Taking yoga in a class setting is the ideal way to learn. While there are many great yoga books and videos available, there is no substitute to learning directly from a good teacher. You may be lucky enough to have found a great teacher and a class to attend, but what if you have neither the time to spare nor the convenience of an accessible class? Is practicing yoga at home a safe and viable option?
How does one get started and stick with a home practice? Is your home practice going to go the way of every other New Year resolution you’ve ever made? The first problem is finding the time to practice and then sticking to it.
 Did You Know?
- Yoga is not really a form of exercise -- it is a philosophy that has endured 5,000 years.
- The word Yoga means union or joining. With increased awareness, the poses become meditation-in-action with awareness of the breath flowing through the body. Physical tension and imbalances are brought to attention and begin to release.
- The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago.
 Finding the time
Most of us aren’t disciplined enough to follow a schedule for long enough, but as little as 15 minutes a day can introduce you to the benefits of yoga and will keep you wanting to come back for more. It is best to practice yoga before eating or at least two hours after a meal. Sarah, who practices yoga at home on a daily basis says, “When I started yoga, I could never find the right time to practice. Either I’d just had a meal or was too hungry to start practicing. Practicing yoga in the evening was convenient for me”. Suit your own lifestyle; some people prefer the mornings, while others feel they are more flexible in the evenings. Pick a time of day that works easily in your schedule and stick to it. This daily routine will give you the momentum to continue your yoga practice.
You are not likely to be folding yourself into a pretzel too quickly, but keep at it and you’ll eventually get there. In the beginning, a little yoga every day is likely to be more manageable than trying to squeeze in a longer session. Sneak in a few asanas as and when you can. Rebecca, a beginner to yoga says “I go into the trikon asanas when I put the kettle on, it gives my body a complete stretch and makes me feel invigorated.” Obviously the more time spent on yoga, the greater the benefits, but it is best to start slowly and gradually build up the duration. This way you’ll avoid a rapid burnout and are less likely to be a yoga dropout.
 Plan Your Practice Sessions
Base your practice on an established sequence of postures from either a book or a video. This can be a source of inspiration and will give you a well rounded session. Don’t worry about having favourite asanas, most people would rather just do the standing poses but you’ll soon begin to appreciate how relaxing and invigorating the forward bends and the backwards bends are. A lot of people prefer to use a video or an audio tape so they know how long to hold a pose for. It is also easier to follow instructions if you are listening to them, rather then having to read them. Don’t skip the final relaxation pose. It may seem like a waste of time but is an integral part of yoga. You will be amazed at how tensed your body can become and how quickly and effectively shavasana can help you relax.
An important point in yoga is to breathe correctly during the postures. Don’t hold your breath while attempting the asanas. Breathe in and out through your nose. Breathing deeply helps you get relaxed and move deeper into the poses. Make a conscious effort to regulate your breathing during all the asanas you practice.
 Look for inspiration
Besides using books and videos to aid your practice, look for someone closer to home for inspiration. Forget Madonna and Sting; talk to people who practice yoga regularly. You are more likely to be inspired by someone who can give you advice and can answer your questions than a lean and fit Geri Halliwell. Read about the different styles of yoga, surf the web; the more knowledge you gather, the more yoga will interest you.
 Stick with it
Don’t let yoga be just another fad that you tried and abandoned. The 15 million people who practice yoga the world over are not just following a trend. Enough has been written about the benefits of yoga, it’s time you experienced these changes. Don’t be discouraged if some of the asanas seem impossible to get into, no one is born that flexible, but you can train yourself to get there. Stick to your practice for three months and you’ll never look back. Soon those wobbly bits will start to perk up; you’ll walk straighter, feel calmer yet have a lot more energy. Don’t let gaps in your practice discourage you, get back to your daily practice as soon as possible and most importantly enjoy your practice.
 Listen to your body
Certain asanas like the headstand should only be attempted with a teacher. If you feel you are putting too much pressure on your knees or your forward bends are causing you a lower back pain, you need to ease up. Build up your strength and flexibility slowly. Don’t push yourself, do the asanas only to your own capabilities. Move smoothly and deliberately. Try holding your asanas for longer than you’ve done the previous times.
Once you feel comfortable with your home practice, introduce yourself to Pranayama and meditation.
The one thing that will keep you coming back for more will be the way you feel after every session. Let that be your reward. Give in to yoga and yoga will give back to you ten-fold.
 How to Clean Your Yoga Mat
If your mat is lightly soiled, use a spray bottle, damp sponge, or terry cloth rag to apply a solution of two cups of water and four drops of dish soap. Rub the soiled areas. Wipe the mat with clean water; then rub with a dry terry cloth towel. Hang to air dry.
If your mat is heavily soiled, submerge it in a solution of warm water and mild detergent; use very little soap as any residue may cause the mat to become slippery during future use. Thoroughly hand wash the mat and rinse in clean water. After squeezing out the excess water, lay the mat on a dry towel and roll the mat and towel together. Stepping on the rolled up mat will squeeze more moisture out of the mat and into the towel. Then unroll and hang to air dry.
A cleaner, greener method is to spray vinegar from a spray bottle on the mat, and then wipe clean. Drying it in the sun is a safe, natural way to kill those germs.
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