I awake each day in a bed of rose petals, and waft in the pre-dawn glow to my eco-friendly yoga mat, and practice 90 minutes of asansas. I then take a decadent, hot, steamy shower where the soap effervesces like a body wash commercial from the ’90s. I wrap myself in a luxurious cashmere robe, all before sipping a cup of piping hot herbal tea in front of my meditation station. Centered, I am then ready to prepare my daughter’s lunch, my lunch and our full family breakfast, after which we will both calmly get dressed, pack our bags and bundle up, and peacefully and happily walk (or bike) to school, arriving exactly 7 minutes before the children are due.
Bwahahahahaha ? ? ? ? ?….
Family breakfast usually consists of Goose sitting at the table eating hers, while I stand in my bedroom door pulling on tights asking her if she’s almost done b/c Marketplace is on and we have to walk out the door in 7 minutes. We often arrive 7 minutes AFTER the children are due, and there’s nothing luxurious or decadent happening at all before 8:25 am. There might be moments of calm, but they’re hard-fought and require a lot of deep breaths. But, if nothing else, I do manage to get approximately 40 minutes (give or take) of peace each day, in the form of my twice-daily home yoga practice.
Yoga found me during my first year of teaching high school. I was incredibly stressed and overworked, and was lucky to have the employee benefit of free therapy AND to get a counselor who introduced me to mindfulness meditation. From there I jumped right in — to yoga and chakras and crystals (#healed) — and started a strong home meditation and yoga practice. I don’t remember exactly when it became twice-daily, but that’s how I do it now.
And it’s my lifeline.
Learning Yoga At Home
My yoga routine(s) came about pretty organically and have changed depending on where I live, what’s going in my life, and of course, my child’s ages and stages. I began with a mat, a DVD and a book. I still use all of these, as well as some special issues of Yoga Journal; every year, usually in the summer, they put out a home practice issue with tons of routines — super-useful if you’re like me and prefer a bit of variety in your practice. They’re also available here online. I eventually started taking classes, and it’s likely because of my dance and athletic background that I didn’t injure myself despite prolonging teacher-led practice*.
I’ve pretty much always done yoga in the pre-dawn hours, and been lucky enough to mix teacher-led classes and yoga at home. When I was in my second trimester of pregnancy and had an ear infection manifesting as vertigo, I couldn’t go to work, but I had to retrain my brain to accept motion, so I did prenatal yoga at home morning and evening.
Yoga also helped me bond with Baby Goose. It gave me something to DO with her, when I — in my postpartum OCD fog — didn’t know quite what to do with her or how to do it. Itsy Bitsy Yoga by Helen Garabedian was my fav book for that — it is outstanding. And we both enjoyed it. Heck — I started doing baby yoga with Goose before I started doing it myself again. But when I went back, I went back hard….starting with a half-day workshop on the humid banks of the Sai Gon River at 9 weeks post-natal.
How To Create A Home Yoga Routine
What You Need: a yoga mat or quite frankly, a floor with, if possible, a firm but pliable surface.
What You Might Want: a blanket, a strap, a yoga block (or two), a list of poses (could be via DVDs, a streaming service, yoga books, or magazines), workout clothes, time to yourself (if you don’t have that, there is quite a bit of yoga to do with kids out there).
Starting An At-Home Yoga Practice
1. Make Space
The first step to creating a yoga routine at home, is to establish the routine. Make it easy to get down on the mat and breathe and flow. I do yoga in the middle of my living room. In Dubai, I did it in the tiny third bedroom known quaintly to expats as the “maid’s room.” I had no live-in maid, so I had a yoga/meditation room. I never had to move the mat, or get annoyed by any clutter or any other distraction. If you have an extra small space you don’t know what to do with (a walk-in closet in the guest room?) Go for it. Make yourself a shanti, and just do it.
I do yoga in my living room not only because there’s nowhere else, but also because I can’t get around it. I do yoga first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and I cannot check on the kiddo, turn out all the lights, and get to my room without walking by my yoga mat.
I don’t leave my mat down all day.
I roll them (I use two) up in the morning after I’m done, and then put them out at night after I’ve cleaned the kitchen and Goose is in bed, and leave ’em there while I sleep. (Who wants to roll up a yoga mat after relaxing yourself — or awakening from shavasana — just before you’re about to get into bed?)
The mat is then there in the morning, ready for me.
