Written by Parama K. Williams | 27 July 2020
In this guide, I’m going to show you the four basic principles for how to start a yoga practice at home and keep it going so you can get the results you want.
The first step: Be inspired to do yoga. Inspiration is the fuel that will get your fire burning.
If you are a beginner, then you can start to learn yoga at home using online resources listed in this complete guide.
If you are already a seasoned yoga student advancing in your practice, then this guide will provide tips for how to deepen and enrich your personal yoga practice at home.
So, let’s unroll our yoga mats and get started!
1. Be inspired to learn yoga:
2. Be prepared to practice yoga at home:
3. Be consistent in your yoga practice.
4. Be happy with yourself!
I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul. – Rumi
Yoga is a system of physical, mental, and spiritual exercises with a 5,000-year history in ancient Indian philosophy.
Yoga is a mind-body practice that promotes relaxation and reduces stress with breathing exercises, meditation and asanas (postures).
Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, meaning “yoke” or “union”, yoga is a systematic practice that facilitates harmony between the body and mind.
A consistent yoga practice can have many benefits for both mental and physical health, and many of these benefits have been backed by science. Here are some scientific benefits:
A good yoga teacher is desirable, but first, you must be inspired to learn yoga in the first place.
Get fired up by watching or listening to people who are already advancing in their yoga practice. Inspiration is the fuel that will keep the fire of your yoga practice strong and alive.
Seek inspiration from people who are already practicing regularly.
I have been studying and teaching yoga for over 20 years, and my first inspiration to try yoga came while I was studying abroad in Spain.
My friend Juana invited me to her house and I watched her do yoga on her living room floor.
Actually, it was more the way she moved in everyday life that captivated me.
My friend seemed to flow with every movement, whether it was getting a dish down from the cupboard or picking something up off the floor.
I wanted to have the grace and inner peace that she had cultivated through her yoga practice.
She was the spark that lit the flame of my now 20-years long yoga practice.
Do you have a friend or family member who already does yoga? Talk to them about yoga. If you can, watch them do yoga.
If not, I recommend trying as many different classes as possible, whether online or in-person if you can.
You’ll know when you have found your favorite yoga teachers when you feel truly inspired by them.
The desire to learn more from your favorite teachers will be undeniably strong and you will probably want to subscribe to their YouTube channel, download all of their podcasts, look at all of their pictures on Instagram … You get the point.
Now: people often ask me how they can find a good yoga teacher. I then say:
“The fact that you already know you need a yoga teacher is a great start.”
This is because a good teacher will:
A. Inspire you to start
B. Motivate you to keep going
As the great philosopher Lao Tzu said:
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” – Tao Te Ching
Your strong desire for a teacher will set into motion the person coming into your life.
Like a determined fisherman who wants to catch a good one, send out some guru bait—some vibes.
According to the ancient text on yoga, The Three Principal Paths by Je Tsongkapa, your teachers have been waiting for you for lifetimes. They’ll come as soon as you have the intelligence to ask.
Traditionally, yoga is transmitted from a guru (yoga teacher) to a disciple (devoted student).
A guru is a self-realized yoga master. It takes years of dedicated practice to become a master of yoga.
Here’s a little laundry list of qualities to look for in a spiritual teacher:
Let’s say you start to work with a teacher. What kind of student will you be?
Here are the qualities of being a good yoga student:
Now that you’ve found a good yoga teacher and you know how to be a good yoga student, let’s move onto step two.
Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are. – Rolf Gates
Yoga, at its essence, is a journey of self-awareness and self-realisation. Before you begin a journey, you must gather the necessary gear.
Be prepared with the proper tools and knowledge so that you can launch your yoga practice at home safely and successfully.
Your basic yoga toolkit should include the following stuff:
Do you have a yoga mat that you like? Here in Mexico, where I offer ongoing yoga retreats, I prefer to use hand-woven petates made of dried palm tree leaves as yoga mats. They are thick, spongy and have a sweet, earthy scent.
Many different kinds of yoga mats are available in all colors and designs imaginable, especially since yoga has become increasingly popular, with over 10,000 yoga instructors in the UK alone.
I recommend looking for a mat that makes your postures feel good when you use it.
Your yoga mat should not be slippery but should instead provide you with enough traction to do your postures comfortably.
For you, a “comfortable” yoga mat could mean the following:
Make your yoga mat work for you, and then get to work on your yoga mat!
