Ever felt inspired after a yoga class to practice on your own but don’t know where to start? Follow these instructors’ tips to create a routine.
Yoga is a fantastic way to stay in shape, decrease stress and anxiety, and get to know your own body and its capabilities. Most of all, it’s something you can do with no equipment, virtually anywhere. In a gym, on a beach, at home, or in the office — the world’s your oyster.
But sometimes it can be hard to transition from a weekly class-goer mentality to branching out and practicing on your own. So if you’re a yogi looking to figure out how to guide yourself through your practice, check out these experts’ advice.
Tips & Tricks for Building a Routine
Pick a focus.
Decide before you start your practice if you want to focus on breathing, balance, strength, or anything else. This will establish a simple goal and help you focus your mind on what you want to accomplish. Also, pay attention to which muscle groups you are working in each pose.
Finally, start slow, maybe with a short breathing exercise or in a mountain, child, or savasana pose.
“I think every practice, whether at home or in a group center, should be rooted in an intention. This intention can be as simple as a word or a phrase that you can come back to throughout your practice,” Kate Friendshuh, CorePower Yoga studio manager and E-RYT yoga instructor, told us.
Kelly Hummell, a yoga instructor at White Lotus Therapeutics, said, “If you’re working on finding focus in your practice, I recommend incorporating balancing postures into your sequence: Eagle pose and tree pose are great places to start. For strength-focused sequences, I’d recommend deconstructing chaturanga and incorporating it into your flow.”
Don’t stress about it.
Yoga is meant to relax you, so don’t stress about doing a perfect flow, harder poses, or a really long routine. Take time to integrate your mind and body into one. Write down an outline of poses, or use a picture of a certain yoga pose to inspire your practice.
If you’ve ever been nervous in a class setting, this step is especially important — there is no judgment, no stress about focusing on someone else’s practice. It’s just you.
“During practice, try not to be so hard on yourself,” Hummell said. “Your mind will wander. But every time your mind wanders, return to noticing your inhales and exhales. No matter how many times, keep returning to your breath.”
“Remember: You always have to start somewhere,” Friendshuh emphasized. “I think so often we feel like we need to be in a certain mood to practice yoga. In reality, everyone can practice yoga, and you can practice in any physical or mental state that you are in. I always start with a couple deep breaths in my first pose (usually child’s pose) as a way to ground down and let in what’s to come from my practice.”
Yoga instructor Liz Mott said, “Building a new routine is challenging no matter what the goal. Yoga is no exception. The magic of yoga happens when done consistently. So get on your mat, take a deep breath, and connect.”
Go step by step.
Pick four to five poses you’re familiar with and practice flowing between them. See what works best for you and pay attention to your body. You can dive deep into a single pose multiple times to get more familiar with the pose, body positioning, and how each sequence feels. Later on in your practice, you can incorporate more poses.
Hummell said, “Break it down. Take downward-facing dog as an example: There’s a lot to analyze. Breaking postures down into smaller parts helps build our own somatic awareness, ensuring that we’re finding modifications that work for our body.”
“It is called a practice for a reason. Practice does not mean perfection. You can find strength and flexibility in all poses if you concentrate on activating and relaxing the appropriate muscles all at the same time. Show up as you are, and above all, give yourself grace and love along the way,” Friendshuh stated.
Mott told GearJunkie, “If you are feeling a buildup of energy and want to move, I’d recommend starting in a standing posture, taking a few moments to feel your feet under your body. The next step is to move: Sun salutations (surya namaskar) A and B are fabulous starting points.”
Stay committed. Be patient with yourself. Pick a day of the week or time of day and stick with it, especially at first when you’re forming your routine. Remember to focus on an intention. Also, pick a time frame in which you aren’t rushed or distracted — center yourself. Be intentional and honor yourself in your practice.
Yoga is not there to push you as hard as possible. It’s a way of staying in shape and learning how to stretch your body, but it’s also about centering and calming your mind. So enjoy it.
If you’re looking for resources to help with guidance for your practice at home, check out these YouTube channels recommended by experts:
- Yoga With Adriene: 20-30 minute online class videos with a variety of flows
- SarahBeth Yoga: a variety of videos for morning yoga, seated yoga, and yoga for sore muscles
- SaturnoMovement: calisthenics, yoga, and strength and mobility training; lots of “follow along” videos
Or, take a couple more classes in a group studio to kickstart inspiration and confidence in your practice.