Developing a daily yoga practice deeply changed my life. I say that not only as a yoga teacher, but also as a mom of three and a naturally anxious person. A daily practice is accessible to anyone with the discipline to make it happen. In this blog I explain: why yoga now, how to make your practice manageable, and the top 5 benefits of a daily practice. Developing a daily yoga practice can make you stronger, stand taller, more focused and feel better physically and emotionally.
Why Increase Your Practice in Such A Challenging Time?
We’ve had a challenging couple of years dealing with Covid-19. If you’ve been waiting to start yoga, exercise or increase your practice until after the pandemic, stop waiting! We have to take the time to breathe, move, focus our minds and rest. Yoga is a wonderful way to help manage our emotions and energy daily and throughout the year.
Expand Your Definition of Yoga
The first step is to broaden your definition of yoga. Yoga every day (for most of us) is not a 60 minute sweaty Vinyasa class every day. Rather, it is breathwork, meditation, and any amount of time spent practicing the asana or postures. Your daily practice could be a mediation session, a couple of Sun Salutations, Chair Yoga stretches at your desk, a 20-30 minute flow, or a full 60 to 90 minute class. Having a shorter practice is better than having no practice at all. As the husband of one of my regular students said, “the benefits to her making the time for her yoga practice outweigh not taking the time to do it.”
If you found your way to this blog you most likely value health and are looking for ways to improve your wellness practices. Finding the right balance of yoga, meditation, diet, and sleep enhanced my yoga practice and life. This blog explores five healthy habits (listening to your body, physical activity, eating well, spending time outside, and sleep) that improve overall health and well-being. Incorporating healthy habits into your days can decrease pain and stiffness and increase energy, calm, focus, and happiness.
I always recommend Restorative Yoga between the start of daylights saving time and the Winter Solstice. This is the time of year that our energy levels are lowest (especially for those of us in New England), and there is more on our plates with the holidays. Restorative Yoga is a practice of deep relaxation and rest. A Restorative Yoga practice helps calm the nervous system and release tension from the body. The ongoing pandemic is taking a toll. We are feeling the emotional effects of decreased community activity and lack of contact with extended family. I encourage you to explore making Restorative Yoga part of your self care and stress management routine this winter. Now more than ever, it is important to hit pause, turn inward, rest and heal so we can keep managing it all and stay healthy in the year ahead.
While students are still welcome to practice Restorative Yoga in the studio, some are livestreaming Restorative classes or accessing the recordings. We ALL have things from around our houses that we can use to have a great Restorative Yoga practice at home. Household items you can use for a home practice and my favorite “real” Restorative Yoga props are outlined in this blog. Maybe you will add a Restorative prop to your holiday wish list, or give the gift of a prop and a Restorative Yoga gift card to a loved one this holiday season.
Big Bolster. At my studio I have “Yoga Direct Supportive Rectangular Cotton Yoga Bolsters.” They are big and firm and great for bringing the floor up to you and supporting the body in Restorative Yoga poses ($40). You can also use one of the back cushions from your couch as your “big bolster.”
Small Bolster. We often use a second bolster in Restorative Yoga classes – to support the knees, feet or provide a smaller amount of opening in a chest opener. I LOVE my round Gaiam Sol Yoga Bolster; it costs $60 and is worth every penny. Gaiam also makes a good smaller bolster as well, the “Rectangular Meditation Pillow” ($40). The Gaiam bolsters are covered in a soft, shammy material, which is an extra perk. If you want to treat yourself I recommend either of these options; if you are keeping it simple at home a FIRM bed pillow will work. You want the pillow to provide support and lift; a feather pillow will flatten out the longer you rest on it.
Two Blankets. Yoga blankets are nice to have because they fold to the right dimensions for the postures and provide support. I have the “Open Road Goods Handmade – Thick Mexican Blankets or Throws” ($35) in the studio. They are soft and have held up well even with lots of washing due to Covid. However, we all have blankets at home that would work just fine. You can just use what you have at home rather than investing in “yoga blankets.”
Hand Towel. I recommend having a couple of bath hand towels, not dish towels, nearby when you are practicing Restorative Yoga at home. They are great for rolling to support the neck or sliding under a wrist or other joint for extra support. No need to spend any money on this.
Eye Pillow. My second highest recommendation after the round yoga bolster is a lavender scented eye pillow. I have the “Blissful Being Namaste Yoga Eye Pillows” at the studio ($15). If you are not a fan of lavender, they have unscented ones as well. Adding a weighted eye pillow or eye covering dulls the sense of sight and helps transport you deeper into yourself, so that you can let go and rest deeply wherever you are practicing.
Yoga Blocks. You can substitute books, packaged food or game boxes for yoga blocks; man, we have been creative with our blocks the last nine months! However, if you are going to buy one thing for your home yoga practice, let it be blocks. You don’t need fancy blocks; simple foam blocks cost $15 for a set of two. Substitutes are not as safe because they often fail to provide the right level of support.
My final recommendations for setting up for Restorative Yoga at home are more general. If you have a house full of kids like me, set up somewhere you can lock the door and put your spouse in charge for an hour. Still practice on your yoga mat, because it adds an extra layer of cushion. I also recommend laying a blanket folded once over your mat for the same reason. Having some throw pillows nearby to add extra support under the arms is also a good idea. My last tip for a home practice would be to use wireless ear buds if you have them. The ear buds will make the cues easy to hear and help dull other sounds in your environment.
Order a few of your favorite props, pull the other items together from around your house and join a Restorative yoga class soon! I guarantee it will be a precious 60 to 90 minutes well spent – one that helps you stay calm, rested, strong and balanced for whatever the holidays and the New Year bring. Namaste, Jessie
Visit the News & Events page to sign up for our next Restorative Yoga class. Come to the the studio or practice at hOMe.
Our bodies always feel better at the end of the day when we make time for moving and stretching. This blog outlines a set of accessible yoga poses that together provide a relaxing and refreshing full body release — and that you can fit into even the busiest day. Also check out my free 20 minute “Refreshing Full Body Yoga Stretch” video on the Yoga At Your Door YouTube Channel to experience the benefits of these poses first hand.
The recommended postures target four lines of connective tissue in the body: the frontline, backline, lateral lines and spiral line. The final set of recommended postures address the hips, which can become tight from too much sitting. This can cause lower back and knee pain if neglected.
During the pandemic, many yoga students practiced from home via livestream classes and on-demand class platforms. One of the benefits of practicing from home is that students are able to practice more frequently and consistently. Many of us are now getting back to our favorite studios, but some of us will continue to practice from home or find a balance between home and studio classes. This blog offers tips for setting up a tranquil, safe yoga space at home, for the days you can’t make it to the sanctuary of your local yoga studio.
I know a thing or two about creating yoga spaces because I designed my yoga studio! Yoga Next Door started in my living room and then moved to our three season porch. After a year we expanded the porch into a full size yoga studio. These suggestions stem from the experience of designing my space which my students call “beautiful” and “healing” and knowledge of what students need to practice effectively as a yoga teacher.