Seemingly endless brands of yoga clothing are available and you could spend hours browsing and shopping for yoga clothing, or:
You can focus your attention on your actual yoga practice.
My point is that your yoga clothing really doesn’t matter.
If you want to have an effective yoga practice, what matters most is how you feel while you are practicing.
As for other yoga props, many teachers encourage the use of a yoga block, yoga belt and a blanket.
Blocks, belts and blankets serve as supports in your yoga poses, thereby making the practice safer and easier, especially for beginners.
Now that you’ve gathered all your essential gear, you are ready for your yoga teacher.
Once you have found a good yoga teacher, search online for all the resources they provide:
Create a new folder on your computer and consider bookmarking these resources with the title “Yoga at Home”.
As you advance in your yoga practice, your teacher’s guidance, advice, and inspiration will serve as the beacon to light your path.
Here are my recommended online resources for yoga at home:
It features step-by-step instructions and detailed anatomical illustrations for each posture with suggested 20-, 40-, or 60-minute sequences for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students.
This how-to book contains pose sequences and routines by the most well-known instructors as photographed in their own homes, offering their insights and suggestions for how to set up an ideal yoga practice space at home.
This free online library allows you to custom-fit your home practice to your individual needs.
Understand how to design your home practice so that it slowly warms you up, peaks at the most challenging poses, and gradually slows down to a relaxed finish.
Get creative and have fun setting up your ideal spot to practice yoga at home.
Select a room in your house that is likely to be the quietest when you are ready to do yoga. Designate it as your yoga space.
The most important feature of a good practice space is cleanliness.
Clean the room, especially the floor. If there is a lot of clutter, then stash it in boxes and out of your sight.
Cleaning a yoga space symbolizes clearing the mind of distractions, preparing yourself to practice with greater focus and mental clarity.
According to the ancient texts on yoga, saucha (cleanliness) is a foundational practice:
Through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (saucha)
comes a purification of the essence
a goodness and gladness of feeling,
a sense of focus with intentness, the mastery and union of the senses,
and a fitness, preparation and capability for self-realisation.
— Yoga Sutras of Patanjali II.41
While studying yoga in my early twenties, I lived for a year in a yoga ashram (spiritual hermitage or monastery) where one of my daily duties was to sweep and mop the floor where students came from all over the world to take yoga classes.
My yoga guru Baba Hari Dass said, “Align the props, align your mind,” referring to the importance of keeping your yoga mat and blankets neatly folded.
To this day, whenever I sweep my floor in preparation for a session of yoga, I recall my teacher’s words and how the simple act of cleaning is actually an important part of my yoga practice, both physically and mentally.
An ideal yoga space has the following features:
Consider using a spare bedroom or the corner of an office study. I once transformed what would have otherwise been a laundry room into the perfect yoga spot by moving the washing machine and dryer into the downstairs garage.
The point is, be creative and keep it simple.
Some of my yoga students say that listening to relaxing music enhances their yoga sessions, while others prefer silence or natural ambient sounds.
Ask yourself, “Does music help me tune inward and concentrate?”
Some people may find music more distracting than listening to whatever sounds may be audible in your house at the time of your yoga session.
Here is my last word of advice about how to prepare for yoga at home: Don’t worry about being “selfish”.
Free your mind of the false notion that it is selfish to do yoga or any other form of self-care, for that matter.
Avoid the pitfall of thinking, “I can’t do yoga. I have to take care of ____ (fill in the blank with a family members name or household chore or unfinished task).
Is there anything selfish about taking 20 to 60 minutes of your day to take care of yourself so that you can take better care of others?
Yoga is perhaps one of the best things you can do for your loved ones.
By improving your personal well-being, you could have more energy and vitality to share with your family and friends.
Furthermore, by improving your personal health, you will probably be able to accomplish tasks with less anxiety, greater ease and mental clarity.
One of my yoga teachers said:
“The most difficult part of the practice is no practice.”
This means that as you get into the yoga groove—you love yoga and it loves you—skipping your practice can be more difficult than doing your practice.
Yoga is a light which once lit will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter your flame. – B.K.S. Iyengar
Pick the style of yoga you prefer, based on the desired results you want from your yoga practice.
For the first ten years of my personal practice, I stuck with one teacher and one style, and I never once got bored.
In fact, I found that being dedicated to one primary teacher helped to deepen my understanding of each yoga pose because I received the regular guidance, feedback, and encouragement of that one person whom I considered a yoga master.
