Hands to heart centre if you practise yoga? For many of us—whether for fitness, mental space, or simply an excuse to buy more Lycra—yoga has found its way into our lives. “Yoga is the first and most successful product of globalisation,” says Stefanie Syman, the Brooklyn-based author of The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America. It’s a big statement, but the stats speak for themselves.
In 2018, yoga was reported to be the fourth fastest growing industry in the US; and the amount of money American yogis are spending has risen 87 per cent in the last five years. Globally, more than 300 million people now practise yoga, and Japan in particular has seen a growth of 413 per cent in the last five years. For a practice that originated in India over 5,000 years ago—first mentioned in one of the world’s oldest religious texts, the Rig Veda—it clearly stands the test of time.
But keeping up regular yoga practice can be tricky. Perhaps you don’t have time to squeeze in a trip to a studio around work and family. Classes can be pricey, or intimidating, or so full that it’s difficult to focus due to the mouth-breather whose mat is centimetres from yours. Before we know it, we’ve talked ourselves out of it altogether. But there is one option that’s accessible, free, and requires nothing more than a bit of self-discipline. Yoga at home.
Whether you want to go further than your usual one class a week or are looking for a bit of structure to shape your existing self-practice, here’s everything you need to know about practising yoga successfully without having to leave the house.
What equipment do you need for a home yoga practice?
Yoga teacher, PT and Instagram sensation Shona Vertue’s three essentials for practising yoga at home are her yoga mat, her ”sense of self-commitment” and, crucially, leaving her phone in another room. If you can’t quite manage that, she recommends turning off notifications—“and never check your emails!”
While a corner of space is really all you need, the following are all useful investments:
A mat: Yogi Bare does some of the best eco mats out there and ships internationally.
A bolster: great for seated or reclined meditation, and a go-to prop for Yin.
Blocks and straps: all bodies are different shapes and flexibilities, so blocks and straps can help you better access the target area.
A small speaker: if you like practising to music or are using a sound-only guided routine.
An analogue alarm clock: if you’d prefer to leave digital devices outside the room (or, a screen, if you’re practising with an online class).
What’s the best space to practice yoga in at home?
“There is no perfect setting externally, it’s about the internal state that you cultivate,” says Vertue. “Your environment shouldn’t deter from that—easier said than done, but ultimately that’s what you’re working towards.” Choose a space that’s as free from clutter and distraction as possible. If it helps you to set the mood with some incense, sage or a candle, go for it: you can indulge in whatever works, no one is watching. When you inevitably get disturbed by the cat, the kids or the doorbell, press pause and know that you can always come back to it, later in the day or later in the week.
What style of yoga is best for a home practice?
There’s no need to choose one style for a home practice, just try to assess what your body needs that day. Are you looking for a stretch after a heavy week of working out; to ease fatigue after a week of nine-to-five desk sitting and screen time; to calm anxiety and stress; or an uplift in lieu of (or as well as) caffeine?
The joy of yoga at home is that you can select your favourite elements of a few different styles; or choose an online class or app to guide you through (see below). If you’re practising without a teacher, start with a short simple routine—like a sun salutation A or B—to help you memorise it, and practise ad infinitum.
Types of yoga explained
Rocket, Dynamic Vinyasa and Ashtanga are all high-energy flow, including Insta-worthy moves like arm balances and backbends (caveat: check the ego).
Mandala is pretty dynamic too, moving 360 around the mat, with classes themed around the elements and their corresponding target areas in the body: Water (hips and groin), Fire (twists and core), Earth (hamstrings and forward folds) and Air (front body and backbends).
Jivamukti is also flow, and has a different philosophical or ethical focus each month.
Kundalini aims to stimulate specific mental (some say sexual or creative) energy through meditation, mantras, chanting, breathing and movement.
Iyengar is form and alignment focused, using lots of props, and is great for injury rehabilitation.
Hatha, in Sanskrit, is the overarching word for all physical yoga practice – but in the Western world it generally refers to a more gentle, accessible flow class.
Yin-Yang follows a similar theme, leading on to Yin, which targets the deep connective tissue between muscles with long-hold poses (up to 10 minutes), to increase circulation to the joints and instil calm.
Nidra goes one further, dropping you into a state of “conscious sleep” for the ultimate, meditative relaxation (expect a few snores if you’re in a class).
Hot, and Pregnancy, do what they say on the tin.
And Qi Jong is a lovely offshoot, similar to Tai Chi, which aims for deep restoration via gentle moving meditation and breathing.
How much time do you need?
Once you’ve decided what your body and mind need from practice, the next thing to consider is time. As many a yoga teacher will say, no effort is ever wasted—whether you’ve got 45 minutes or just five to spare. If you’re following an online class, options range from 10-minute to 90-minute routines. If you’re yoga-ing solo, set a timer for 10 minutes before you want to finish, so you know when to begin your closing sequence. Practice could even be determined by the time it takes for your coffee to brew or your bath to run. Flexible in every sense.
What’s the best music to do yoga to?
London-based Rocket yoga teacher—and ex-DJ—Marcus Veda says it’s all about linking the beat to the breath: “Optimal yogic breath is calm, slow and controlled, aiming to increase focus and regulate the nervous system. But people tend towards shorter, erratic breath, so having a beat can be invaluable as a constant reminder to bring your breath back to.”
