Home yoga practice: we all know we should be doing it, but why bother, when we could just attend a class anyway? Taking classes at the local studio often feels easier, but practicing at home is more efficient and effective. Research shows that a home practice cultivates greater health and wellness. It also saves money, boosts self awareness, strengthens discipline, and promotes play and self-discovery.
Yoga at home improves overall health
A 2012 study suggests the frequency and duration of home practice may be the key to reaping the most health benefits from your yoga practice. To conduct the study, researchers distributed anonymous surveys to 4,307 randomly selected participants drawn from 18,160 Iyengar practitioners at 15 Iyengar studios in the U.S. The researchers measured dimensions of physical, behavioral, and psychological well-being.
Their findings were striking. It didn’t appear to matter overall how long participants had practiced yoga, but rather the frequency and total time practiced on a regular basis. Home practice, whether comprised of asana, meditation, pranayama, or philosophy was found to be an important predictor of many aspects of health while class attendance was not. Improvements included mindfulness, subjective well-being, fruit/vegetable consumption, and reductions in sleep disturbance, BMI, and fatigue. Those most likely to practice yoga at home were also more likely to practice a broader array of yogic practices and potentially glean a more comprehensive span of benefits.
Due to the study’s cross-sectional design, it does not suggest that home practice is necessarily more beneficial than class practice. For example, it may be that the individuals most likely to practice more at home in their study were also higher in self-motivation, mindfulness, etc. to begin with, which helped them practice at home. However, we can equally surmise that home practice may have promoted these qualities. Future research should thus investigate these relationships over time.
The results of this study may seem fairly commonsensical. Because it can be challenging to attend yoga classes daily, having a regular home routine established can thwart the standard excuses for not practicing (for example, being too tired, broke, or busy). It also projects a reminder of the importance of yoga practice—and everything that entails—into the home environment, where many important decisions are made and your habits, for better or worse, reside.
Other reasons to practice yoga at home
- Have more time
One of the biggest benefits include freeing up more time in your hectic schedule. Not only are you saving time driving to and from class, but you are not having to check in, wait for the instructor, and gather your props.
- Save money
Yoga classes are expensive, the average cost in the US is $12 a class. Even if you purchase optional props like yoga blocks, straps or bolsters, you will still be saving a lot of money each month.
- Deepen your self-awareness
Some may think that having a yoga instructor present helps make the practice more effective. Yet the opposite can often be true. Having an instructor present can distract students and interfere with their ability to focus on their own body. Yoga creates self-awareness through the physical practice. You cannot gain this awareness by paying attention to someone else.
- Boost your discipline and confidence
Each time you carve out the time from your busy life and complete a home routine you build discipline and commitment to your self-improvement. Tapas, or yogic willpower, is strengthened each time you do something that is challenging or difficult. The discipline, confidence and inner strength you cultivate in your home practice directly translates to your overall life.
- Move at your own pace
In studio classes you are expected to follow along with the yoga teacher. At home you don’t have to wait out the boring parts or feel rushed through the juicy poses. Practicing at your breath’s own pace and rhythm is often more therapeutic, calming and healing.
- Create your own sacred space
For me, the most important part of developing a home practice was starting by creating a safe and sacred practice space. While you may not have the luxury of an exclusive room for this, you can designate an area of your home and utilize room dividers or other techniques to cordon it off from your normal environment. If children, technology, or other distractions beg your attention, hang a sign on the door or divider, set a timer, and communicate clearly that you will be available in X minutes. Turn off all distractions, and tune into the sweet sensation of coming home.
Home and studio classes
If you want to practice at home but are not yet sure you know enough postures or need more safety/alignment tips, supplementing with yoga class attendance or private sessions is a great way to expand your knowledge base and support home practice. For advanced practitioners, an exclusively home-based practice can become stale; continually supplementing with classes, workshops, and other experiences ensures continued growth and evolution.