not all that yoga is, and that's definitely not my yoga. My yoga usually means two dogs are climbing on top of me, begging for attention, my hair is in my face, and I'm in the t-shirt and sweatpants I slept in the night before. Sometimes I don't even use a mat. If I'm cold, I wrap up in a blanket and allow the poses to work for me. More than anything, I'm constantly reminded that it's called a practice for a reason.
3. Slow down.
This was the hardest part of yoga for me. The first time I attempted yin yoga, I hated it. I don't think I finished the video. I was impatient, pushing myself to stretch a little farther, hold a little bit longer, do just one more chataraunga. But skip savasana, because it's just laying on the ground and you'll get done five minute sooner. It doesn't matter, it's not part of the workout. Or, in other words: yin yoga was my kryptonite.
Almost eight years later, yin yoga is my escape. It's been one of the greatest sources of healing on my journey to recovery, and it's taught me to be still, be patient, and breathe through the discomfort. It's the perfect antidote to the go-go-go world we live in, and it's taught me so much about being non-reactive in whatever place I'm in, whether it's a yoga pose or a sticky, real-world situation. And savasna? I've learned to savor it. (And if you need more convincing, check out this article on mindbodygreen for three more reasons why you should never, ever skip savasna.)
4. Most importantly: find what feels good for you.
There are so many branches and variations of yoga: yin, restorative, hatha, vinyasa, Bikram, Kundalini, Pilates-fusion...the list goes on and on. Try one - try them all! - and pay attention to your body and your mind. How do you feel, inside and out? Do you feel centered, strong, and peaceful? If the answer is yes, you've found your yoga. If the answer is no, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a sweaty Bikram session, but keep looking; your yoga is out there.
Need some extra inspiration? Check out my five favorite online yoga guides for inspiration, daily flows, and some seriously cute dogs.
1. Candace Moore - Yoga by Candace. The ultimate one-stop shop if you're new to yoga, looking to deepen your practice, or just love travel, fashion, and adorable huskies named Buckles. Candace was the first online yoga guide I really connected with, and she's got a wide variety of yoga videos to suite every type of yogi. My personal favorite? This 15 Minute Guided Breathing, Meditation and Gentle Yoga for a Good Night's Sleep.
2. Adriene Mishler - Yoga with Adriene. Adriene + the Find What Feels Good community is like walking into your dream yoga studio every day, filled with positive, loving, radiantly peaceful people from every walk of life...who all know what it's like to feel exactly the opposite. Plus, she has a dog named Benji who makes regular appearances in her videos. Check out this Yoga for After Disaster video for a gentle return to calm, love, and grace on the very worst of days.
3. Sara Ticha - Sara Ticha Yoga. If you're a more advanced yogi with a serious case of wanderlust, allow me to introduce you to Sara Ticha. Based in Vienna, Sara travels all over Europe + shares videos and photos from her journeys that will have you ready to buy a ticket and a backpack. In the meantime, if you're looking for a short but intense flow to strengthen your practice, dive into this 30 Min. Energizing Morning Flow to really kick off your day.
4. Kassandra - Yoga with Kassandra. There's nothing I love more at the end of a long day than one of Kassandra's gentle, 40-to-60 minute yin flows. Her videos are peaceful, gentle, and just challenging enough to still the mind, deepen the breath, and increase flexibility, but perfect for the beginner, or a yin newcomer. My personal favorite is this 40 Minute Yin Yoga Without Props video.
5. Tara Stiles - Strala Yoga. Tara Stiles might be the most famous yogi in the world, but there's something about her no-nonsense, thoroughly Midwestern take on what can still be considered a "mystical" practice that I love. Her flows are strong and intense, but beginners, have no fear: you won't hear any Sanskrit in her videos, and she's not asking anybody to stand on their heads. My favorite? Let It Go Yoga.
Who are your favorite online yoga guides? Do you have any other tips for starting, maintaining, or growing a home yoga practice? Let me know in the comments below!