Health + Wellness,  Self Care

developing a pandemic-proof home yoga practice

Back in March, when my local yoga studio closed, at first I resisted developing a home yoga practice. I figured the studios would re-open soon and I’d just wait it out. But by April, I found that I was really missing the practice and benefits of regularly going to my mat, and before I knew it I’d set up a home yoga studio in my bedroom.

Yoga has the benefit of being flexible, mobile, and truly accessible to anybody – and any body. With many studios offering more virtual options than ever before, now may be the perfect time to develop your own centering, nurturing yoga practice at home.

Related: here’s everything you need for your own home yoga studio.

My local yoga studio is currently operating 100% remotely, and while I miss many things about the in-person aspects of a studio practice, I have to say I have really benefitted from the different pace and sensibility of a home practice. I know it’s something I’ll carry with me and lean on in the future, even when the world opens up again.

Why practice yoga at home?

Yes, there can be a lot of distractions and obstacles to establishing a solid yoga practice at home, but there are a lot of great things about it, too:

  • There’s zero drive time. Even though I live really close to my yoga studio, getting my stuff in my car, driving there, parking, getting my stuff OUT of my car, walking from the parking lot to the studio, and then settling in on my mat for a few minutes before class started usually added at least ten or fifteen minutes to the whole process (on both sides.) Now, as long as my space is set up ahead of time, I can easily jump on a meeting that’s set to end just a few minutes before class and still make it on time. There’s also no excuse for me not to make it to class, since my mat is literally at the foot end of my bed.
  • It’s COVID-safe and mask-free. When it was briefly open this summer and fall, our studio was serious about masking, distancing, and sanitizing. I appreciated their vigilance, but I won’t lie – practicing in a mask was kind of a bummer. I love knowing that I can breathe freely through a challenging class, mask-free, in the privacy of my home.
  • There’s a bit more anonymity. The energy, personalized instruction and accountability of an in-person yoga class is special. But there is something about being surrounded by a lot of other people while I practice that has sometimes made me a bit wary of trying classes I know will be particularly challenging or unfamiliar. Virtual, in-real-time yoga classes offer similar accountability to an in-person class, since I have to sign up ahead of time and commit to being there – but there’s something about being in my own space, only visible through my computer’s camera, that takes that “I’m on display” anxiety down a notch.
  • Virtual yoga classes are surprisingly beginner-friendly. On that note, there’s no need to balk at virtual classes if you’re a newbie – in fact, it may be the lowest-pressure way to start and get your bearings. “If you’re brand-new to yoga and want to jump into a class setting, I recommend just doing it,” Brooke Margherone, owner of Yoga Life, told me. She recommends you start with a slower paced class, and don’t worry about doing everything – it’s totally fine to watch and learn. “I normally tell brand-new students that if they need to observe the majority of the class just to understand the flow and the lingo, that’s fine!”
  • It’s just so easy. There’s no need to pack a bag, scrape ice off your car, or carry stuff across town, or go anywhere. Whenever you need it, your home yoga studio is right there waiting for you.

How to get started with your home yoga practice

  • Choose your space. Where in your home you’ll practice is something worth considering. After thinking through factors like privacy, lighting, distance from the rest of my family and other distractions, and enough room to spread out, I settled on a spot right in my bedroom (bonus: my bed is a great substitute for a wall during “legs up the wall” pose). I like having one consistent space for my practice, but it may make more sense for you to move around your home depending on what’s going on in your house on any given day.
  • Set up your space. All you really need to do yoga is yourself, but props and other scene-setters really do help create a mood and can also make certain poses and modifications more manageable for your body. Check out my article on creating a home yoga studio for my mat recommendations plus a list of props and other add-ons to consider.
  • Think about camera placement. If you’ll be doing a “live” virtual yoga class and intend to have your camera turned on, it’s worth thinking through where you’ll place it. You’ll want to make sure you can see what’s going on if you need to, and if you’re hoping for personalized feedback during class, your yoga instructor may have a preference for how and where you place your camera. (This isn’t something I’ve worried about too much as my space really doesn’t allow too much flexibility, but I do make sure I’m far enough away from the camera that I’m not coming through as just an enormous head – or butt – on screen.)

Choosing an instructor or program:

Whether you’ve practiced lots in the past or are brand-new to yoga, a home practice is a great opportunity to build skills and knowledge or perhaps explore new yoga philosophies and instructional methods. Here are some possible ways to

  • Yoga podcasts & audio classes: Since I’ve been practicing a while, audio yoga classes work well for me because I typically don’t need to see the posture – the description is typically enough to jog my memory and guide me through the practice. In fact, I kind of like not having to worry about craning my neck to look at an instructor while doing shorter practices, and just focusing on my own practice. If you’re a beginner, I’d recommend something more visual until you understand the basics.
  • Pre-recorded video: I love having access to short, on-demand video classes for those times when I just have twenty minutes to spare or have a really specific aim, like opening one body part or working on a skill. Glo (previously YogaGlo) offers a wide variety of video courses that can be filtered by length, target area, type and more.
  • Live, virtual video courses: For my regular, ongoing practice, my biggest vote of confidence goes to my home studio, which has been nurturing my love of yoga all along and has really stepped up to offer safe, individualized options during COVID-19. If you have a quality studio in your community, check in to see what home-practice options they’re offering right now. Or, come practice with me! The great thing about virtual classes is that your studio can be around the corner – or across the country! – and you can still get a similar personalized experience to what you’d receive in person.

The takeaway? Whether you’re a longtime yogi dragging your feet on embracing the at-home experience or a brand-new beginner, find the path of least resistance and give it a shot. Right now, self-care is more important than ever, and your home yoga practice is a great way to stay centered, grounded and calm for whatever 2021 throws at you.

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