Sometimes going to a yoga class at a studio is more work than relaxation.
Between the time that it takes out of your day to drive there, the money that it costs to attend a class, and the possibility of a not-so-friendly yoga mat neighbor, you can leave the studio wondering why you’re more anxious after leaving than when you arrived!
I’d like to share 5 steps with you about how to make it easier to practice yoga at home.
1. Set an Alarm on Your Phone
Find a time that you can commit to your practice every day and set up an alarm on your phone to remind you.
Your practice can be as little as 5 minutes to start. As you start to notice the benefits from your practice, you will want to gradually work up to a longer practice time.
2. Find a Quiet Place
Hopefully, you have chosen a block of time when you can be alone, preferably with some peace and quiet. Try to return to the same spot everyday – which can be a whole room or just a space the size of a yoga mat. You’ll begin to find that your “spot” becomes a welcome retreat that you are excited to go to every day!
If you can’t find quiet, then feel free to put on some headphones with relaxing sounds or music from YouTube. I love to use ocean sounds – imagining that I am at the beach has such a calming effect for me!
3. Find a Comfortable Sitting Position
Although yogis are often portrayed in Lotus pose (shown at the right), yoga is so versatile that you can practice while sitting, standing, or lying down.
And make this work for YOUR body. If sitting on the floor is uncomfortable, try sitting on a pillow (or stack a couple up). Feel free to sit on a straight back chair. As your flexibility increases, your comfortable position will change as well.
4. Body & Breath Awareness
Close your eyes, and let your body sink down into the floor, chair or bed.
Start with feeling your feet, and with your exhale, let your feet relax. Move your awareness up your body – lower legs, knees, thighs, hips, belly, chest, neck, and head, using your exhales to breathe out any tension.
Once you finish with your body awareness, bring your attention to your breath. Notice the movement in your chest or shoulders as you inhale and exhale. Stay focused on your breath for 10-20 full cycles of breath (inhale and exhale = 1 full breath cycle).
Slowly open your eyes and bring your awareness back to the room.
Notice how you feel….
5. Mindful Movement
Movements you can do seated or lying down:
Start with gentle movements and concentrate on the feelings in your body and linking the movements with your breath.
~Wiggle your toes. Without judgement, notice how they bend and move. Maybe they even crack a little… and that’s ok.
~Point your toes towards the ground and flex your feet (raise your toes towards the sky). Maybe you feel a stretch across the top of your foot as you point and possibly feel a stretch on the back of your legs as you flex. Try this a couple times.
~Circle your ankles in one direction, and then the other.
~Circle your wrists as well.
~Inhale your shoulders up to your ears and exhale, releasing them back down. Try this 3-5 times.
~On an exhale, drop your right ear towards your right shoulder and stay there for a few breaths, noticing the stretch on the left side of your neck. Inhale back up to center when that feels complete.
~Next, take your left ear towards your left shoulder, again, staying for a couple breaths. Inhale back up to center, and take a couple deep breaths!
Movements you can do on HANDS & KNEES:
~Cat/Cow: Make sure that your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Spread your fingers wide and on your inhale, drop your belly and raise your chin. As you exhale, relax your neck down and round your back (like a Halloween cat!). Move with your own breath as slowly as you can – noticing what you feel.
For example, when I am in Cow pose, I feel a stretch across the front of my lower abdomen. When I am in Cat pose, I feel a stretch across my upper back. Remember, everyone’s body is shaped differently, and you may feel different sensations.
~Hip Circles: As you exhale, drop your hips back towards your heels (they do not have to touch). On an inhale, shift your body up towards your right fingers, then over towards your left fingers, and then hips back towards your heels. Try this a couple times in one direction, and then switch direction.
~Child’s pose: Drop your hips back towards your heels and rest your forehead to the ground or a blanket. Stay here for 3-5 full breath cycles.
Make your way up to standing….
Stretch tall and shake out your arms and legs.
Setting up a regular practice in your home can help you learn more about your body and how to release the tension that it stores from everyday stressors. It can help your mind release it’s focus on racing thoughts. And these, in turn, can help you sleep better. Enjoy!