By Maggie Giuffrida, Yoga Instructor
Starting an at-home yoga practice can be a difficult feat — trust me, I know. Although I’ve been teaching yoga for about four years, and practicing for around 10, I’ve always been more a fan of attending class at a studio, opposed to practicing on my own. However, as life tends to go, sometimes you get thrown a curve ball and you have to learn how to roll with the flow — which is ultimately what the practice of yoga is trying to teach us after all.
This past December, I decided to pack up my belongings after nearly five years of living on the East Coast and head back to my home state of Arizona. While I was excited to finally be closer to my family and friends again (and no longer have to deal with brutal winters), one thing that did concern me a bit, which I will fully admit sounds rather silly, was leaving my yoga studio in New Jersey. It was a place where I worked; a place where I practiced; a place where I made great friends; and a place I had come to rely on for peace and clarity. I knew there would be other great yoga studios where I was headed in AZ, but I also knew they probably wouldn’t compare to the one I had grown such a strong affection for in Jersey.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and thus, this chapter of my life was quickly closing. I soaked up every last bit of yoga magic from the amazing instructors at my local studio, and promised myself that I would take their knowledge and instruction with me as I headed off on my new journey. I had worked really hard over the past few years to get to the place I was physically, spiritually and mentally, and I didn’t want to let that go, but I also knew that I would need to make some adjustments and adapt my practice to my new environment, and so, I made the commitment to myself to begin practicing yoga on my own.
As I mentioned before, this is definitely no easy task. It takes a little more effort to motivate yourself to roll out your mat when there’s no one else around. A little more persistence when your body doesn’t seem to want to perform a pose and you don’t have an instructor to help guide you. A little more self-reflection when trying to set an intention for your practice without the wise words of a yoga guru to inspire you. But all of that said, it can also be just as gratifying at the end of your practice when you bring your palms together at your heart and bow your head.
There are many reasons yogis begin an at-home practice. For some, they may just be trying to learn the basics before stepping foot into a studio; for others, they may enjoy the freedom that comes from practicing on their own — whenever, wherever, and however they wish; and then there’s those, such as myself, that may just be in the middle of a transition, trying to make do until they find a new studio to call “home.”
Whatever your reason is, there are definitely a few good tips and tricks to help you stick to your at-home practice. The steps below have helped me on my yoga journey, and it’s my hope that they potentially help guide you too.
1. Set a time and stick to it
Finding a time that works for you is key to maintaining a consistent yoga practice. Even if that means waking up a little earlier each morning, or squeezing in some sun salutations on your lunch break (if you’re lucky enough to work from home that is), finding a time that works for you and making it a point to stick to it makes a world of difference.
2. Create a sanctuary
OK, this one is still a work in progress for me (note the T.V.), but having a designated “yoga spot” in or around your home can really help you zone in to your zen. Create a space that’s just for you, and use your surroundings to help guide your practice. For example, I always set my mat up next to a wall so that I can incorporate more inversions into my practice without the fear of falling over. I love using the wall to help with my handstands!
3. Pick a playlist
I’m all about cranking up the tunes when I practice, and one of my favorite parts about practicing at home is that I get to pick and choose my playlist. There are no rules when it comes to music and yoga, so whichever songs pump you up, inspire you, or calm your mind, add those to your “yoga playlist,” let go, and flow!
Here are some of my favorite yoga jams:
“People Get Ready” by Eva Cassidy
“I Hope” by Dixie Chicks
“Set the World on Fire” by Britt Nicole
“Brave” by Sara Bareilles
“I Lived” by OneRepublic
“Soulshine” by The Allman Brothers Band
“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman
“Tell You Something” by Alicia Keys
“How Long Will I Love You” by Ellie Goulding
“Diamonds in the Sun” by Girish
4. Have the essentials on hand
A quality yoga mat, block and strap are really all you need to start practicing, and even better news is, you can find good quality ones for relatively cheap.
Check out these links for all your yoga prop needs:
The best mat for your buck — Lululemon’s The Mat
Building blocks for your practice — Life and Lengthen Yoga Block
A Strap to help stretch — No Limits Stretching Strap
5. Begin with a basic template
While I’m all about switching up my sequences each time I practice, there are some good fundamentals to use as a basic template. For example, I make sure to start with some simple stretches, then move on to traditional sun salutations, followed by a few more creative sequences, standing postures, inversions, back bends, and of course, winding down with some more nurturing poses and meditation.
Check out the links below to learn some basic yoga poses and sequences:
6. Use your resources
Some days are harder than others when it comes to motivating yourself to practice. On those days, I turn to apps and/or websites that offer yoga classes. There are so many great resources online, many of which are free or offered for a low monthly payment. So if you’re stuck in a bit of a yoga rut, try doing a quick google search and see what you find — you may be pleasantly surprised!
Here are a few of my go-to yoga sites:
7. Choose a challenge pose
I’m a big fan of finding what I like to call some “Yogaspiration” before I begin my practice. This basically consists of me doing a quick Instagram or Pinterest snoop of yoga poses and deciding which I’d like to add to my bucket list. I usually don’t nail the pose on my first attempt, or second or third for that matter, but it’s fun to get some inspiration from other yogis, and challenge my body by incorporating new moves in my practice.
My current challenge pose (seriously, how in the world?!).
8. Set an intention
It’s so important to set an intention at the beginning of each and every practice — even if that intention is to simply clear your mind of all those things currently stressing you out. I begin each practice with a few minutes of seated meditation where I try to calm my mind, focus in on my breath, and set my intention. Lately my intention has been to be more grateful for all that I have, and more patient when waiting for things to come to pass. But whatever it is that you’re needing or feeling, take a few moments to focus in on it, and then dedicate the remainder of your practice to that intention.
9. Make sure to meditate
Savasana is the most important part of your yoga practice. Everything we do in class up until that point is in preparation for our final relaxation posture. Make sure to take those 5-10 minutes at the end of your practice to just lay there in stillness, thanking your mind, body, and soul for all the hard work it just did. It is at this point, when you are just laying still, that you are able to absorb all the benefits and clarity that come along with practicing yoga — don’t rob yourself of this goodness!
10. Treat yourself to a studio class
No matter how seasoned of a yogi you are, you can always benefit from taking a studio class, so make an effort to switch up your practice by going to one every now and then. If you’re low on doe and have been practicing at home to save some funds (totally been there), most studios offer a weekly donation-based class or $5 drop-ins once a week. Do a little research and see what you can find (pro tip: Lululemon offers free in-store classes on the weekends with local instructors in your area). After all, there’s nothing that compares to practicing with other like-minded people who love yoga as much as you do!