Yoga At Home: Tips, Q&A, YouTube recs
Update: Since writing this post, many of our yoga studios have begun online classes. Including my yoga studio, Vayusha. I teach every Monday at 11am PST (2pm EST). It’s a “YINYASA” class, the first half of class is gentle movement and breathwork – second half yin yoga bliss out! My class is an ALL levels yoga class. You do not need to be flexible to do these classes. You also do not need yoga experience to do these classes. All you need is a mat, maybe a blanket/pillow – and your fine self! If you want to try it for a month, you can enjoy UNLIMITED classes for the first month for just $45 (Cdn funds). Link here to register.
Well, it took more than a year to write this, hopefully it’s worth the wait! It all started with this FB post.
I was a little shy to share a photo of myself doing yoga. My husband snapped a few pics and encouraged me to post them.
Outside of food, I’m rather private about my life I guess. I’m not one to share many selfies or a lot of personal photos, so sharing these felt awkward.
However yoga has become a larger part of my life, and I want to share how we can all bring a little yoga into our lives.
Yoga had a presence in my life many years ago. Not my own practice, but I remember my mother doing yoga poses when I was quite young.
Yoga wasn’t well understood then. It was rather fringe and ‘uncool’.
I remember my mother wearing leotards much like these, and striking similar poses. Unfortunately, yoga was mocked then, and as a child I had no interest in it.
It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered yoga for myself. I started doing some yoga videos (a là vhs, back in the day)!
It was still just an occasional thing for me, however, and at times felt foreign, like learning a new language.
When I was expecting our first daughter I noticed a flyer about pregnancy yoga while picking up produce from our local organics farm. I signed up, and also enrolled in yoga again with my subsequent pregnancies.
These yoga classes taught me more about the breath work, and focus and meditation, and also rest. It wasn’t the intense physical practice that many of us envision for yoga now.
Sure, there were poses that required strength and stretches that you felt the next day, but pregnancy yoga offered more. That yoga helped my breath work during labor, and also gave me something to tap into through other challenging times.
Exercise and fitness has been part of my life since my late teen years. I wasn’t a sporty child or particularly active in my youth, so I learned everything later on my own.
For many years I exercised at home, then at gyms. But once I began having children, I shifted to exercising primarily at home.
It was only natural that my yoga practice would also develop at home. I was already using videos, recordings, and later youtube videos to do things like step workouts, strength training, and rebounder workouts.
Going into my 40s, though, I began to tire of many of these workouts. I didn’t feel my body was benefitting from them as it had before.
Or perhaps mentally and emotionally I wasn’t benefitting and that reflected in my body.
Yoga picked up where all the other fitness left off. It offered more than just the movement, also incorporating breath, meditation, body awareness, and honoring our limits.
This past year I immersed myself more in yoga. It seems the more you do, the more you want to learn and explore.
Then, in the new year, I decided to commit to one of the 30-day programs offered on youtube. I’ve done them in other years, but never managed to finish during the 30 days. This time, I did.
Once the month of yoga was finished, I felt sad that it was over!
I enjoyed coming to my mat every day, even if for ten minutes. That’s when I realized I wanted to work more with yoga in my life.
Now, yoga is a daily practice for me, whether for a half-hour, hour, or ten minutes. Most days it is yoga at home. Some days in a studio, but most days at home.
I’ve only been going to a studio since the spring. It was part of my new year’s goals to take some yoga workshops and classes.
I’ve done two workshops and have a membership with the hot yoga studio. Going to a studio was intimidating for me. I imagined joining a class of very experienced yogis as if walking into a lululemon retreat.
Yes, my imagination got the better of me!
In face, the first workshop I was pleased to join women of all ages and fitness levels. The second workshop was a little different, more experienced yogis. However, it was a class that was designed to include yoga teachers.
Then, I began yin classes at a studio, and really loved them. The only challenge is that they were 75 minutes long. With commute time, that’s a large chunk of time to carve out of a morning.
Soon after, I bumped into a friend at my second home, and she asked if I’d ever done hot yoga. No!
Here’s the thing. The idea of hot yoga appealed to me. Warm. Yes!
But, again, I imagined joining a room of more experienced yogis and not being in the moment.
Wait! It was my new year’s commitment to explore classes.
