When the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions came into force there was a surge of interest in online yoga, and many yoga teachers (me included) transitioned to online teaching. Lots more people starting doing yoga at home – with or without online classes – and were maybe able to get into some sort of routine around other commitments.
As restrictions begin to ease and the summer school holidays start, (both depending on where you live), people’s routines are changing again. So how can you find a way to practice yoga every day? Here are my five top tips to help you come to your mat (or other space, mats aren’t essential) every day. Establishing a regular routine will bring many benefits – not just the physical improvements you’ll notice, but also a greater sense of focus and calmness, especially if you bring in some mindfulness meditation and pranayama (breath control) to your session.
5 top tips to establishing a yoga routine at home
1. Find the time that works best for you
This sounds simple, but isn’t always straight forward! For example, you might be used to going straight from work to an exercise class, then home, dinner etc, in the evening. Some people love to work out the stresses of the day during their post-work session, so yoga between work and the evening meal would work well. But you may be physically or mentally tired from a day of work and not feel like doing your yoga, and this might affect what you choose to do, or not do, on the mat. Plus, if you’re at home all day it’s far more tempting to start cooking or eating straight away as soon as you finish work, rather than delay it by another 30 minutes or longer. (Or is that just me?!)
If fitting in yoga before your evening meal isn’t working for you, try shifting it to the morning.
Some people find that if they achieve something earlier in the day it gives them ‘feel good’ vibes for the rest of the day. You could experiment with starting your day with yoga before breakfast. It may be necessary to set the alarm earlier, or if possible, shift your work start time back a bit. You may need to adapt your yoga to a ‘morning body’ which may feel a bit stiffer, but you may find your focus and meditation is easier in the morning and that you feel the benefits throughout the day. The more often you practice in the morning you may find your body adapting and you can practise for longer or bring in more challenging postures and sequences.
The best approach is to try a week or two in a new time slot and see how it goes.
2. Set a realistic time length for your yoga session
I recommend starting small and getting the habit ingrained first, and then extending the time length. If you start out trying to fit in 1.5 hours every day and manage it only once a week, it’s probably of less benefit than 7 days of 10 minutes a day. And you may feel a bit demoralised by not achieving your goal.
Start with 5-10 minutes and see if you can keep that up for a couple of weeks. If you miss a day or two, it’s ok. This shorter time length also means if you get to 8pm at night and haven’t done it, you can still fit it in without disrupting your evening too much.
Although 5-10 minutes doesn’t sound much, you can still do a balanced range of movements and breathing that will bring benefit. Below is a 6 minute video I quickly made of 5 things you can do in 5-6 minutes.
Later on, once the habit is more established, you can extend it to perhaps 30 minutes a day.
3. Have somewhere that’s already partially set up as your space, if possible
Personally, I’m on the path of least effort! So, if my space is ready, with nothing or very little to move, and I can start straight away, I’m more likely to get on the mat. It may not be practical or possible for a dedicated space to be available the whole time, so perhaps leave your rolled up yoga mat somewhere noticeable so it’s a visible reminder.
I find this trick works with other things too. I was given some exercise equipment (dumbells and a big hula hoop) and when it was kept in a room I hardly went in, I rarely used it. If it’s more visible and noticeable I’m more likely to pick up the hoop and use it for 5 mins.
4. Have a vague idea of what you want to do
If you’re out of ideas, new to yoga, or like the variety of different classes, you might find it helpful to use a yoga video. Otherwise you have the option to create your own home practice session. You could decide on the day what you’d like to focus on – perhaps a body area like shoulders or lower back, or a type of posture e.g. standing poses or balances, or you might learn or create a sequence of moves that you like. A few rounds of sun salutations will also be a good way to have a range of movements in a shortish amount of time. Here’s a 20 minute video you could follow of a sun salutation session I recorded for a recent international yoga day event.
If you’ve come to the mat or space and you’re short of ideas, it’s fine, don’t worry. Try to tune in to your body and do something that feels appropriate to how you’re feeling today. The slight risk of this is that we can get into comfortable habits, perhaps doing things that are easy or familiar, and thus not challenge ourselves physically or mentally. Not that a yoga session has to be a challenge, but sometimes pushing the edges is where we grow and learn. So, if possible, have a vague plan and take it from there.
5. Make a list of what benefits you feel and keep it handy
There are some physical and mental benefits you will feel immediately during and after your yoga practice. Make a note of these. Also, if you begin to notice longer term benefits e.g. feeling calmer overall, note these down. On days when you are lacking motivation you can take a look at the list of benefits and it might encourage you to move, breathe and relax that day after all.
These are just some things that you might find helpful to keep a daily yoga habit. If you’ve got other suggestions that work for you please comment below!