Fortunately, neither the spiritual nor the physical aspect of yoga need be lost in the home yoga practice. Social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram host countless lessons from renowned yoga personalities and local instructors. Matador Network spoke with Macy Graham, program coordinator at Ascent Therapy Clinic in Denver, Colorado, and the founder of digital yoga and health platform Hungry Yoga and Wellness, to get her tips for building and maintaining a rewarding home yoga practice.
The foundations of a successful home practice
“Right now is a perfect time to start your at-home yoga practice,” Graham says. The mental awareness and mindfulness triggered by the practice can be quite beneficial in stressful or tumultuous periods such as the spreading COVID-19 pandemic. “Yoga and mindfulness allow your nervous systems to switch from the stress response to the relaxation response. It’s critical to be practicing physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation to bring your attention inward. This will help you balance the amount of news and information you are consuming externally.”
This calm, Graham says, can actually extend throughout the whole of your life even during the best of times. “Yoga and mindfulness can help you sleep better, improve your digestion, calm the mind, stretch and strengthen the body, and allow you to feel more connected to your higher power.”
Even if you don’t have a dedicated workout room in your home, you don’t need much more space than you would in a studio. Any open space in a bedroom or living room near a window should do. “It’s important to find a sacred space that you can transform into your home studio. All you need is enough room for your mat, natural lighting, and a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. If you are really getting into your home yoga routine, then eventually you can set up an alter, install hardwood floors, and surround yourself with positive affirmations.”
How to find the right online yoga class
A number of apps can guide you through a home yoga practice, including Asana Rebel, Glo, or Pocket Yoga. Though to simulate the studio experience, Graham says it’s best to find an online instructor.
“Once you have your space set up, do some research on which classes you would like to attend online,” she says. Many studio instructors offer digital instruction in video or podcast format — check the studio’s website or social media channels. If yours doesn’t, there are many certified yoga instructors who specialize in online teaching. “It can be helpful to follow along with educated teachers through video content at first. If you are a seasoned yogi, then feel free to play some calming music and do your own flow.”
Graham encourages homebound yogis to pay attention to streaming schedules and to participate in online group classes as much as possible. “If you can find some classes that are live streaming, it can really bring you that sense of community that you get with in-person classes. It’s nice to know that your community is doing the class along with you, and you can even say hello or Namaste after class in the chat box or audio options.”
There’s no need to rush out and buy a bunch of things, which works out particularly well during these isolating times. If you regularly attend studio classes, you likely have a yoga mat already. This is the primary piece of equipment you need, along with a laptop and/or smartphone with a Bluetooth speaker to follow along with an online instructor. If a particular class necessitates a block, weight, or other specialized equipment, it should state this at the beginning, making it easy to skip over to a different class should you not have the proper equipment.
Building a routine and staying disciplined
The friendships and close bonds often developed in yoga studios make it easier to build a regular routine of attending class a few times per week. Classes that happen weekly, at the same time, make this even easier as you get in the habit of showing up at a set time. Building this routine at home takes a bit more discipline, but it is possible. “It’s helpful to plan your week ahead of time and put it in your calendar like an appointment that can’t be missed,” Graham says. “You can even pay for it ahead of time so you are more accountable for showing up and getting it done.”
“Don’t get discouraged if you take a class and don’t really like it,” she says. “There are so many teachers, styles, and options out there. Keep trying different classes, and you will find the right fit for you and your goals.”
Graham offers a number of online yoga classes for both beginners and seasoned yogis seeking to strengthen their home yoga practice. Many are posted for free on her YouTube channel, and she also offers several online courses, private coaching options, and live-streamed wellness courses.