So you’ve been going to a weekly yoga class for a while, you love that straight-outta-shavasana feeling, but aren’t sure how to get started at home. This article is for you! I’ll outline the basic equipment you might need, how to make sure you actually get on the mat, and what to do when you get there. Plus a few bonus pointers to mix things up and keep it interesting. I’ll focus on vinyasa flow yoga, as that’s what I teach. If you prefer yin or Iyengar yoga, you might want to invest in more props.
What equipment do I need?
Not a lot, to be honest. Whilst a yoga mat is not essential (unless you have carpet), a good sticky mat can really help your practice (especially for vinyasa flow yoga, where your hands can get a little sweaty and slippy). You don’t want to spend every downward-facing dog worrying that your hands are sliding on the floor …
You really can spend a whole lot of money on a yoga mat, and if you’re just starting out, it’s probably not necessary to spend more than about £20. I would avoid going to a sports shop as they rarely have anything that’s actually any good for yoga, and look online at somewhere like Yogamatters (I’m not making any money by featuring them, I just like what they’re about!).
Once you have maintained a regular practice for a while (maybe a few years) you might want to step it up to a stickier type of mat – Liforme is my mat of choice, but I only switched to that after practising for almost 20yrs on a regular sticky mat!
You may also want to get a block and / or a brick. Whilst not essential (and you could use a big book or a cushion), they can help with modifying poses (not just for beginners!).
I got a yoga mat, now what do I do with it?!
How you practice at home is a matter of choice, and how much you can remember from your weekly class. You might just want to start off with some sun salutations – next time you go to your class, really pay attention to the poses in the sun salutations, so you can take it back to your mat at home. Then each week maybe add in a new pose from your class.
If you want to have a longer home practice, or don’t trust yourself to remember much from your classes, you might want to get a DVD or use an online video. There are TONS to choose from. Being a bit old-school, I am a DVD-girl… I love Shiva Rea‘s DVDs (Fluid Power and Daily Energy are my favourites) – especially as she has a ‘yoga matrix’ where you can create your own practices made up of sections of her sequences, varying it according to how much time you have and your energy levels.
There are so many online videos, some are free (Yoga with Adrienne is a favourite) and some are sophisticated membership sites with top international teachers (Movement for Modern Life and YogaGlo are popular)
Another old-school (but still valid!) choice for your home practice is an audio CD. You don’t have the distraction of needing to have your eyes on the screen, and can make your practice more meditative. Lara Baumann does some good yoga practice CDs for beginners (although you can also download the video sequences).
You might want to practice yoga using a book. Whilst this is good for slow hatha styles, it’s not so good for vinyasa flow, as stopping to look at the book after every pose doesn’t keep the heat in the body. Books can be a great resource off the mat, however, and maybe I’ll do a blog post in the future about yoga books.
How to make sure you actually do some yoga
Whatever diary / planner you use, start scheduling your yoga home practice sessions. Whether you prefer getting up early and doing it before work, or in the evenings, you’re more likely to stick to your plans and actually do some yoga if you mark out the time in advance. Laying out your equipment the night before can also help.
How to keep it interesting
If you just use the same one DVD, online video, or few poses from your weekly class, things can get a little stale. Having a few videos that you rotate can keep it fresh. In the summer, you might want to take your mat out into the garden or on holiday with you. Also adding in things like a guided meditation or a yoga nidra recording at the end of your practice can step it up to the next level.
The main thing is to get started! You know all about the benefits of yoga and how great it makes you feel … in the words of the famous sportswear brand, JUST DO IT!