06 Aug '18
Yoga for Relaxation: Develop Your Own Home Stretching Routine
Taking a yoga class is a big commitment: there’s time, transportation, and cost to consider. Even if you have all three of those elements covered, at some point, you might just want to do your asana at home. Setting up a home yoga practice doesn’t have to be onerous. Once you’ve developed your home stretching routine, it will become second nature.
Make a Yoga Space
It’s best if you have a dedicated space for your yoga home practice, like a spare bedroom, but if that’s not an option, at least clear an area long and wide enough where you can outstretch your arms on all sides and there’s nothing overhead, like light fixtures, that will interfere when you lift your hands above your head (or your feet in an inversion).
Akin to a chef preparing to cook a gourmet meal, you want to have all your tools and ingredients in place before you begin your practice.
For a home yoga practice, you need a mat (of course) but you should also consider purchasing blocks for poses where you can’t quite reach the floor, a strap to help you deepen poses, and blankets or a bolster for restorative poses and meditation. Create a yoga playlist or have some ambient sounds on hand, like a fan or fountain, for a soothing effect. Dress in athleisure or yoga gear that is effortless and comfy. Turn on a lamp or light candles instead of overhead lights for the ultimate sanctuary effect. Before you begin your practice, turn off your phone!
Build Your Yoga Practice
Yoga classes follow a certain sequence, and your home practice should, too: Opening Poses, Sun Salutations, Standing Poses, Inversions, Backbends, Twists, Forward Bends, and Closing Poses. There’s a reason for this order of things: each type of pose prepares the next. (You wouldn’t attempt a backbend without warming up first, right?)
Opening Poses connect your breath with your body and prepare you mentally and physically to focus on your yoga practice. Good ones to try are Easy Pose, Child’s Pose, Hero Pose, or Cat and Cow Poses. Sun Salutations get your heart pumping and warm up your muscles; do anywhere from a few repetitions to a dozen depending on how long you want your practice to be. Standing Poses strengthen; the most common ones are Warrior I, Warrior II, and Warrior III, but feel free to throw in a Triangle afterwards to stretch the muscles you just worked so hard.
Before you embark on Inversions like Headstand and Handstand at home, you’ll need to receive professional instruction from a yoga teacher; skip this section if you haven’t. Backbends release the tension from our sit-down lifestyles and strengthen the back; start with Cobra Pose on your belly before you flip over to attempt Bridge Pose. Twists are when your practice shifts into a more calming mode; Bharadvaja’s Twist, Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, and Supine Twist will feel like heaven on your aching back and help you let go of tension throughout your body.
Now that your muscles are warm and pliable, it’s time for Forward Bends, which can be done standing (Big Toe Pose, Intense Side Stretch Pose) or sitting (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend, Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend). Then it’s time for Closing Poses (a.k.a. the best part of yoga) in the form of Happy Baby Pose, Reclined Butterfly Pose, or Corpse Pose. Make sure to give your body a rest at the end of your practice; if you’re inclined to fall asleep (and why shouldn’t you?), set an alarm.
Establish a baseline practice that touches on all these elements and then feel free to add or subtract how many poses in each category you do depending on time available and energy level. These can be done at whatever pace you’re comfortable with; in fact, one of the biggest perks of a home practice is being able to take your time.
Practice & Persevere
Be as consistent as you can with your home practice. Even if you have to alter the amount of time you dedicate to it each day, by showing up on the mat on a regular basis, you’ll reap relaxation benefits that will endure long after your final pose.