Updated: 4 days ago
How to set up your space and where to buy yoga props online, supporting small UK
Whether you've been doing yoga for ages or just started your journey, you will definitely benefit from a home practice. Classes on Zoom may already be a halfway house for you to reach this goal. My home practice has been there for me through the years and it changes with the seasons or with the day. It might be a full-on asana session or could be just making time for a few minutes stillness in a very busy schedule.
One of the benefits of doing yoga during the lockdown is that people have started to become more comfortable with doing yoga at home, either through Zoom, or following videos. The chances are that you have already created a quiet space for it in your home, a place where you can just be. I dream of having my own little studio. Maybe one day this will happen, and though I can stream classes from the living room of the cottage where I live, I have to move the furniture in order to access the open space and wooden floor. I do have a little altar where I have placed a Buddha and sometimes flowers, a candle or incense. You could also decorate your fire place if you have one.
I would not class myself as a Buddhist but I do follow Buddhist teachings on compassion, kindness and finding joy. My small statue is a reminder in the midst of our home. My other favourite is Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. My home yoga space is a room where I am never disturbed and I can sit in meditation and be at peace. I return to the same space where I have room to unfurl the mat, listen to music that inspires me and be at one with my practice. It has carpet, it's not ideal for asana practice, but it is a sanctuary and very cosy.
So how to you start a practice? I think that having a designated space really helps. I have had one for the last 20 years, even though at one point mine was a corner of my bedroom, a beautiful spacious attic room, which looked out onto my garden. You need to feel you want to be in that space and it gives you joy. There will be times when you feel annoyed, stressed or angry and these are the times when you will most need it. You might feel ill. There will be times you can just sit there on your bolster.
If you have been to regular classes you will know how they progress and it is important to centre yourself with the breath at first for a few minutes and warm up before you come to attempt any asana. However, you don't need to think your practice needs to resemble a yoga class. You can listen to your body and feel what poses you most need. You don't have to make a sequence, although you might find some stick in your mind. You might feel you want to stay in longer holds one day and flow through poses another day. The best thing is that you can decide and take your time. You might decide to work on balance, or perfecting a pose you did in class.
When I first started, I would always do a standing warm up, shaking out all the body to a great tune and then move to breathe into the spine in cat cow. I would then choose some poses to do and end with a short meditation. These poses were mostly always child's pose (balasana), forward fold (uttanasana), downward dog (adho mukha svanasana), bridge (setu bandu sarvangasana) , tree (vrksanana) and seated forward fold (paschimottanasa). Not even a single warrior (virabhadrasana)- hard to believe. I couldn't really remember how the feet went! But, you know what, it felt good. It was my own and it was a start.
There are 5 ways of moving the spine and so you can maybe try to move in all the following ways: extension, which rounds the spine back; flexion, which rounds the spine forward; lateral flexion (side bending); rotation (twisting the spine) and axial extension (decompressing and elongating the spine). I should really have had triangle (trikonasana) in my early practice, and some twists!
Basically, try to move in different ways, to loosen anywhere your back may be holding on and you won't go far wrong. Breathe from the centre and just see what happens. You can write down poses you want to do or just see what unfolds. If you remember sequences from a class, try them out for yourself. You probably know Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) and it is great to do these at home because you can go at your own pace, tuning into your breath and adapting them to suit you. You can miss out anything that doesn't feel right. You could also just lie with your legs up the wall (vipariti karani), which is what I often still do. It feels great!
I'm also fond of telling you how much I liked to practise balances whilst waiting for the kettle to boil- and it really is something I do. Because my body is quite different on each side I find it much harder to balance on one side, especially in tree pose. Chances are you do too. My beloved teacher actually used to call me 'Wonky Ellie' and it's a good job I appreciated her humour. But it was true. I still am wonky, but regular practice has made things a lot better, though far from perfect.
There's a lot of truth in the old saying 'Done is better than perfect'. If I had worried about it I would never have done yoga. The truth is we have one body and we must accept and love it in all its wonkiness. The same goes for the mind. We should try and let go of our inner critic which tries to sabotage our efforts. No-one's body is fully symmetrical. We are all 'perfectly imperfect'.
So why not start small and make home yoga a new habit? Start small with a little mindfulness when you drink your morning coffee in your home yoga space. See if you can listen to your body and do a couple of poses which might add to your sense of ease. Invest in a bolster. Roll your mat out for 10 minutes. See where it takes you.
You can expect to pay about £40 for a good bolster. Make sure it has a natural filling like buckwheat or kapok and that it has a removable cover. I use mine every day and it's good to be able to wash it. If I had to recommend just one, my favourite bolster has to be this one. It's called the Maharaja- which means 'Indian Prince'. For good reason! Buy here
If you create a beautiful space you are more likely to back to it time and time again. I do!
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