If you think that you have to spend years doing yoga or go to a led yoga class 5 days a week to get all the benefits of yoga think again! The latest research tells us that developing a simple home yoga routine is the biggest yoga-related predictor of better health and all of these benefits are FREE.
In a seminal study of over 100 yoga practitioners in the US, it was found that home practice not only predicted how good people felt but also if made them more likely to practice mindfulness, have lower BMIs (smaller waistlines), eat more fruits and veggies, have better sleep and less fatigue than those without a regular home yoga routine. They looked at home yoga as including asanas or physical postures, breath work, meditation and yoga philosophy or ways of living, like eating a healthy mostly vegetarian yogic diet. The really interesting part is that having a home yoga practice predicted all these health outcomes better than how many years they had been practicing or how many studio classes per week they went to. This means that to get all the health benefits of yoga, it is most important to practice yoga at home and you don’t have to be a yoga expert.
I know for myself that when I started doing yoga at home as part of my daily routine, it really did start to have a way bigger impact on how I felt, how I looked, my food cravings, energy levels etc because suddenly I was in control of it and could always find at least 20 minutes to do a short practice, even if I couldn’t fit in an hour and half every day. I also found that my monkey mind found less excuses over time do not do it, because I couldn’t use the old ‘there is no class that I can make today.’ line with myself. Yoga became part of my daily habit rather than this activity that I ‘went to classes for’ only when I could fit it in. I also use yogic breathing practices in my everyday life, like when I need an energy boost or when I start to get a cold, I do 5 minutes of kapilabhati in the morning. I wasn’t doing this until I really developed a home practice regularly.
So, at home, My yoga mat is always waiting for me, and after it became a habit, which takes our brain 30 days to solidify, the amount of mental resistance for whipping out my mat really faded away. I still have days where it’s hard to get moving but I get over the resistance my reminding myself that I have never ONCE regretted making time to practice, but the days where I didn’t do it, I do regret lots of those because I just FEEL so much better afterwards and it’s always worth the time and effort spent.
The best way to make sure your home practice is a success is to try to set aside 20 minutes at the same time each day to practice, at a time where you are most likely to be able to stick to it. So if you are a terrible morning person, getting up 30 minutes or more early to do yoga before work isn’t likely going to stick, if your circadian rhythm is just not set up for 6 am starts! If that’s the case and you are going to do your yoga after work, I recommend starting with a gentle hatha or yin series to wind down the nervous system and have your yoga time do ‘double duty’ to help bust problems falling asleep too. I find that doing too many backbends in the evening tends to really wake me up, so I try to avoid lots of those if I practice after 4pm.
So, even though I have a daily home routine, I still LOVE going to classes and being a student and having the community of practicing with other people. I try to get to one studio class each week with a great teacher and I find I always learn something new to take back to my home practice.