There is much value in being consistent in this regard.
Many different types or styles of yoga exist, and each one has its own unique approach to the postures and breathing exercises.
As a certified yoga teacher, I don’t place too much emphasis on the importance of one style versus another.
For example, I wouldn’t tell any of my students that Kundalini Yoga is better than Ashtanga Yoga. It would be like saying that chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream. The preference is… well, personal.
In other words, the yoga style that is right for you is the one that you like the best, based on your personal preferences.
For a more complete list of yoga styles, see this article.
Try out different classes and find what works for you, then select a preferred sequence of postures.
For guidance on how to plan a balanced home practice, refer to this guide by Yoga Journal which explains how to safely sequence your yoga postures.
Basically, all yoga postures can be categorized into five groups.
Check out this article for more details on how to practice each posture within these five groups:
Final relaxation is also called savasana in Sanskrit, meaning “corpse pose”.
I recently taught a yoga class to a group of college students. At the end of the class, one of my students tried to get up and leave the room immediately, saying that he had an appointment.
Allow me to paraphrase my instruction to him about how to properly practice savasana:
“Slow down!” I said to him, “Stop running to your death! Learn to relax in savasana so that when you actually reach that final, inevitable moment of your death, you will know how to relax into it. You want your death to be peaceful, don’t you?”
With that comment, the student sank back down onto his mat and tried his best to relax into the pose—a challenge for busy, distracted people!
Savasana is considered to be the most difficult and therefore the most important pose in yoga.
Don’t skip savasana. Final relaxation is like hitting the “reset” button on your computer. After several minutes of savasana, you will feel refreshed and renewed.
Now that you are comfortable with your yoga teacher, the yoga style, and the sequence of yoga postures, now you can get into a practice routine that best suits your needs.
Pace yourself according to your fitness level and decide how frequently you want to practice.
Be consistent in your yoga practice.
Practice as often as you can and then enjoy the benefits that result from your efforts.
Remember: it’s practice, not perfect.
For beginners, I recommend doing yoga for eight to twelve weeks with a frequency between once a week to once a day, ideally for 60 minutes. If you are pressed for time, try to practice for at least 20 minutes.
Busy people can benefit from 10 minutes a day!
As all seasoned practitioners know, at least one year of regular yoga practice is required to achieve consistent effects.
Let your yoga work for you.
For the past 20 years, I have been practicing yoga and meditation for at least a half-hour with a frequency of four to five days per week.
If you practice regularly, you can expect to achieve what is called “practice ease” and you will never want to go a day without a little bit of yoga.
“On this path no effort is wasted, nor is there any danger of adverse effects. Even a little practice of this Yoga protects one from great fear.” – The Bhagavad Gita, 2:40
Be happy with yourself!
Celebrate your success, knowing that your effort is worthwhile.
At the end of your yoga session, try this:
Sit in a comfortable seated position with your spine straight. Close your eyes and breathe fully. Appreciate yourself for making the effort to take good care of your body and your mind. Visualize yourself healthy and happy. Keep breathing. End your meditation by wishing for everyone to be healthy and happy.
My favorite yoga teacher said, “The only way to be happy is to help other people be happy”.
He taught me that if I want to achieve health and happiness—the ultimate goal of a good yoga practice—then I should make an effort to help other people in simple, small ways that could make a big difference in their lives.
Enjoy watching your body change: muscles toned, shoulders relaxed, facial features softened…
Enjoy watching your mind change: more patience, better concentration, deeper sleep, happier overall.
First, the most important point in starting your own yoga practice at home is to appreciate the inherent value of doing yoga on your own.
Whilst joining your friends in a group yoga class can be fun and engaging, nothing can replace the benefits you receive from becoming your own teacher. In essence, the practice of yoga is an internal, spiritual journey.
By practicing in the privacy of your own home, you learn to listen to your inner voice and the subtle messages of your own body. By becoming more sensitive to how your body responds to each pose, you improve and deepen your yoga practice more quickly.
You absolutely can teach yourself yoga at home, because there are many forms of media available online, ranging from podcasts to eBooks to YouTube videos.
You may prefer to have a live teacher to guide you in the poses, but you may find that the information and guidance available in today’s multimedia is more sophisticated and thorough than the instruction in a live class.
One of the best aspects of a home yoga practice is that you can decide when, where, for how long and what style of yoga you would like to do on any given day.