His formula is specific: “I link the movement and breath to a specially mixed soundtrack, to a beat that keeps breaths at under 10 per minute, but not so slow that the yogi feels stressed or short of breath: 69 beats per minute is the golden tempo—all my mixes come back to that.” If you’re creating your own playlist, Veda recommends artists such as Petit Biscuit, Jon Hopkins, Nils Frahm and James Blake—or, for ease, choose a mix from his Soundcloud.
What are the best online classes for yoga at home?
If possible, go to a few studio classes or work with a teacher before starting a home practice—this will help when it comes to executing the postures and breath work correctly. “Yoga (and exercise) was invented way before the internet, so [online] isn’t really the ideal way to learn,” says Vertue. “That said, many great teachers have been self-taught through books and home practices, so it’s not imperative [to go to a class first], it just might take a little longer.”
As with studio classes, finding a teacher you connect with is key. There are a huge range of classes online – experiment until you find what and who best suits you. YouTube is a great, free resource, but “it can be difficult to weed out some of the bullshit”, says Vertue. “So, before committing to a yoga video, head to the teacher’s Instagram page or website and have a read of their content to check that a) they’re qualified, and b) that they emphasise correct form and execution. Remember, an online following does not reflect the quality of their information or teaching style.” In addition to her YouTube channel, Vertue also has her own programme, The Vertue Method: a combination of yoga and weight training that’s a great gateway for non-yogis, too.
Yoga by Adriene is one of the biggest YouTube yoga channels, with almost 5 million subscribers. Its founder, Austin-based Adriene Mischler, says she got the idea after switching up her teaching spaces: “[I realised] that yoga didn’t have to look or feel the way I was experiencing it in the studio. Yoga could happen anytime, anywhere. It’s about the people who show up.” Launching her free online classes in 2012 was also about inclusivity; a response to the rising price of yoga. “To put it succinctly, it bummed me out that only the people who could afford it could practise yoga regularly,” she tells Vogue. “I love the online community we have created, as it proves we’re all worthy and capable of taking care of ourselves.” Her motto, as ever, is to “find what feels good. You are in charge and you have to show up and stick with it… I find the experience [of practising yoga at home] incredibly empowering.”
In terms of mobility work, try Kinstretch classes (via Functional Range Conditioning specialists) to help support your home yoga practice by keeping your joints healthy enough to deal with the rigours of yoga (wrists are a common ache, whether you’re a yoga beginner or pro). And if you want voice-guided routines to follow without looking at a visual throughout, try the Pocket Yoga or Yoga Studio apps.
Vogue’s resident yogi Farah Shafiq talks you through a simple 10-minute morning and evening routine to kickstart your home practice.
Roll out of bed. Pour a glass of water. Stay in your PJs. Set an alarm on your phone for 10-15 minutes (or use a clock, if you’re switching off technology). Select your morning playlist.
Start lying on your back and do some gentle hip mobility, circling knees in alternate directions and keeping the joints moving (the body doesn’t respond well to static holds after a night of sleep).
Start tuning into your breath, making each inhale and exhale a little longer and deeper, linking movement with breath.
Rock from side to side in happy baby pose, take a big stretch above your head and then draw your knees in, rocking up and down along the length of the spine to build momentum to roll onto all fours.
Warm up your wrists, moving through some cat cows and then into some freer spinal wiggles.
Push up to downward dog when ready, wiggle some more and walk your feet up to the back of your wrists to hang in a forward fold at the front of your mat, swaying from side to side.
Roll up to standing slowly. Take another stretch above your head, flexing to the right and then the left – option to close your eyes and shake out the entire body freely, before coming to stillness and feeling the effects.
Move through three forward folds with a half lift, three sun salutation As and three sun salutation Bs. One breath per movement.
Finish with a seated twist and a final minute of seated meditation.
Put PJs back on. Brew a sleepy tea. Hold each pose in the sequence for up to 10 breaths (longer if you have more time to play with).
Start in child’s pose, before bringing your hips directly over your knees, and walking fingertips forward into puppy/heart-opening pose. Return to child’s pose with arms down by your sides for a rebound.
Come to lying on your front with arms out at shoulder height. Roll onto one side, prop your top leg behind you, knee bent, sole of the foot on the floor: feel the stretch through the front of the shoulder. Swap sides. Rebound in child’s pose.
Come to seated, soles of the feet together, knees out (butterfly pose). Gently forward fold onto a bolster or cushion, or head to feet. Fully relax, let your back round and hips stretch out.
Roll back to lying down. Draw your knees into your chest and take them over to one side, with knees stacked on top of each other (or your preferred alternative) for a twist. Swap sides.
Finish with legs up the wall for a gentle inversion.
And finally, savasana, lying down with a bolster under your knees and a blanket on top. Option to turn on a Yoga Nidra guided meditation if you have more time.
Breathing exercise for any point during the day (three-part breath/dirga pranayama):
Start to gently deepen the inhale and exhale through the nose, without straining or forcing the lungs into overcapacity.
Inhale (for a count of four): filling and expanding the belly, allow a little more air into the ribcage to expand the ribs, and a little more air to fill and expand into the upper chest.
Exhale (for a count of four): first from the upper chest, allowing the heart centre to sink, then from the ribcage as the ribs close, finally let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.
Continue at your own pace, letting the three parts of the breath flow smoothly without pausing. Focus on lengthening each inhale and exhale, slowly and comfortably, for about 10 breaths. Placing your hands on your body to feel the rise and fall can help initially.