So, I walked into a Sunday morning hot yoga class (which happened to be one of the busiest, eesh), and joined in. I loved it. I did not love how crowded the class was, but loved the experience.
This studio also offered a 60 minute Bikram class, which became one of my favorites. Why? It’s not weight-bearing on the wrists and elbows. No downward dogs. No chaturangas. No planks. The repeated focus of these poses in most classes causes writ and elbow grief for me.
Update: While I still like the wrists-free asana of Bikram, I have learned about the scandal surrounding Bikram. I can no longer promote his classes but can suggest you break out the asanas into your own home practice if needed.
Getting back to yoga at home…
This fall I’m registered for yoga teacher training (update: I am now a registered YTT200 yoga teacher) I’m excited and nervous all at once. Once I finish, I hope to share some regular short videos for yoga at home on youtube. I’ve already created a youtube channel, jump over to subscribe.
As with this post, I feel vulnerable creating a yoga youtube channel. It will share more of myself personally than with my vegan food channel. That will be part of my journey, I know, and I hope it will help you as well. So, I begin.
Yoga at Home: Benefits
- anytime (anywhere!): It’s your schedule, you can choose what time of day you want to practice. You can also choose where in your house – or outside. When we vacation in Osoyoos, I bring my ipad out to the grass and bliss out in sunshine yoga.
- affordable: Other than the cost of your wifi to access youtube or other online classes, yoga at home is pretty much free.
- yoga clothes optional: Practice in whatever clothing you like. Shorts, sweatpants, pjs! For me, I get in the ‘yoga vibe’ much more when I pull on my yoga pants. But, you don’t have to have an ample yoga wardrobe or spend that much money. Until I started going to a studio in recent months, I had just a couple pairs of yoga pants and sports bras. I will say I enjoy having more yoga items to wear now, especially well-fitting items, but getting started use whatever you are comfortable wearing.
- no commute time: When you practice at home, you don’t need to drive to a studio, looking for parking, or show up early to ensure you find your zen spot. Studio classes are typically an hour or more, so when you build in the time getting to and from, it adds at least another 30-45 minutes. Plus, I tend to do slightly shorter yoga practices at home, anywhere from 30-45 minutes. That often gives me what I need, and I save a lot of time.
- focus on areas/avoid areas: Do you have sore wrists? A persnickety knee? When you practice in a studio, you don’t often know what moves a class will involve (unless it’s a structured series like Bikram). That means you need to modify during class or rest it out in child’s pose or another posture. At home, you can search videos for styles and also to avoid areas. For instance, my elbows have become glitchy in recent years. Like a tennis elbow, but I call it mom elbow. 😆 On days when my elbows are feeling especially sensitive, I search for ‘wrist-free’ or ‘hands-free’ yoga. Bingo, classes that don’t involve downward dog or other postures where the arms are bearing weight.
Yoga At Home: Challenges
- no social connection: If you are someone that is motivated by a class setting or really enjoy partnering with friends for exercise, you may find yoga at home isolating. I’ve always exercised at home from cardio to strength-training, so I’m comfortable with this space.
- self-motivation: as I mentioned above, I’ve become quite accustomed to exercising at home, so I guess that discipline is quite ingrained now. Even when staying in hotels on occasion, I have done some yoga using a bath towel on the carpet in my room. Because as Lesley often says “some yoga is better than no yoga”! I will say that it’s easier for me to be motivated with yoga at home than other exercising I’ve done in the past. Because it’s more than exercise, and very enriching and nourishing. So, I encourage you to try it even if you feel self-motivation hasn’t worked for you with other fitness in the past.
- alignment issues: this is a fuzzy area because every body is different. As such, we will not have same posture, movement, or positions in poses. However, there are some alignment specifics that can be important if not essential in many areas, and we may miss these through yoga at home. Having said that, through all the studio classes I’ve been taking since the new year, I’ve only noticed a handful of instances where an instructor has assisted a class member with alignment. I expected to see teachers assisting participants more often. I gather that personal touch has become a delicate area now, so teachers generally offer verbal cues more than physical.
- home distractions: for anyone that has ever worked at home or worked out at home, you know there are always distractions – especially with children! With yoga, it can be especially challenging when you are in a pose or calm state and hear “mom, where is ____”, or “I’m telling mom!”, or “I’m done!“… along with the dog barking! We can view it as frustrating — or, use it as a tool to help us strengthen our focus. (Yeah, let’s go with that.)
