Yoga classes are excellent places to learn the poses and sequences, to find the correct alignment for your body, and to find inspiration. But as renowned teacher Rodney Yee says*, “Without making it your own, yoga doesn’t mean anything. It’s just an exercise class.”
Your personal home practice, your mindful exploration of the poses, and through the poses your exploration of your breath, body and mind is what will make it your own. And this is where your deepest transformation will happen. This is where you will connect with your inner self, find peace of mind and heart, find insights and inspiration for your life. This is where the magic happens.
So you have the motivation, but now what? How do you create your own yoga practice at home without the aid of a teacher?
You could just follow a video or an online class. But, frankly, that’s not exactly making it your own, it’s still just another class and another teacher. I know from experience that you will learn the most about yoga and gain the most insights for your life if you follow your own inner teacher. That means creating your own personal yoga practice. It may seem intimidating, but it’s really not. And it gets easier the more you practice.
You absolutely CAN create your own personal yoga practice. Here is how you can do it.
OPTION 1 - Find inspiration from books, videos, sequences online. Then trust your inner teacher.
Read or watch the sequence, and then instead of just following, close your device or book and TRUST that what you remember is enough for today. This might mean starting with less, which is good. If you practice one or two poses each time, you will begin to develop a personal connection with them, and before you know it you will have a repertoire of poses to play with.
OPTION 2 - Get creative!
The beauty of practicing at home is that you are free to do whatever you want, whatever you need each day. There are no rules, no right or wrong way to do it. It’s all about what feels right for you in the moment. It’s about a sequence of poses, one after the other, moving as slow or fast as you feel like.
Here is a 4 step structure to use as the basis to create your sequence. Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be powerfully effective.
1-SET YOUR INTENTION
Close your eyes and turn inwards. Check in with your body and mind. How are you feeling today? How do you want to feel? What energy do you want to carry with you through the day? Then set your intention. Your intention is an affirmation of way you want to feel and it’s also about the higher vibration that you want to embody. This will help you to choose the poses you’d like to practice today. Carry your intention through your entire practice.
Even if you do the same sequence of poses each day, the feeling will change according to your intention.
2-BEGIN WITH YOUR BREATH
Arrive in your practice. Choose your starting pose: standing mountain pose, easy seated pose, or kneeling hero pose. Close your eyes, settle, and feel yourself grounded, sense the foundations of the pose where your body is in contact with the floor. Then bring your awareness to your breath. Your breath will be your anchor for the entire practice. Notice the flow of breath in and out of your body, notice the temperature, the texture, the rhythm. Just notice. Any time your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the breath. Now gently open your eyes. You have arrived.
3-BUILD YOUR SEQUENCE OF POSES
In the main body of your practice, you can choose from dozens of poses, and the sequence combinations are endless. There are forward bends and back bends, lateral bends and twists, extensions and inversions. Standing, seated and supine poses. To avoid getting confused, choose a few poses that feel connected to your intention.
Below is a selection poses you can choose from to build your sequence. You could choose one or two from each category, or focus on just one category. The order of the categories below is designed to move from preparatory poses to more dynamic poses and end with quiet and restful poses. But you can do them in any order you like.
Move through your practice with a sense of exploration by building an awareness of your body through each pose. While you are in any particular pose, stay present by scanning your awareness through your body, noticing any sensations as they arise. Notice the the different parts of the body required to move in and out of each pose and how they are connected. Notice the differences from side to side by pausing after each pose. Those sensations may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Don’t judge them. Just notice them. By noticing these sensations you will be experiencing each pose from a new perspective, almost as though you are experiencing them from the inside out. This is mindfulness yoga.
Poses for preparation, letting go, detoxifying
Great poses to start with are twists and gentle spinal movements such as cat/cow pose. These poses prepare you for more active forward and back beds, and also help to let things go (twists help to get your digestion moving, and also help us to let go of emotions and thoughts).
Dynamic free-flow of Sun Salutations
Sun salutations (surya namaskar) are a set sequence of poses that flow smoothly from one to the other following the rhythm of your inhale and exhale. They are an excellent way to warm up and get some energy flowing. There are a few variations, here are two of the easier options. The emphasis is on the movement from one pose to the next. Flow at your own comfortable speed, there is no rush to get anywhere. You can repeat this sequence 3-5 times, or as many as you like.
Poses that are strengthening, confidence-building
Extensions such as standing poses, downward facing dog and plank are excellent for building strength and confidence. These could be in the middle of your sequence, as the peak of your practice. Here are some examples to choose from. Stand tall and strong, embody these power poses with confidence.
Poses that are joyful, enthusiastic, fun to try
If you are looking to bring some joy and enthusiasm to your practice, challenge yourself with a fun standing pose, a heart-opening pose or even an inversion (such as a shoulder stand or hand stand - I don’t recommend headstand, I find it risky for the neck). If you are looking to bring some joy and playfulness into your practice today, get creative and try one of these - it doesn’t matter what it looks like! Nobody can see you. And what’s important is how you feel while doing it.
Poses that are calming, relaxing, and that promote clarity
Forward bends are excellent for creating length in the muscles of your back body, including hamstrings. If the forward bend feels too intense, feel free to bend your knees or support them on a block or a bolster. This category also includes some gentle back bends as counter poses. All of these poses can bring peace and a restful sense of calm. They also can promote introspection and insight.
4-END WITH SAVASANA
Every practice should end with this final resting pose, usually referred to by it's Sanskrit name, "savasana" (pronounced sha-VA-sana). Savasana is a meditative pose, with the whole body relaxed on the floor. At the same time, you are still awake and aware as you focus on the movement of your natural breath, the flow of oxygen in and out of your body. It’s also an opportunity to focus back on your intention, perhaps repeating it like a mantra. This pose allows you to fully release and let go, and consolidates all the work done during your practice. It is a vital pose for every practice. A practice without savasana is like mixing up a batch of cookies using the most delicious, high quality ingredients, but forgetting to bake them. Savasana is like baking in (consolidating) the benefits of your practice.
Sometimes, savasana is the only pose you need. It can be a practice in and of itself.
Now your body is rested, your mind is still, and you are ready for meditation, the perfect complement to your mindful yoga practice.
***BE SURE TO PRACTICE SAFELY***
You will have noted that there are no explanations of each pose here. We have explanations on our Practice page, with more coming soon. There are endless sources to explore each pose online. And I think books are an excellent way to learn. A short list of helpful books is below. Here are some links to help you practice safely:
Our mission at HUM is to inspire you and support you to embrace a daily home practice of yoga and meditation. Because we believe these are transformative practices that have the power to change the world. We have everything you need at HUM to help you create your home practice. Please explore our Collections, or go directly to the Practice Essentials.
Moving Toward Balance: 8 Weeks of Yoga, Rodney Yee
Insight Yoga, Sarah Powers
Yoga - The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, Erich Schiffman
Yin Yoga - Principles and Practice, Paul Grilley
*Yoga at Home, Linda Sparrowe
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