Yoga Mats Worth Shopping
Both my at-home yoga mat and my yoga mat for travel are made by Manduka. Yoga mats are some of those things that get updated and improved year after year, so I’m going with environmentally less harmful ones here, since, ya know, it’s yoga. If I was buying one today, I’d go for that sustainable Yoloha cork mat produced by a small family business (they can be personalized, too).
2. Create Time
Figuring out how much time you’ll spend doing yoga is kind of hard (if you’re like me — #TimeIsSpunFromMagic). I spend about 10 to 20 minutes at night on the mat doing relaxing bedtime yoga (with a little PT thrown in), and then anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes on a weekday morning. It took me a long time to figure out though, that I’d gone beyond the 20 minutes I thought I was doing, and actually allocate the proper amount of time for myself. I still struggle trying to balance enough time for all the Morning-Before-School-Mom-Things and getting a minimum, self-prescribed amount of sleep at night.
When do I do yoga?
- After the kiddo is asleep, before I go to bed.
- Once I get up, before I wake the child.
I have tried doing yoga once Goose is awake, BUT a) that almost always guarantees that I will not get us out the door in time, and b) I find it hard to remain calm when I’m interrupted. I mean, I know the latter is The Whole Point Of Doing Yoga — to be able to keep calm even when my child interrupts me — by…say, playing a musical instrument or crying that the tights that fit five days ago no longer fit — but I’m not there yet — apparently.
If I have to shower in the morning (I always do at night #cityliving,) it comes before. Doing yoga while my hair is wet happens to give it the body and shape I desire (sort of a “you-should-do-me-but-I-probably-won’t-let-you” look). Bonus!
Yes, in theory yoga might cut into my sleep.
But know what I dislike more than possibly getting an hour less sleep at night? Waking up in the middle of the night, failing to fall asleep at all, or rising uber-sore and tight and being grumpy with my daughter and the rest of the world because I neglected to give my body and mind a little TLC.
I count yoga as part of my bedtime because it is restful, semi-somnolent, quiet time — after the phone is on DND, the computers are off, the lights are low, and the to-dos are done (or at least moved to another list for another day).
3. Devise A Plan
Uh…so this isn’t my strong suit. I’ve used DVDs, magazines, yoga books, audio instructions through Insight Timer (my fav meditation app), and my own mix of Sun Salutations and other morning poses. I’ve gone from very simple using Rodney Yee’s AM Yoga DVD — five routines, one routine per day — to getting very complex and planning out weekly what yoga routine, which chakra, what meditation…. to ensure I’m Totally Balanced Inside And Out depending on what’s happening in my body and the world during the week. That was
fun stressful. Now I just mix it up, but I do try to write out the week’s routines on Sunday.
I recommend trying whatever/wherever your fancy leads you. If you have a book or magazine, start with that. If you have a yoga DVD or someone has recommend YogaGlo to you, start there. If you know which type of learner you are:
- audio — try Insight Timer
- visual — try a streaming service like YogaGlo (now called “Glo”)*
- prefer a didactic approach — get a book (*see the collage below for recs)
My teaching mentor gave me the book Total Yoga by Nita Patel — a total game-changer for my at-home yoga practice. (The book is older, but worth grabbing new or used on Amazon or elsewhere.) A little old-school, I still use DVDs and streaming episodes, but can recommend Rodney Yee, Baron Baptiste and Shiva Rea (I use my favorite series by her, Daily Energy, via iTunes, which you can get here.) Others by her you can stream from Acacia TV, which appears to have been acquired by Amazon).
The best part of a home yoga practice is that it’s your way — there’s no one right way. AND you don’t have to worry about paying for a studio, or paying a babysitter, or whether you washed your yoga gear, or if anyone at the office knows that’s what you’re doing on your lunch break, or the time it takes you get there and take the class and get back home/to work. You just do it.
Start where you are.
4. Commit To Your Yoga Routine
There are all sorts of reasons I do yoga. One reason is that I have autoimmune issues. I also do yoga because: I’m less anxious, I think more clearly, it helps my circulation, it regulates my digestion, it prevents headaches and pulled muscles, I focus better throughout the day (I often say it’s my morning coffee), yada…yada…yada. I’ve now been doing yoga consistently for more than 15 years, and it doesn’t mean that I’m better or more committed or — ha! — more organized than anyone else. My friend Susie and I boiled it down to this:
We feel better — and life is better — when we do yoga; we feel worse when we don’t – SO JUST #YogaEveryDamnDay.
A daily yoga practice may be a good place for you to begin (especially if you start with just 10 minutes a day). But no matter what your goal is (one day a week or seven), choose a plan you can stick to. Apps like Insight Timer help you track each session, and reward you for consecutive days of practice.