Yoga At Home: YouTube channels I use
When I discovered Brett’s channel, I actually emailed her and said “how did I not find you on youtube before now?” I found Brett’s channel through Lesley Fightmaster’s videos (see below), as they were doing a video swap for their audiences. I immediately connected to Brett’s style. Over time, I’ve come to love her channel more and more, and it’s the one I use most often at this time.
What I love about Brett’s channel is that she is very diversified. She offers the swifter vinyasa flows, but also offers yin yoga, and other styles like kundalini and myofascial release. Her deep love for yoga and helping people along their journey shines through. A few months ago I joined Brett’s uplifted program. There’s a fee, but it might be worthwhile to you for yoga at home practice (it has been for me).
I went through a long phase using Lesley’s videos, and still use them. I love her smile and infectious energy that can draw you into the class. She ends every class with a quote and that really helps me zone down into the last resting pose before moving on with my day. I’d say most of her classes are swifter moving vinyasa flows, however she does offer other styles like restorative yoga as well.
I discovered Kassandra this past year. While she includes vinyasa flows, her focus is yin yoga. So for those of you looking for more restorative sessions, definitely check out her channel.
I believe there are only a few full videos on this channel (remainder are highlight videos), but there are two yin videos I quite love. When I want a shorter but very effective, soothing yin practice, I choose one of these two. These couple of videos have become a bit of a staple, hopefully Travis will upload more videos soon. (update: I recently did my yinyoga online training with Travis Eliot)
This is a channel I discovered earlier on. I think Esther was one of the first yoga ‘youtubers’. I tune into her channel for some shorter focused videos, such as core strength or working on specific poses. Many of the videos on this channel are short, so it’s a great place to tap into for home-based learning. I also really enjoy Esther’s very real presence, and how she brings students and other practitioners into the videos.
I used Sarah’s videos much more when I was beginning my yoga at home. Not because it’s a beginner’s channel, but because many of her videos are styled with shorter and longer lengths, well suited to beginners. I really enjoyed working on the shorter class, then trying the longer class. I also quite liked the background music and brightness of the videos, as well as the focus on “movement with breath”. I haven’t been using her videos as much lately, but definitely recommend her channel.
Not all yoga youtubers are women. Not all at-home yogis are women, either. I think men would enjoy some of these videos, but I also have used Tim’s videos many times.
Search yoga on youtube and you’ll find a slew of videos from Adriene. She is undoubtedly one of the most popular yoga instructors on youtube (if not the most). Adriene has a quirky yet sensible and practical approach to yoga, and really helps you feel welcome to yoga. I think my home practice really grew the most when I followed Adriene’s 30 days of yoga series. For at least the past three years, Adriene has done a 30-day program in the new year. I feel immersing yourself in a program like this (other yoga instructors also host programs like this in the new year), it can really help you connect with yoga at home in a new or deeper way.
The uploads to Annie’s channel aren’t as frequent, but Annie’s channel has some very lovely videos for yoga at home. I enjoy the pace of Annie’s flows, and her sequences. She has a steady, grounding presence.
There aren’t as many videos on this channel, but there is something very soothing about Paula’s voice, even in the more energetic vinyasa flows. I’ve enjoyed several of her videos, and encourage you to try them.
I must mention the Cosmic Kids Yoga channel for our wee ones to join yoga at home. Our youngest would often roll out a mat after I practiced and pick out a yoga routine. It’s really charming, and young children really gravitate to it. She now feels it’s ‘too kiddish”, so I’d say it’s a great channel for children from about 3 to 8 years.
As I mentioned, you can save money on clothing with a home yoga practice. A good yoga mat is important, however, and some props can be very useful. Here are a few I use myself:
Yoga Mat: I layer up my mats, using one on top of the other. Even when going to a studio I do this, rolling up two mats and toting to and from class. I need that padding for my knees and elbows, and just for comfort in any pose. I’m always surprised to see people using very thin mats – ouch! But every body is different, and while I love a good cushion, others prefer a thin mat. I picked up my mats locally, but if I were to buy another mat I’d look into these:
Clever Mat: It has some great reviews, wider and longer than many mats, and affordable.
