Many of us practice yoga in a group setting at a gym or studio, but there are real benefits to supplementing (or even replacing) your studio sessions with home practice. Even if you follow a DVD or instructional book, creating your own individual routine helps you get in touch with the inner peace that lies at the heart of the practice, helping you discover your own chi or inner spirit.
To practice yoga at home, all you really need is a mat and enough space to move freely in 360 degrees. But creating an inviting, comfortable spot, whether it’s a spare room or a corner of a room, that you can dedicate to yoga, will go a long way towards helping make your practice more intimate and more fulfilling.
What to wear
First, consider your yoga clothing. Loose, natural-fibre pieces such as a T-shirt or tank and yoga pants are ideal, since they breathe and allow unrestricted movement, but some practitioners prefer more form-fitting clothing, since it allows you to easily check your alignment. Bare feet or socks with some form of grip on the soles are preferable to shoes or regular socks.
Ideally, your yoga space should have a hard floor, such as wood, rather than a carpet. This makes it easier to hold balance poses, and natural materials such as wood and stone create an earthbound connection that enhances the spiritual element of your practice. However, some practitioners feel carpeted floors are safer should you fall. Your yoga mat should be thick enough to provide cushioning and traction during your practice. Synthetic mats are less expensive than those made from natural materials.
Remove all clutter from your yoga space. Walls should be unadorned or hung with simple, uncomplicated artwork that sets a peaceful tone. Avoid wallpaper or strong colours, which can interfere with concentration. The addition of a large mirror will help you check your posture and can also assist in balance poses.Lighting
Lighting should be soft and calming. Natural sunlight is optimum, since it energizes you (especially in winter, when lack of sunlight affects both mood and health); but if the sun is too direct, consider soft sheers over the windows. At night, or if you don’t have a window in your practice space, use candles or soft incandescents. Avoid harsh, artificial fluorescent light.
The room should be comfortably warm. Unlike more vigorous workouts, yoga slows down your metabolism, making you vulnerable to drafts. (It’s hard to relax into postures when you’re shivering.) The practice of “hot yoga” adds to the physical benefits of the art by making you sweat and release toxins, but even a gentle yoga session should be done in a warm room.
If you use a CD or DVD player during your practice, make sure it’s positioned well away from your workout area. Along with yoga instructional media, look for CDs of natural sounds such as birdsong or Eastern-influenced music, to help centre your mind to the spiritual nature of your practice. Some practitioners enjoy low-key classical music, since it helps focus the brain, while others find it distracting. But avoid pop or other upbeat music, which is too energetic.
Try to place your yoga space out of the mainstream of family life. It should be a refuge, not a small island in a sea of chaos. If you can’t dedicate a whole room to your workout, at least try to block it off with a beautiful screen. Eventually, you will find that your mind will automatically start to relax as soon as you enter the space.