Starting a practice at home can be daunting! Whether you’ve taken some yoga classes before, or you have come across a few poses, practicing on your own is a different experience.
Thinking about where to start can be intimidating and then once you try a pose, you start to think about whether you’re doing it right and after you do that pose, you start to forget all of the poses you’ve learned. It happened to me in my first few years of practicing yoga, and I hear it over and over from my yoga students.
Don’t worry though, because we’re going to make an at-home yoga practice simple, describing knowledge needed to start, and poses to try at home.
Two Types of Yoga for Beginners
While there are over 10 types of well-known yoga styles, and there are new yoga styles being created regularly, hatha yoga and yin yoga are often introduced as beginner yoga classes. Hatha Yoga is a style of yoga that is often taught at a slower pace, and poses are held for a minute or so, rather than flowing from one posture to another after one breath, like in vinyasa yoga.
Practitioners take deep, calm breaths through the nose, while holding the pose, in order to increase flexibility and find tranquility in the pose. This practice is aimed to balance the body and mind. Yin Yoga, on the other hand, is made up of a lot more restorative yoga poses than hatha yoga.
While hatha yoga prepares you for more physically advanced yoga styles, yin yoga helps you recover from challenging yoga styles and also reminds you to relax. It is taught at an even slower pace than hatha yoga, where poses are held from 3 to 5 minutes in order to target the connective tissue, rather than work the muscles.
Also, most poses are taught at ground level, rather than focusing on standing and balancing poses.
Necessary Items for Your Practice
Before starting any yoga practice, it is important to be well hydrated, not have a full stomach, and it is recommended to have a vegetarian meal or small snack before doing yoga, so that you don’t feel weighed down.
Try having a smoothie an hour before to feel light yet satiated, or if you didn’t plan ahead, a fruit made up of simple sugars, like a banana, 20 minutes before class, so you’re not hungry.
To prepare for a hatha yoga class, it is important to have a yoga mat that will lie flat, and not roll up or move a lot when you’re practicing, which is common with cheaper yoga mats. Unless you sweat a lot, you don’t usually need a sweat-resistant mat for yoga nor a face towel, so that’s up to you.
Clothing should be flexible, so you can move your body easily through the poses, and you can choose to practice barefoot or wear grip socks, so that you don’t slip on the mat. It is also recommended to have two yoga blocks to help you balance or stretch into more challenging poses.
One of the nice traits about yoga is that you don’t need a lot of equipment or special gear, so you can practice pretty much anywhere.
Yin yoga can require slightly more equipment, but not by much. In addition to to yoga blocks, it’s beneficial to also have a couple yoga blankets, used to fold and put in spaces not filled by your body, and a yoga strap to help with flexibility and stability.
If you’re planning to do yin yoga with more restorative poses, you may like to invest in a bolster, which is nice to put under the trunk of the body or under the ankles in various poses. For yin yoga, you don’t need an expensive mat. Since you aren’t moving a lot, nor standing, even the cheaper mats will stay in place just fine. I also advise that you wear loose, comfortable clothing to further add to the relaxation of the practice.
Starting Poses for Hatha Yoga
Listed here are beginner-friendly poses you can do at home. You can practice the poses in this specific order, or you can practice them in a different order that feels right to your intuition.
Hatha Yoga doesn’t require a set sequence, because this practice is more focused on the individual poses, coming into them, and breathing consistently in the pose.
- Mountain Pose
Start in our natural, standing position. Next, make sure that your legs are shoulder width apart, and that your arms are by your side, with your shoulders relaxed. Straighten your spine if you haven’t already and tuck your pelvis inward. Look straight ahead or slightly look up with your eyes closed. Breathe here for 5 breaths.
- Downward Dog
Get down on your hands and knees, also known as “all fours.” From here, place your hands in front of you about 5 inches, and lift your knees, so that you are in a plank pose. From here, push back onto your heels, so that your bum is in the air, and your head is between your arms. After a few breaths, try to push back more on your heels, although it’s okay and common that they don’t touch the ground. Stay here for 3 more breaths.
- Forward Lunge
Start off in a kneeling position. From here, bring your left foot forward with your knee bent, and your hand grounded shoulder width apart. Straighten your right leg, so that you’re in a low lunge. Next, slowly brings your hands to your heart, take a breath, and then raise your arms up on the sides of your head, with your fingers spread wide. Take 5 breaths here and then switch sides.
- Locust Pose
Bring your belly onto the floor with your arms at your sides, and your legs together. On an inhale, bring your head, shoulders, and torso up, followed by your arms and your legs. Hold your breath here for 3 seconds and then let go, letting your body slowly come down to the ground. Repeat 2-4 more times.
- Child’s Pose
Start in a kneeling position, and then let your knees spread outward. Bring your torso down with your head resting on the ground, and your arms stretched out in front, close to your ears. Spread your fingers wide and ground your hands into the mat, focusing on putting pressure on your palm, pinky and pointer finger. Next, focus on trying to bring your bum close to your heels, stretching your spine.
Starting Poses for Yin Yoga
Let’s begin with the Supported Bridge pose.
- Supported Bridge Pose
Have a block nearby, and lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Next, bend your knees with your feet flat on the mat, legs completely parallel to each other. Lift your pelvis, placing a block on the lowest, or second lowest level on your lower back, supporting the top half of your bum. This should feel comfortable, so if the block seems to be poking you, the face of the block is too thin, or you need to adjust the block’s placement. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides and breathe deeply here.
- Supine Twist
Beginning flat on your back, bend the left knee with your left foot flat on the mat, and your right leg continued to be straight and relaxed. Start twisting over to the right, with your left knee over your right leg. If left your knee doesn’t reach the ground, place a block under your knee, so it can relax. If you want a deeper stretch, bring your knee up higher when you’re twisting. Breath here for a minute. After that, come back to center and switch sides.
- Seated Forward Fold
Come into a seated position, followed by bringing your legs out in front of you. Next, straighten your spine, lifting your arms up on and inhale, and then fold forward on an exhale. If the stretch in the back of your legs is too intense, you are welcome to bend your knees.
Also, be sure not to force yourself to touch your toes. If you need to constantly reach for your toes, you can strain your lower back, which will do you more damage than good. Let your arms fall where they may and try to go a centimeter deeper into the stretch after every few breaths.
- Sphinx Pose
Lie on your belly, with your legs close together. Place your arms out in front of you, bent, with your forearms flat on the mat and your gaze facing downward. Feel the light stretch in your lower back, and breath here for a minute or so.
- Supported Butterfly Pose
Sitting down, bring the soles of yourself feet together in front of you. Next, bring your feet closer to your groin, so you feel a stretch in your inner thighs. From here, put blocks under your knees, so that they can rest. Bring your hands into your ankles, stretch your spine vertically and breathe here.
Finishing Up Yoga with Meditation
After completing your yoga poses, it’s relaxing to end your practice with savasana and a short meditation. Savasana is when you lay on your back in a relaxed state with your eyes closed and shoulders rolled back for at least five minutes, focusing on slowly inhaling and exhaling.
Once you’ve finished savasana, you can roll to your side, and then come into a comfortable, seated position. Take a moment here to set an intention of how you want to feel for the rest of the day. Next, seal this intention with the sound of “aum,” inhaling through the nostrils, and then verbalizing “aum,” so that it vibrates in your mouth.
Take in another inhale through the nose and let out a big sigh, or “Lion’s breath.” Thank your inner self for going through this yoga practice and complete your practice when you’re ready.
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