Jade Harmony Mat: This is a more expensive mat, but has great reviews, and is made from natural rubber. Also, they plant a tree for every mat sold.
Gaiam Mat: This is one of the more well known brands, and it’s also quite affordable. Lifeforme Mat: This one’s an investment for sure, but has excellent reviews and I love the idea of alignment markers to assist with yoga at home.
While some may say this isn’t an essential yoga item, I feel it is. At one point, I never used them, and we can mistakenly think that using a yoga block (or other prop) is ‘slacking off’.
In fact, using a block or bolster or other prop in a position can assist you to open in areas where you need to, thereby improving the pose and also deepening your breath. It can also assist with balance, help you graduate through poses, and assist with tight areas.
A yoga block is also especially useful for restorative yoga. So don’t think it’s a sign of weakness to use one. How you use it will depend on the type of yoga you are doing, and your individual body (we are all built differently).
The most common blocks are foam and cork. Foam blocks are the most affordable, and also the type most often in yoga studios (at least in my experience). They are also lighter and softer on the body for restorative practice.
Cork blocks are more expensive and also more eco-friendly. They are firmer so better for balance poses requiring more stability. What do I have? Foam. I purchased them a few years back locally. They were inexpensive, and serve me quite well!
Yoga straps are quite inexpensive, so not a big expense for yoga at home. Still, if you don’t have one, a scarf or towel can often stand in to assist with stretching. I’ve had a yoga strap for many years, and use it occasionally for stretching but also use it to tie around my rolled yoga mats to keep them tidy and when I do tote them to a studio.
Yoga at Home Q&As
When I asked about this on facebook, I received a number of excellent questions. Some I’ve already addressed. Here are a few others:
Q. Do you meditate?
A: I do. In the mornings, before I start my day. It may be for only 5 minutes, and usually not more than 10-15. I do feel most yoga practices incorporate some meditation, yet a few minutes before starting the day is always helpful for me. That might be another post altogether!
Q: How long you been doing yoga? I’ve been off the mat for a decade and am trying to get back to it?
A: I started with pregnancy yoga way back, but didn’t do it regularly. I dabbled here and there, then about 5 years ago I started doing it more regularly at home. I do something just about every day. Not always long practice, and just five minutes if that’s all that’s available. But even that something makes a difference. I encourage you to find just 5-10 minutes to return to yoga rather than an hour class which can be challenging to fit in for many of us.
Q: I would love to practice Yoga but find it difficult to get started. Need a simple suggestions to get started.
A: Start with just 5-10 minutes a day. Rather than feeling overwhelmed with an hour-long or even half-hour practice, start with something that is very doable every day. You will feel good about showing up for yourself on the mat for those minutes, and it will develop into a habit. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it will become more of your norm, like getting a shower. Then, you can choose to build in longer practices here and there during the week. To find guidance for 5-10 minute practices, simply link to one of the suggested youtube channels above and go to their playlists. Most of the yoga youtubers classify their classes by length and style.
Q: I’ve been wanting to practice at a studio, but haven’t made the time for myself. I just may have to start setting an alarm everyday to get even 10 minutes in per day. How do you stay on track?
A: I think you’ve answered the question! As with the previous question, committing to even 10 minutes a day really can make a difference in your life. If you can find that sweet spot in the day that’s best for you (for me it’s morning, for you it might be lunch or before bed), make that your routine. Once you feel more connected to the practice, choose one day a week to go to a studio. Buy a set of classes rather than a monthly membership. Perhaps one day on the weekend, or one evening a week. That will give you some momentum with classes at a studio vs yoga at home. Combining the two has been wonderful for me.
Q: How can I do yoga, I’m not flexible!
A: You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. This may be the equivalent to protein in the vegan diet! Your flexibility will improve over time, and yoga is for everybody. There are beginner classes, and poses can be modified. I see people of all ages and yoga experience in the studio. This is one of the beautiful aspects of practicing yoga at home. You can build your practice and feel more confident before going to more intense levels of practice at home – or in studios.
Has this post helped you? It was a long one! It took me some time to gather my thoughts and plan for this post, so I truly hope it gives you a little yoga at home inspiration. Please share your thoughts here in the comments, and also any youtube recommendations you have.
Blessings… x Dreena
This post was originally published in July 2018 and updated for June 2020.