The best way to do yoga is regularly, even if you are a complete beginner.
It would be lovely to learn yoga in person from an experienced teacher, but for many reasons this might not always be possible. Sometimes experienced yoga students also find themselves with limited options. Perhaps there is a lack of experienced yoga teachers in your area, classes are too expensive, or you simply aren’t comfortable in a class situation.
The answer is to start doing yoga at home. It is possible to create and stick to a regular home practice if you make a plan that fits your life.The yoga you practice right now, right where you are, is the yoga that can change your life. And if you are a beginner with no experience on the mat, learning how to do yoga at home can improve your confidence and cultivate a deeper love for the practice. Here’s everything you need to know about how to start and learn yoga from the comfort of your home.
How to Start Doing Yoga at Home if You’re a Beginner
If you have little or no experience of yoga practice, it can be difficult to figure out how to get started. Here are some tips to help you take the first steps of your yoga journey.
If you are more experienced in yoga and already confident in choosing your yoga style and props, scroll on down for some helpful tips in the How to Create a Daily Yoga Practice section!
What you should know before starting yoga
You don’t need to know all the philosophy and history of yoga before you can do it, but you’ll be safer and happier in your practice if you have a basic understanding of yoga. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
- Yoga classes focus on the physical poses, but yoga practice can also include pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation practices, as well as a philosophy that guides the practitioner towards more inner awareness.
- Yoga is not a religion. It’s non-sectarian and practiced by people of many religions.
- Yoga poses should be adapted to benefit your body and your abilities. Your practice will look different to the next person’s practice.
- Yoga practices can range from gentle to very demanding.
- Yoga has risks, as does every physical activity. Don’t do too much too soon, and take precautions if you have pre-existing injuries or health conditions.
- Listening to your body will help you practice the yoga that’s right for you.
- You don’t need to buy all the props and special clothing. You can get started with things you probably already have.
Is yoga suitable for everyone?
Yoga can be for everyone but what each person does in their practice might vary greatly depending on individual factors such as their health, fitness, abilities and anatomy.
Researchers have asked thousands of people about injuries they might have experienced due to yoga. The conclusion from multiple studies is that yoga is no more safe and no less safe than other common forms of physical exercise.
Here are some points to keep in mind for a safe yoga practice:
- If you are very flexible, hyper-mobile, or have connective tissue conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome you should take great care. It’s very important to avoid overstretching, and to ensure you build the muscle strength needed to control and protect your joints.
- People with chronic health conditions such as glaucoma or high blood pressure should consult their doctors before practicing yoga. For these two conditions in particular, inversions (being upside down) and breath retentions (holding your breath) are not recommended.
- If you have a known injury or condition of concern, it’s wise to discuss this with an experienced teacher with a good knowledge of injury management and prevention. They can help you with ideas for modification of poses to suit you.
- Trying new things is wonderful, but asking your body to do too much of something new can lead to injury. Give your body time to learn and strengthen by practicing new things in small doses (for example, putting weight on the hands). This may take many weeks or months.
The best way for a beginner to start yoga at home
If it’s your first time, the best way to start yoga is from the very beginning. In other words, don’t get overly keen and attempt advanced poses before your body is able to do them safely. Remember, whether you are in a class or following written instructions or practicing along with a video, you can always stop whenever you need to.
1. Short lessons
Start practicing yoga at home with short sessions. Sun Salutations, also called Surya Namaskar, are a good starting point. There are many versions of Sun Salutations, which are a flowing series of movements and positions that are often used as a warm-up in longer sessions.
You can learn how to practice Sun Salutations in our Surya Namaskar step-by-step guide.
To learn more poses, you are welcome to visit our illustrated Yoga Asana Guide.
2. Introduce Pranayama
To add Pranayama to your practice, begin with simple breathing exercises. These are intended to increase your Prana, or life-force energy. The core of many breathing exercises is yogic breathing, which is a slow deep breath.
It takes practice to develop a smooth and flowing yogic breath. There are online breathwork training courses that can help you build a solid foundation in pranayama, but if you’d like to start right now, here is a simple breathing exercise you can easily incorporate into your daily home practice:
- Find a comfortable upright position so that your ribs are free to expand with your breath.
- Become aware of your natural breath, breathing slowly and quietly.
- Breathe more deeply, focusing on filling your lungs in three stages: expanding the lower abdomen, then the ribcage, and then upper chest right up to the throat.
- Exhale slowly by relaxing the belly, then the chest, then the upper chest and throat. Tuck the navel towards the spine to expel any remaining air from the lungs.
- You have completed one full yogic breath. Continue with a smooth flow of deep inhalation followed by full exhalation.
You can build on your Pranayama practice with more breathing exercises in Three Yogic Breathing Exercises.
What equipment do you need to do yoga at home?
There is no essential equipment needed to do yoga at home, but it’s important to have a space where you can practice poses without standing on or bumping into anything. That space could be the seat of your car for practicing breathing exercises, or a larger space with a flat floor for practicing most asanas.
