Yoga Practice at Home
While attending a yoga class once a week is much better than not doing any yoga at all, it is not really enough. Success with yoga comes from regular and sustained practice. Ideally we should practice yoga every day, even if it is for just a few minutes.
There will be days when you do not have the opportunity to attend a yoga class or do a long yoga session at home: at such times it is helpful to remembering that yoga is essentially a spiritual practice, designed to help us connect with ourselves and with everything else. On such days, just spend a few quiet moments taking your attention inwards and connecting with your inner self.
Yoga does not have rigid rules that we are forced to follow; instead we have suggestions and guidelines based on sound principles.
- If you can, try to set aside a few minutes each day for yoga. Early morning (after a shower) or in the evening before dinner are good times.
- Allow at least 3 hours after a heavy meal or 2 hours after a light meal before your session.
- Empty the bladder (and bowels if possible) beforehand.
- Practise in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and where you have access to fresh air.
- Use your mat (and blocks or cushions as necessary).
- Wear loose, comfortable clothes.
During the Session
- Always listen to your body: we work with our body, not against it and we never force it into positions of pain or extreme discomfort. Whenever in doubt, come out gently. Some of the poses listed below may require many years of development under the guidance of a teacher before you are ready to attempt them on your own; and some poses may not be available to you at all. Do listen to the body with compassion and do what you can, without feeling the need to “achieve” anything.
- Keep breathing smoothly and steadily through the nose (unless the particular practice requires you to breathe from the mouth).
- As a general rule of thumb, we breathe in when moving into a posture and breathe out as we relax in the posture; we breathe in during backward bends and breathe out during forward bends. When in doubt, just listen to your body and follow its natural rhythm of breathing.
- Engage your mind totally into what you are doing – try not to let the mind wander.
- Do not become anxious about whether or not you have got a posture 100% correct. Your frame of mind is more important than achieving technical perfection – it is worth noting that all yoga practices are designed to bring about tranquillity in the mind.
A Typical Yoga Session
In a typical session we would start with a few moments of grounding (or relaxation) and limbering, followed by physical posture work (asanas). Towards the end we could consider incorporating some specific pranayama practices, followed by a few moments in meditation and relaxation.
Initial relaxation and grounding
Spend the first few minutes bringing the mind into the body and into the present moment to prepare for the impending practise. There are various positions available:
- Savasana or Corpse Pose, variation with legs in semi-supine.
- Seated, either in any of the cross-legged variations, or in Vajrasana, the Hero’s or Thunderbolt Pose.
- We can even consider relaxing and grounding ourselves in Tadasana, the Mountain Pose, provided our legs are not feeling tired.
Limbering & warming up
- Opening chest with deep breathing, opening toes, feet, ankles, hips, legs, fingers, hands, wrists, shoulders, neck, etc.
- Can also take the spine through gentle stretches in various directions.
This section deals mainly with the yoga that we do for our body. It is important to have a healthy body that is free from disease and pain so that it enables us to carry out our life’s duties and to achieve our life’s goals.
General guidelines are to perform the gentle ones before the more intense stretches, to follow a back bend with a countering forward bend and to balance out the stretches on both sides (eg a twist to the left should be followed by one to the right).
Various asanas are loosely categorised and listed below, in no specific order. If you can, then try to perform at least one asana from each category. These categories, or the asanas listed within them, are not exhaustive; they are there to offer suggestions for getting some balance in your session by mixing things up. If you don’t manage to do this in a single session then don’t worry, just do what you can.
- Forward Bends
Arched Cat, Extended Child (or Swan), Child, Seated Forward Bend, Standing Forward Bend, Full Wind Releasing Pose, Head-to-Knee, Downward Facing Dog, Dolphin, Rabbit (or Hare), Plough, Ostrich.
- Backward Bends
Inverted Cat, Sphinx, Cobra, Standing Backward Bend, Half Locust, Standing Half Locust, Pigeon, Upward Facing Dog, Bow, Bridge, Wheel, Camel.
Supine Twist (or Crocodile Twist), Twisted Cat, Seated Spinal Twist, Standing Twist, Twisted Lizard, Twisted Triangle, Twisted Warrior.
- Side Stretches
Palm, Triangle, Side Flank, Gate, Banana.
Mountain, Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Savasana, Most Seated Positions (Thunderbolt, Lotus, X-Legged).
- Balancing Poses
Tree, Natrajasana (Dancer) variations (eg Stork), Tiger, Seated Hand-Toe Holds, Standing Hand-Toe-Holds, Rabbit, Shoulderstand, Crow variations, Tripod, Side Plank, Flame (Deepasana), Extended Mountain, Half Moon (or Side-T), Folded-T, Raised Peacock.
Child & Extended Child, Standing Forward Bend, Downward Facing Dog, Rabbit, Legs-In-Air, Shoulderstand, Plough, Tripod, Dolphin, Bridge, Headstand (Classical and Tripod).
- Core Strength
Boat variations, Plank, Side Plank, Reverse Plank, Tiger, Raised Sphinx, Crow, Shoulderstand, Tripod, Supine Leg Raises, Locust variations.
It is important to spend some time relaxing and grounding ourselves before we get off our yoga mat. The best way to do this is to go into Savasana, although you may decide to end your session by being in a seated posture.
You can consider chanting “Om” and silently expressing your gratitude to the Universe. Observe how calm, peaceful and energised you feel and try to retain this state of mind for as long as you can after you finish your practice.
Prana is the vital life force flowing in us and pranayama techniques help us to control this energy. The main source of prana is air, which is why pranayama is commonly associated with breathing. Below are some of the pranayama exercises you could consider doing:
Full Yogic Breath, Mountain Breath, Trinity Breath, Rectangular Breathing, Ujjayi Breath, Square Breathing, Alternate Nostril Breath, Humming Bee, Stomach Cutting Breath, Kapalbhati.
If you have been performing energising pranayama, then ensure that you end your session with relaxing techniques, such as the Full Yogic Breaths.
Try to reserve a few minutes for meditation every day. Tune your mind towards aspects of the Divine, such as your favourite deity, the sound of ‘Om’, your breath, sounds from within and around you. You can also send some positive messages to yourself and to others; use visualisation if this helps. For more on Meditation, please go to the following section on our website: Meditation>