Each day your body “needs” something different. For example, if you are tired, you may choose a style and sequence that energizes your body. If you are feeling nervous, you may need to practice a style and sequence of yoga that has a calming, relaxing effect.
This excellent 30-day program is designed for beginners. You can choose different yoga routines depending on how you are feeling.
Yes. Doing yoga online has never been more accessible with a myriad of multimedia available at your fingertips for free. These include YouTube channels, yoga studios online, websites and apps.
Here are our top picks for the best yoga videos for beginners that’ll give you a brilliant foundation to develop over time:
This video is designed with beginners in mind, giving you clear instruction for how to ease into your first class.
This video for beginners shows you how to stretch and strengthen every part of your body in a 30-minute yoga sequence.
If you don’t have a yoga block you can easily improvise. For example:
In seated postures, you can use a folded blanket or a firm cushion.
In standing postures, you can use a stack of books or a low stool.
Here is how I improvised with props: I am currently living on a farm in Mexico where we grow squash. Recently I was doing yoga outside near the garden.
In “Half-Moon Pose” I wanted to support my lower hand on a yoga brick for support.
Since I didn’t have a yoga block handy, I used an enormous squash instead.
It worked! I was able to gain stability and improve my posture.
Here are the most basic yoga postures that I would recommend you include in your home practice. This list is not necessarily done in this order.
You may wish to include other postures in this sequence, but these basic ones will help make your practice the most complete in terms of stretching and strengthening your entire body:
Yes, yoga at home can be effective. And the key to making your practice successful is by being consistent. (Jump to the section on consistency with home yoga.)
How can you be more consistent?
By doing these 2 things:
1. Set a schedule for yourself. Pick a time of day when you are least likely to be distracted.
2. Prepare your practice space beforehand. It can be discouraging to have to clean up before you start doing yoga.
Furthermore, as doing yoga at home is more affordable and convenient, you are more likely able to stick to your routine.
The best time to do yoga is when your muscles are warm and limber. This could either be after a hot shower in the morning or after walking home from work in the evening.
Your body is more likely to be “warmed up” and limber in the evening after an entire day’s activities. This could make your stretching in yoga feel slightly easier than in the morning, when your body is cooled down and maybe stiff after a full night’s rest.
Ancient texts on yoga describe the early practitioners doing yoga early in the morning at sunrise. That is why the well-known “Sun Salutation” sequence is named just that: a salute to the rising sun. Traditionally, yoga practice helps you prepare your body and mind for the rest of the day.
If you prefer to practice in the evening after work, you will still receive the health benefits of yoga.
One of my favorite yoga teachers strongly encouraged me to always practice yoga first thing in the morning, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. “It will make your day better…” he said, “You’ll feel more calm, balanced and have more patience with the people around you.”
Twenty minutes is enough. You can get in a full, complete yoga practice in as little as twenty minutes, provided that you are doing an effective yoga sequence. Aim to practice for at least 20 minutes.
What makes a yoga sequence effective is whether or not it stretches the muscles of your entire body (front and back), including all the major muscle groups (including your chest, back, arms, shoulders and legs).
As a beginner, start with at least 2 days per week. As your body develops greater flexibility and strength, you can increase that to 3-5 days per week.
If you are an advanced student, you may find that your body can handle 6 days per week.
You know your body best, so listen to what your body needs. If you feel sore the next day, you can rest or practice more gentle postures.
Now I’d like to invite you to our yoga at-home challenge.
Yoga at Home Challenge
Step 1) Join an online yoga at home community and practice yoga for 30 days!
Step 2) Take before and after pictures that show the results of your practice.
Celebrate the joy of benefiting from your own personal yoga practice at home.
If you have found this guide helpful, please share it!
This complete guide has taught you four basic principles for how to practice yoga at home:
Now, I’d like to turn it over to you:
Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Parama K. Williams
Parama K. Williams is a published author with a Master of Arts in Education and twenty years of international experience as a US-Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Yoga Teacher. Originally from the US, she moved permanently to Central America, where she built an off-grid homestead in a rural area and created the life of her dreams. Parama currently offers yoga classes, English classes, therapeutic massage, and wellness retreats in both Mexico and Belize. She writes about her unique experiences, particularly focusing on themes related to international travel, education, sustainable tourism, health (yoga, meditation, and massage therapy), and spirituality. Learn more about Parama K. Williams