There are a lot of clothing options for yoga, but special clothing is not vital. The monks who invented yoga often owned nothing but a loin cloth. You only need loose, comfortable clothing that allows you to breathe deeply, and move freely for the type of yoga you practice.
The extra items used to help with yoga practice are usually called props. Mats, blocks, pillows or bolsters, blankets and straps are the most useful yoga props. Often, household items can be used to substitute for store-bought props. You might find your personal practice uses some props regularly, and others not at all.
The greatest benefit of using props is to modify poses to suit your body, allowing you to practice new or challenging poses safely. They can also provide support where needed, so that poses can be held for longer in Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga.
Let’s look at the most commonly used props in yoga.
1. Yoga mats
A yoga mat gives you a stable, less slippery surface to practice on. It provides a little padding on a hard floor, and can be a cleaner option especially if you practice outdoors. A mat should be longer than you are tall, and wider than your shoulders.
The best thickness for a mat depends on your practice. A thinner mat is better for standing and balancing poses. A thicker mat is squishy underfoot, and therefore harder to balance on. However, if much of your practice is in sitting or lying, and your body appreciates some cushioning, then a thicker mat might suit you.
How to clean a yoga mat at home
Whether you practice your asanas at home or in the garden, overtime your yoga mat will accumulate dirt and other impurities. As you rest your face, hands and body on a yoga mat, it’s important to clean it regularly and ensure it’s free of bacteria and germs.
Here’s how you can clean a yoga at home naturally:
- Unroll your mat and place it on a flat surface outside.
- In a large bucket, mix together warm water and a few drops of soap.
- Take an old cloth or rag and dip it into the soapy water. Starting from the top, wipe down the mat and gradually work your way down to the bottom.
- Once you’ve wiped down the entire mat, take a wet cloth and remove the excess soap and dirty water.
- Dry the mat with a clean towel.
- Leave outside in a shaded spot to air dry for about 30-45 minutes.
Yoga mat alternatives
If you don’t have a yoga mat, there are plenty of other ways you can do yoga at home. You can use the floor, carpet, lawn, or beach. For some practices a bed is suitable, and there are entire yoga classes practiced sitting in chairs.
The key is to make sure your chosen surface is not too slippery or unstable, and is clear of loose items and anything that might injure you. Don’t attempt balancing poses on a surface that might not support you safely.
2. Yoga blocks
Blocks are used for support in a variety of poses, and can be very useful for beginners. There are many standing and sitting poses that ask you to place a hand on the floor, when perhaps your hand cannot reach the floor. Bridging the gap with a block allows you to practice the pose effectively.
Blocks can also be used under the feet, under the seat, or a multitude of other points that might need support. Blocks can be turned from side to side, or set on end, to create support at the most suitable height.
Yoga block alternatives
A piece of wood, brick, stool, cushion or aerobics step can all be used to bridge the gap on your mat. Make sure the item is stable, solid, and won’t shift unexpectedly or give you splinters.
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3. Yoga bolsters and pillows
A yoga bolster is a very firm cushion with a long cylinder shape. They are versatile, with a length able to support your torso while the firmness stops them flattening under body weight.
Like blocks, bolsters are useful for supporting the body and making poses more accessible.
Yoga bolster alternatives
Any large firm cushion makes a great yoga bolster. You can create a firmer pillow by stuffing two pillows side-by-side in one pillowcase, or you can roll up one or two large towels to create a firm cylinder.
4. Yoga blankets
Folded blankets or towels are often suggested when modifying yoga poses. They are used for support where something smaller than a block or bolster is needed, and they can also be used as cushioning under knees, hands or other weightbearing points.
Yoga blanket alternatives
If you do not have a yoga blanket, you can use any blanket or towel as added support during difficult poses.
5. Yoga straps
Straps give you a way to support body parts or bridge gaps in even more positions. They are often used to help in holding stretching poses, so that more muscles can relax and allow the stretch. They are also suggested in modifications when your hand is supposed to grip something it can’t reach - perhaps your foot, or your other hand behind your back.
Yoga strap alternatives
You can use a belt, scarf, tie, skipping rope, exercise band, towel or empty pillow case as a yoga strap - even a spare piece of clothing might work. If it’s long enough, sturdy, and you can hold it securely, you can experiment with using it as a strap.
How to choose the right yoga style as a beginner
There is an incredible variety of yoga styles available today. For beginners, attending a guided yoga class is the best way to get a feel for a particular style, and if you like it, enrolling in a yoga training course in person or online can help you take your practice a step further. But how do you decide which style is right for you?
To narrow it down, almost all of them fit into one of three general styles: Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga or Yin Yoga. Here’s a breakdown of each of these styles and how they might be suitable for your specific needs and intentions.
1. Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is the oldest style, and involves alternating between resting poses and challenging poses. It helps rebalance the nervous system and build strength and stamina. It isn’t intended to raise the heart rate, so although it can be quite challenging it isn’t a cardiovascular “workout”.
2. Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa Yoga focuses on flowing from one pose to the next, with each pose held more briefly than in Hatha Yoga. The faster movement raises breathing and heart rates, so Vinyasa offers a cardiovascular fitness benefit as well as building strength.
3. Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga features long holds that stimulate and release fascia, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system to decrease feelings of stress. Poses are usually held for about five minutes, often with the support of props - but Yin Yoga is meant to stretch and stimulate target areas, so these are not poses of complete comfort and relaxation.
For a more detailed explanation of the differences between these three styles, visit Which Yoga Style Fits Your Needs.
When considering what class is best for your practice, you might decide on Yin styles if your goal is relaxation and flexibility. Vinyasa classes might be suitable if you are looking for a more active fitness workout, and Hatha could be the answer if you want to increase strength and stamina while also benefiting from an element of Yin relaxation in the alternating poses.
A complication in choosing a yoga style is that individual teachers can make their classes quite different. It can be useful to talk with someone who has experience with the teacher, or read reviews online. Often, the only way to find out if a particular class and teacher suits you is to try it out.
Our easy Hatha Yoga class on YouTube is a great class for beginners. Give it a try!
How to Create a Home Yoga Practice - Beginner or Advanced
When you first find the inspiration or motivation to start a yoga practice, it might feel like something this good for you will be easy to keep practicing. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple.
New habits are hard to form, and easy to forget. It definitely helps if you set yourself up for success, and give yourself permission to get back on track blame-free every time you slip out of regular practice.
The first step to take is deciding what your daily yoga practice will look like, and how it will fit into your day. Five minutes, twenty minutes, or an hour? Morning, afternoon or evening? A physical asana practice, breathing exercises, or perhaps some study of yoga philosophy and how it might impact your wellbeing?
These choices must be based on your life and what you need. Yoga should serve you. Consider what elements of practice would help you most, and incorporate them into your routine in manageable doses.
How often should you do yoga?
A goal of 10 minutes to one hour per day, five to six days per week would be a sensible place for most people to start. Often, people set their expectations too high. They plan how much time they will spend each day, or how many times per day, and are discouraged when they aren’t able to meet that target. Discouraged people tend to give up.
Instead of setting a high target, set a more achievable one. Commit to doing something every day - but acknowledge that ‘something’ might be a walk or a few minutes of breathing exercises. It won’t always be a full asana practice.
Why should you do yoga every day?
For wellbeing, we need some time connecting with ourselves and with our body, every day. Many of us need to calm our nervous systems to deal with stress, others need to be uplifted to balance their low energy levels. To gain the most benefit to our health, it's important to allow ourselves some calming or uplifting exercise or practice every day.
Keep in mind that this daily practice does not have to be yoga asana every day. It could be breathing or meditation, or it could be a nice long walk. It doesn’t have to be yoga every time.
A second reason to set yourself up with a daily practice is that it helps turn your practice into a habit. It takes regularity to build a habit. I recommend you commit to integrating your practice into your daily routine on five to six days a week. Make a strict agreement with yourself that you’ll follow your new routine for three weeks.
After three weeks, you will have tasted what regular practice does for you, how it helps you feel better and how it serves you. You’ll adapt your practice to include the things that serve you best, at the times that integrate into your life most easily.
Your daily yoga practice should become something you want to do, using time you know is well spent improving your wellbeing.
Tips for sticking to a regular yoga practice at home
- Start small, so it’s easy instead of hard to fit into your day. The five minutes you will do is far more useful than the hour you never manage to fit in.
- Set a fixed time in your daily schedule. The length and time of day is up to you, but if it’s fixed in your mind and your calendar as a time to practice yoga, you are much more likely to commit to it.
- Acknowledge that your mind and body might be best served by allowing flexibility in your practice. If your schedule lists a challenging class when you need to calm yourself with breathing exercises, change your practice for that day.
- Commit to building your new habit by practicing it every day for three weeks.
- If you want to increase your daily commitment, breaking it into chunks might help. It’s hard to find a whole hour spare, but two half-hours might be doable.
- Increase your daily commitment in very small ways, so you can easily continue.
- Look for stray spaces in your schedule - breathing exercises while sitting in the car waiting for the kids is a classic.
- Team up with a friend - even if you are each practicing separately in your own homes. You won’t want to skip practice if you have a plan to chat with a friend about how you each felt during the class!
- When you slip out of your new practice habit, get back on track. Don’t beat yourself up, just start over. Today.
- Have patience. Building a habit takes time. Becoming comfortable with a new practice takes time. Building strength and stamina takes time.
How to Start and Maintain a Yoga Practice
Changing your daily routine is challenging, even when you are adding something wonderful that will serve you as yoga can.
Begin by considering what you hope to gain, and which elements of yoga will best provide those benefits. Add those elements into your daily schedule in small, manageable doses. Allow for variety and flexibility in your practice.
If yoga practice starts to feel like a time-consuming chore, reassess your practice plans. You might need to change styles, times, or the elements of yoga included in your practice.
Be kind and patient with yourself, and avoid comparing your progress to what you think others are doing.
Let yoga slide gently into your life as a support system.
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