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8 beginner tips for starting an at home yoga practice.

By Ashley Michelle

So, you’ve been curious about yoga but you’re not sure where to start?

We at Mindful Niagara have you covered with a few tips and tricks to set you up with your own personal at-home yoga practice.

1. You don’t need a yoga mat for an at home practice

Many first-time yogis are unsure what type of mat they should buy. With yoga mats ranging from $15.00 to $160.00, it can be tough to choose the right one in the beginning. But a yoga mat is not necessary to practice yoga. From your hardwood or ceramic floors, to outside on your deck or planting your feet right into the grass, as long as you have a good surface for gripping and grounding, you can start anywhere. Be sure the surface is not slippery; you want your hands and feet to feel as if they can really grip into the surface below you.

If you are looking to purchase your very first yoga mat, check out Gaiam Yoga Mats. You can grab a decent one for around $35. Shoppers Drug Mart often carries this brand, or you can find them on Amazon or purchase them directly.

These are great beginner, first-time yoga mats. As your practice grows, you will likely outgrow your mat and may want to purchase a higher quality one, such as Jade or Bmat.

(Stay tuned for our best yoga mats ratings coming soon!)

2. Always have a blanket or towel on hand

It’s a good idea to keep a blanket or towel by your side for practice; it’s beneficial in more ways than one. Not only is it nice to cover yourself up with at the end of practice/savasana or use it as a little pillow for the head and neck, a blanket can also offer support for your knees when you come into poses such as tabletop position.

You can use your blanket by folding it up nicely into a square, (towels are a bit better for this) to sit on or to prop yourself up when you come to seated/sitting poses. In these postures, we need to lengthen through the spine. The towel helps to bring your hips a little higher than the knees. You may find that your pelvic area feels as if it’s tilting forward. We want to avoid arching or rounding in the spine (sinking into the lower back or rounding of the shoulders) while in seated/sitting poses – blankets can be a great tool.

When you start practicing yoga more, you may begin to notice different styles of yoga ie: Restorative and Yin Yoga, where we use several blankets for the practice. In our personal opinion, you should always bring along a blanket for your practice no matter what style of yoga you are into. If you want to use a traditional Mexican yoga blanket you can find many brands and styles online, or perhaps grab one or two while on your next vacation.

3. Find a good yoga teacher

Even with an at home practice, it is recommended to find a yoga teacher. There are so many free yoga classes on YouTube these days; try a few different teachers and classes first. When you feel like you’ve found a teacher you vibe with, perhaps sign up for one of their 30-day challenges.

Yoga with Adriene is one of our absolute favourites. She offers many free 30-day challenges that build your practice from the ground up. If you are brand new to the practice, she has a great beginner series we highly recommend!

If you would rather try something more local, you’re in luck! So many yoga teachers and yoga studios have shifted their in-class teachings to online platforms, such as Zoom and Facebook. Most classes are either free or donation based and almost all classes are beginner friendly.

Here’s some of our favourite local studios and teachers you can check out:

Alchemy Yoga and Wellness

Bridgewater Yoga

Yoga by Ashley Michelle

4. Music vs. silence for yoga practice

This is yogi’s choice. Some people prefer silence for their practice, some practice to the sounds of Frank Sinatra, Taylor Swift or OM chants. You do you, after all it is your practice! Spotify has some great yoga playlists you can explore.

5. Find a quiet space for practice

Whether you are integrating music into your yoga routine or not, we recommend when you do come to practice, you set yourself up in a space where you will not be disturbed. It’s very important to give yourself space and time to focus on your practice. The more you practice the more you will be able to connect inward, allowing the outer distractions of the world to be as they are.

This takes a lot of training! So, for those of you that are just starting out, close your door and tell those you love and share space with that you are taking this time for yourself, even if only for 20 minutes. If you are truly dedicated to your yoga practice you will start to notice you can practice anytime, anywhere, all while staying steady and calm within your mind and body.

6. Meditation and yoga go hand in hand

In our opinion, yoga and meditation go hand in hand. The ancient yogis would practice Yoga Asana: yoga meaning union, to yolk and asana meaning to sit, take seat, to sit in stillness.

We practice the physical aspects of yoga, such as moving the body and working with the breath (pranayama) so that we can come to sit still in our meditation practice.

(Check our meditation section for more information on meditation).

7. Be kind towards yourself and your thoughts in your yoga practice

Listen, you wouldn’t tell your best friend, “You’re not really good at yoga you know! You’re not flexible enough! Why don’t you just give up!” So why on Earth would you say those things to yourself?

Many of us spend far too much time inside our heads and with our thoughts. We tend to be critical of ourselves and judgmental towards others. In yoga, we learn to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Easier said than done, we know. However, this is also part of the practice.

One of the key components of a steady yoga practice is to practice Ahimsa. We know as beginners all these fancy Sanskrit words may sound intimidating but the more you practice, the more you’ll come to understand this ancient terminology.

Ahimsa simply translates to non-harming, non-violence. It is part of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. (We will get into that another time.) Of course, we work with non-violence towards others, but we also work with non-harming and non-violence towards ourselves and our thoughts.

Imagine this: you’re practicing your first or second yoga class and you’ve been instructed to come into a tabletop position, where your body comes into the shape of being on your hands and knees. All of a sudden, your wrists start aching and you’re feeling tingling, numbness or even sharp pains.

Our Ego tells us to stay, hold the pose, push harder, longer.

When we finally have allowed ourselves to move out of the pose, not only are we now in physical pain, but we have also spent the entire time harshly telling ourselves what to do.

Non-harming, non-violence is about finding that loving, softer voice. That voice you would use towards your loved one or friend. Instead, the next time you’re in a pose and harsher thoughts or words creep in, try replacing those thoughts with a more positive, loving tone.

“Oh, this kind of hurts, maybe I should move around a bit and find a place that doesn’t feel painful. You know what? My wrists are sore and tired today, I’m going to take child’s pose instead for a few breathes.”

Yoga is not about holding the poses for as long as you possibly can. One of our favourite yoga teachers Bernie Clark says “We don’t use the body to get into a pose. We use the pose to get into the body.”

8. Yoga is all about exploration

Yoga is about connecting to something much deeper and more profound than everyday life. It’s not about flat feet in downward facing dog; it’s a journey of self-discovery.

“The journey of the Self, through the Self, to the Self,” The Bhagavad Gita.

Enjoy where your yoga journey takes you.

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