Why Design Your Own Home Yoga Practise?
I should probably start here, given that you might be someone who attends yoga classes either in a group or individually, or maybe you follow some teachers online, be it on YouTube or elsewhere.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of both group classes, tutoring and good old YouTube… but in recent years, I’ve come to see a real value in crafting my own, personal practise.
A practise free from the pressure of another’s eyes, in step with my own beat and my own breath.
The problem I had however when I first started to do ‘D.I.Y.’ Yoga (D.I.Y.Y.?) is that I had NO CLUE how to… do it. I had a rough idea of how to start on my mat: seated or lying down perhaps. Take a few nice stretches… But what then?
I’d usually just end up rolling around on the mat, and not feeling particularly satisfied with my time there.
Since my Yoga Teacher Training, I’ve embraced the art of sequencing a yoga class, and I’m amazed there isn’t more good info out there for anyone who practises yoga to create a solid, custom-built flow.
My hope is that I can offer you just that, now.
What You Need To Do To Design Your Own Home Yoga Practise:
1. Check in with how you feel
If you skip this part, you’ll likely design a yoga practise that leaves you feeling less well than when you started. Naturally, we want to avoid that!
The practise of yoga itself has helped me tune into my body much better than before, but if you struggle like I do, here are some pointers that help me:
- How energetic do you feel, on a scale of 1-10? 1 = I could fall asleep with my eyes open, 10 = I could reach the ceiling if you gave me a pogo stick right now.
- Do you have any aches or pains, are any body parts inside or outside playing up? A body scan might be helpful here, starting with your head, work down to your toes.
- What mood am I in? Agitated? Excited? Relaxed?
- What mood do I want to be in? Again, this will be crucial when it comes to shaping the practise.
Optional: Consult the stars
Naturally, I love to have a nosey at what my beloved sky is looking like at the time of my practise. If there’s a funky transit that might be reflecting my own feelings of impatience and agitation, then I’m going to try to create a grounding, soothing practise.
You can check out my Yoga for Your Zodiac Sign series here, for some inspo.
I’ll also recommend the app AstroMatrix for its clear and helpful guidance on the current transits and how they might affect your chart specifically.
2. Decide when and for how long
Different times of day affect us in different ways. You might already know this about yourself. You might feel more energised in the morning than your partner, but they come to life at night.
Daniel Pink has studied this, and has found that for the majority of adults, our mood and thinking styles follow a common pattern throughout the day. Our ability to focus and analyse peaks in the late morning, takes a plunge in the afternoon, and recovers in the late afternoon and evening.
With this knowledge, you might decide that you want to feel more energised in the afternoon, so you choose an exhilarating practise to get your mojo back. Or, you might choose to go with your natural energetic flow, and choose a slower flow.
It’s also worth noting how long you have. If you have 10 minutes, then perhaps your practise is a few sun salutations and some pranayama practise.
If you have longer, you can be more generous with your time. A 10 minute warm up, a few sun salutations, 20 minutes of standing and balancing poses, 10 minutes of seated poses and a nice cool down with at least 5 minutes for savasana, would be a good guideline if time allows.
3. Choose a ‘peak pose’
A peak pose is simply the pose that the class centres around. It doesn’t have to be something dramatic or spine-shattering (in fact, best lay off the spine-shattering altogether) but it likely is something that you want to be ‘warmed up’ for.
Let’s take Half-Moon pose as our peak pose.
In this pose, hips need to be quite open, so we’ll want some nice hip-opening poses in our warm up. In addition, we want the glutes to be active, so this is something we can include in the standing poses leading up to the pose.
This is probably the most challenging part of designing a yoga practise, but after some time I promise it will become quite intuitive. I recommend studying some different teachers you enjoy, and listing the poses in order from one of their classes (naturally this will be a lot easier with online classes!)
4. Work out your warm up and cool down
There are lots of ‘go-to’ favourites for the beginning and ending of classes, from starting in a reclined bound ankle pose, to ending with some supine twists and a happy baby. But have a think about what you (1) like and (2) need.
As mentioned above, if your peak pose is centered around the hips: try to incorporate this into your warm up. In the cool down, you may want to back off the hips or focus on closed-hip twists, like reclined Cow-face pose.
Whatever you do, don’t skip these parts! Hopping straight from your desk to a vigorous back-bending sequence is not recommended. Do a google-search for ‘poses to warm up…<INSERT BODY PART>’ for inspiration.
5. Make sure to leave time for savasana
I’m not kidding when I say, this is what I yoga for.
My approach to savasana (or Corpse pose) goes beyond superstition (though the yoga spirits will get you if you leave a class before savasana…) It’s the feeling of genuine peace that comes from laying down after a series of poses that is really comparable to nothing else.
When this is rushed, I almost feel like I didn’t get the full juice out of my practise: like I’ve left some drops in the cup and I’m still thirsty for more.
In a public class, you can’t choose how long you stay in savasana, so here’s your chance: take as long as you need!
Optional: breath work
If you’re curious about adding more diverse yogic practises in to your day, I recommend nadi shodana, or alternate nostril breathing for a great way to end your practise, before or after savasana. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on it, but effectively you’re breathing in through one nostril, sealing with your fingertips, breathing out through the other, and repeating on that side.
Explore pranayama practises, but be careful if you’re doing these alone: you don’t want to pass out.
- When in doubt, say hi to the Sun!
Oh the Sun Salutation. What better way to get your energy flowing at the beginning of your practise? I still like to warm up on the ground first, but coming to the top of my mat for 2-3 Sun Salutation A’s and maybe 1-2 B’s is guaranteed to set me up for the rest of the flow.
- Think about transitions
A good yoga teacher won’t have you hopping from bridge pose to Warrior II back down to Bow pose and back up for a Triangle… that would be kind or absurd, and kind of exhausting.
Have a look at the traditional Ashtanga sequence for an idea of what I mean. Each section is carefully placed in an order that makes sense. Poses (for the most part) flow naturally together, and this allows for comfortable, safe transitions.
- Keep it simple!
If I took one lesson from my Yoga Teacher Training it was this: Keep It Simple! For one, you don’t want to spend too long faffing about with your notes: you want to have a rough idea of it as you hit the mat. And if your memory is anything like mine, you’ll keep it simple for that reason alone!
In addition, the simpler it is, the more you’ll likely be able to drop in, reconnect with your breath and really enjoy your practise.