When the world is devoid of balance and chill, yoga is essential.
Let’s talk about doing yoga at home. I don’t know about you, but for me the sheltering-in-place and social distancing we’re practicing because of the coronavirus pandemic makes me feel like we’ve dropped into an alternate reality. In some ways it feels like this global crisis is shining a spotlight on all of our cracks and fissures, both in society and within ourselves.
But the general chaos of the world is why, to me, this whole situation is kind of an ideal time to begin a yoga practice—because it might just help you find the inner balance required to survive this era of upheaval. Yoga helps us find balance and chill within ourselves when those qualities are in short supply in our environments. Plus, it can be adapted for every body type and lifestyle. And you don’t need to buy special clothes or even leave your house. Plus: If other fitness practices, like running or at-home workouts, are saving your quarantine life, yoga will be an invaluable accompaniment to the good vibes they’re already bestowing.
If you regularly went out to yoga classes before the pandemic, a home yoga practice is a must because it will help you sustain a yoga practice long term. I’m actually a proponent of having a home practice in general, because otherwise it can be all too easy to rely on one specific teacher, studio, or philosophy to hold down your practice. And when that happens, if something changes in your life (perhaps like a global pandemic requiring mass shelter-at-home rules mandated by the state), it becomes much easier to let your yoga practice slide to the back burner. But the practice of doing yoga at home can rock and shift with the curvatures of your lifestyle no matter what’s going on.
Here’s how to get started, whether you’re brand-new to yoga or have been practicing in classes and studios.
1. Start with five minutes, five poses, or five counts of breath work
There’s no minimum required duration for practicing yoga, and every breath counts. Particularly if you’re feeling nervous about getting started, try not to bite off more than you can chew. Instead of making a huge time commitment right off the bat, start by making small, sustainable commitments.
You can also start by committing to practicing just one pose and let things grow organically from there. Let your body tell you how much it wants to move. Even if you’re used to 45-minute or hour-long workout or yoga classes, there’s no need to commit to more than a 20-minute online class (or doing 20 minutes of a longer class) if that’s what makes you feel good. As my sis Adriene Mishler says, “Find what feels good.”
2. Check in on your alignment as you go
If you’re new to yoga or new to practicing on your own, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting into positions that are safe. Don’t be afraid to rewind or pause an online class so you can take a second look at what your teacher is doing. If you’re flowing on your own without an online class, cross-reference your postures with books, websites like Yoga Journal’s Pose Library, and YouTube tutorials by teachers like Kino Macgregor.
3. Use stuff around the house as accessories
If you don’t have a yoga mat, don’t worry about it. If you’re short on cash, a beach towel can suffice until you can get a cheap mat. If you need extra traction on your cheap mat, throw a towel on top of it. My first yoga mat was my dad’s old threadbare Pilates mat, and I made that bad boy work for years.
You can make yoga props out of whatever you have handy. For instance, my first yoga block was a Star Wars VHS box set and my first yoga strap was my dog’s leash. Couch cushions are a good stand-in for yoga bolsters if you’ve got ’em handy.
You don’t need to buy special clothes—just find something that you can move in comfortably. And if you’re at home, don’t be afraid to practice naked.
4. If your practice sticks and you want to continue, plan to treat yourself to some accessories or apparel
Although you can make yoga props out of literally anything, the longer you practice, the more you’re gonna want to invest in quality products. (In my opinion, there’s nothing more annoying than falling on my face because I’m sweating my balls off and my yoga mat can’t take the pressure.) I’ve accumulated my props over time, and I always look for gear that’s more ecologically sound and geared toward diverse bodies. My favorite yoga block is Manduka’s Unblok recycled-foam yoga block ($24, Manduka), and I love Yoga Hustle’s straps ($16, Yoga Hustle).
It’s kind of an annoying reality, but I do think good yoga mats are generally expensive and bad yoga mats are generally cheap. And if you’re fat and/or tall, you might eventually crave a mat that’s built to accommodate your size. Personally, I use the Jade Yoga XW Fusion mat ($180, Jade Yoga), and I can’t recommend it highly enough; it’s expensive as fuck but worth every penny.
5. Try online classes even if you already have a home yoga practice
Even if you regularly practice yoga and have a knowledge of postures, the whole point of practicing is to turn off your mind, and that can be hard to do if you’re constantly mentally sequencing your own flows.
As time goes on, you’ll build up an internal encyclopedia of yogic knowledge, and organically sequencing postures will start to feel more natural. But even after that day comes, it’s helpful to leave the sequencing to online teachers and allow their words to guide you to the teacher within.
The experiences of learning from a teacher in a studio and learning from a teacher at home are not all that different. Sure, there’s no one there to tell you if you’re practicing the postures incorrectly, but even in the best IRL classes your teacher won’t always be able to give you personalized attention. Plus, sometimes personalized attention can be majorly distracting to your practice. Especially if you’re like me and have difficulty receiving criticism about your body.
In my opinion, online classes are much more low pressure than IRL classes. In online classes you’re not distracted by the other practitioners in the room. You’re not concerned with what anyone else thinks. You don’t have to strain to hear the teacher depending on your mat’s location, and you don’t have your view of the teacher obstructed by other students. You don’t even have to find childcare, because your kids can join you on the mat.
6. Know that every moment you spend building a home yoga practice will strengthen the other parts of your life
Your home practice will make it much easier to experiment with other fitness practices because you’ll have gained the confidence that comes from connecting to your most true and important teacher—the one who resides inside of you.
For me, yoga is the only way to handle this type of crisis. No matter what other exercise program we choose, yoga fills in the gaps and helps us stay afloat when life seems too bananas for words.
The calm you’re seeking already exists inside of you.