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How to get started with a home yoga practice

I was recently asked by someone in my yoga class if I practiced yoga every day.

My answer was yes, but then I began to feel rather conscious of how that might come across.

I felt the need to explain more about what my daily practice looks like. The last thing I wanted was to portray an image that seemed unachievable.

It was almost as though by saying I practiced every day, I was painting this picture of me getting up at 5am, quietly meditating then continuing with my physical practice for a solid 60 minutes each day. Finishing off with a 15 minute savasana and a green juice.

In reality my yoga practice is often short, I often do 10 minutes here and there throughout the day. Sometimes I get on my yoga mat and sometimes I find time to sit and focus on breathing with my eyes closed. My yoga fits around my life, my job and mostly around the life of my 2 year old son. And this is the important aspect that I’d like to portray. Yoga can be part of your daily life without it feeling too difficult to find the time. I think the difficult bit is knowing where to start.

So here are my top tips for getting started with a home yoga practice.

Grab yourself a bit of paper and a pen because first we need to plan this out…

1. Where will you practice?

Thinking about your home, where could you make space for a yoga mat or a cushion to sit on for a seated meditation. Try and write down a couple of options because what happens if your family happen to be taking up space in your chosen area when you decide you want/need to do some yoga. In my house I practice at the side of my bed, at the back of the living room and in the kitchen. I’ve also done some gentle stretching sitting on the bathroom floor during my son’s bath time – so be creative in your choices. Now you’ve found space, when could you make space during your day to practice your yoga. Remember it doesn’t have to be a certain time each day or any specific length. Perhaps there is 10 mins in the morning you could allocate just to you, before everyone else gets out of bed. What about some breathing and meditation in the car whilst waiting at the school gates. Or could you go to bed a little early and roll out your mat beside your bed – that’s my favourite place at the moment. You can also move, stretch and practice your favourite poses while waiting for the dinner to cook. You don’t always need total silence or a sacred place. Sometimes it’s good just to stretch out and move around while doing something else.

2. What does your body need?

Now put the paper away as you’re ready to step onto the mat. Now that I’ve been practising a while I instinctively know what I’m going to do on the mat. So let me help you get started. I don’t necessarily plan it out before hand but I just begin to move in a way that feels right and good for my body. Sometimes I might try out a sequence I’ve seen on social media or just work into an area of my body that feels tight or sore. Next time you are in class, try to remember a few poses that felt good on your body. Spend the week in-between your class, practising just those couple of poses. You can do them in any order and they don’t have to flow. These beginning steps are just about making space and time. 

3. Create a beginning, middle and an end to your practice. 

By segmenting your practice into 3 sections you will help yourself to a) stay on the mat long enough to feel better and b) provide yourself with a useful structure which you can build upon. So here is your basic yoga menu:

– To start…sit, stand or lie down and begin to notice your own breathing. Close the eyes and settle your mind and body. Add in some gentle stretches, like hamstrings or neck rolls. Try to concentrate on where in your body needs a little TLC.

– For the main course – here’s where you can practice those poses you liked in class. Try counting your breaths in your poses to focus your mind on something. Maybe repeat each pose 2-3 times and take time in between to notice how you feel.

-For afters – probably the most important and ‘tasty’ part of your yoga meal is the relaxation at the end. It’s easy to jump straight up and back into your life but this bit is really really important. This is your body’s time to reset. If you struggle to stay put for any length of time, use your phones timer and set it for 5 minutes.

So that’s it right there…your own guide to creating a home practice. 

If you’d like to delve a little deeper into the art of creating a home practice sign up below and you’ll be the first to know about a new one off workshop I’ll be running in the Spring.

During the workshop we will talk about the key elements you can include in your practice and I’ll share with you my 5 stage secret recipe that I use when I plan my classes.

Sign up here

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Don’t just sit there and accept the aches and pains.

We are constantly being reminded to accept the way our body looks and thats a good thing. But what about accepting the way it feels?

Should you accept that?

What if your body has aches or pains that seem to always be there. You don’t have to accept that.

We’re all getting older and with that we seem conditioned to accept that our bodies will experience certain aches and pains.

Now I don’t believe that those aches and pains are just because we’re ageing. It’s true that the two are happening at the same time – ageing and aching – but what if you could help prevent and ease them a little*?

This is where the practice of safe and sustainable yoga poses can really help. By working on developing stability and mobility in the body you can begin to gain control over your body’s function. But what can you do at home to help you today?

I think its very easy to become disconnected with what we need for our physical body. Perhaps choosing to rest on a sofa of an evening rather than sitting on the floor for some gentle stretching. When you think about it, it starts to make sense that if you’ve spent all day sitting at a desk you might be better off doing something counteractive when you get home, otherwise your muscles will start to think that your natural position is sitting and adapt accordingly. And if your body gets so used to sitting, what happens when you ask it to walk, run or play sport. That’s when the aches and pains occurs. Your body just isn’t prepared for that kind of activity. Plus don’t forget the strain that repetitive movement can have on your body. Unfortunately our bodies adapt to the movements we do the most which means we end up with imbalances and weaknesses if we don’t use our bodies in all of the possible ways.

Our bodies – the joints, the muscles and all of the other bits in-between – have so many different uses and functions that if we want to make the most of them we need to keep using them.

So how could you make a small difference today? Here are 3 ways you can help to take care of your body and help ease those aches and pains:

1 – BREATHE – In yogic terms, breathing brings in prana (new energy) and gets rid of apana (negative energy.) In scientific terms you are transporting vital oxygen to your cells and tissues. Breathing helps us to use the body in the way it was designed by promoting good posture and releasing muscle tension. So either way its a vital function for us to focus on. Begin by finding a comfortable seated position, ideally supporting your own weight rather than on a sofa. Close your eyes and focus on the natural rhythm of your breath. As you inhale, feel the rib cage expanding, filling up the lungs all of the way to the tops of your shoulders. As you exhale, take your time to let the breath leave your body. Count your breaths. Be purposeful about the time you set aside. Try sitting for 10 breaths and see how you feel afterwards. The great thing about breathing is that you can do it anywhere – on the train, in the office, even while your toddler is having a tantrum (i’d highly recommend this if you do have small people to look after!)

2 – MOVE – Each of our joints enables our muscles and bones to move in a variety of ways. So keeping them moving keeps everything working and ensures the body is more prepared when you ask it to move in a  certain way. Focus on making circle motions with each of your joints in turn. Start with the neck, then shoulders, your wrists then your ankles. As you move be mindful. Notice how the body feels. Think about the types of movements you do regularly, which parts of your body is used the most and spend time each day moving that area. Be creative, explore how your body can actually move and try and do it as often as you can.

Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash

3 – RELAX – Never underestimate the power of savasana – the part of the yoga class where you get to lie down. Now you might think that this is counterintuitive to getting you moving but the practise of savasana or corpse pose at the end of class is valuable to your physical AND mental health. Just 5 minutes of purposeful rest can make the world of difference to your nervous system. It also provides a useful space to scan your whole body to see how its feeling. Where feels good and where needs some more attention. Use this time to focus inwardly on yourself. And if you struggle with staying still on your own, try setting a timer on your phone. Set it for 5 minutes and promise yourself that you will stay put for the whole time.

Most importantly of all…don’t just sit there…MOVE!

*I’m talking about the low level, niggly sort of pains rather than those serious ‘you should go to the doctor’ sort of pains. For that I’m not qualified to talk about. I am just a yoga teacher after all.

If you’re looking for a regular yoga practice that focuses on functional movement then come along to my Tuesday night class. Or try out my monthly yoga club for two hours of focused yoga movement.