Creating the well-formed habit is what’s most important, even if you have to cut your time per day short. I keep a travel mat in my carryon for this reason; I leave myself no excuse to skip a practice. Highly recommend.
Yoga Mats For Travel
What To Wear For Yoga At Home
Quite frankly, whatever the hell you want. I tend to wear either thermals or yoga pants or loose lounge pants, plus a sports bra and a few layers over that. I’m one of those Forever-Cold People who gets warm about 15 or 20 minutes in.
The pants I’m wearing in the photos are from Julieta’s friend Darya. She sells her MomLife leggings on this site. I LOVE them, and I don’t really love any pants. They have tons of pockets (that are actually useful) and a nice high waist. They’re also sustainable (organic cotton, made in the USA, in a solar-powered facility). I generally wear them for dance class, because pull on some OTK boots, throw on a black dress and a black sweater and you have yourself a work outfit. I highly recommend.
The hard part is where to keep your yoga clothes — NEXT TO YOUR BED, or near the bathroom or close to your yoga space — easy if you live in the city because it’s likely all three of these places is the same. If you sleep in your workout gear, then good on you — you’re halfway there. I have a basket in my closet right in between my bedroom and bathroom, so I might leave them in there. If I’m smarter, they’re on the chair or bench next to my bed, or in my bathroom so I can put them on right when I get out of the shower.
Do Yoga At Home: Books, Activities & Videos
Here’s a quick guide to my favorite at-home yoga resources. The books I used myself (with and without Goose), as well as activities and streaming services.
- Total Yoga | LOVE. This is the book I started with and still have. I’ve gifted it to many friends over the years. Highly recommend. Not sure what price you’ll find on the link here, but you should be able to find it for $15 or less at a local bookshop or secondhand online.
- Total Yoga Tara Fraser | This appears to be a great, up-to-date substitute for Total Yoga by Nita Patel. I’d go for it if I needed it.
- Restorative Yoga For Life | Yoga Journal is a solid (if not THE) go-to source for All Things Yoga. If you’re looking for Hatha or gentle ways to de-stress & balance, this looks perfect.
- Science of Yoga | OBSESSED. I want this right now, and I think it’s the one S would get if yoga at home were on her radar. Check out the “Look Inside” on Amazon — cool anatomy-class style illustrations show you how the muscles should be aligned when you’re in a position. Totally drooling.
- Yoga At Home | Another Yoga Journal publication. I much prefer following their print materials to the website (ads, man) especially while following a home sequence.
- Yoga Your Home Practice Companion | This one looks insanely spot-on. I might be adding it to my collection. Check out the “Look Inside” feature.
- Glo (YogaGlo) | This was the first online streaming service recommended to me, and it still shows up on lists on best yoga apps and streaming services. Some of my fave instructors and writers (Jason Crandell, Kathryn Budig and Elena Brower) are featured.
- AcaciaTV (now on AmazonPrime) | Acacia is where you can find my favorite, Shiva Rea’s Daily Energy Flow and More Daily Energy, as well as other instructors and cardio yoga programs to stream. It appears they’ve been bought my Amazon, and combined with Prime Video.
- Gaia (Gaiam TV) | If you’re really into yoga and meditation, and the spirituality behind them, Gaia is great resource. It used to be Gaiam, so if you purchased any yoga DVDs back in the Aughts, there’s a good chance Gaiam produced them. There are monthly, annual and live streaming subscription options.
- Yoga International | I love the way Yoga International organizes their content (by level, by yoga type, by teacher), the site is accessible, and there’s a 30-day free trial.
- Alo Moves | Alo is one recommended by Shana and Mike (they love it), and it appears on a bunch of “best yoga” apps/streaming lists.
- Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story | I can’t say enough good things about this book. I enjoy reading this with Goose at night as much as she enjoys doing it. And the savasana at the end….heavenly.
- Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story | My cousin got us Good Night Yoga a few years ago, and it’s a lovely way for Goose to wind down at night. If it were realistic (see above), this would be a lovely way for her to awake in the morning.
- Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger| Can’t recommend this book enough! Great photos, instructions & sequences that took us from infancy to toddlerhood.
- I Am Yoga | This looks like an amazing combo of great illustrator & yoga teacher who present powerful stories of self-reliance amid 17 yoga poses.
- Once Upon a Mat | Goose has been doing Once Upon A Mat by Namaste Kid since she was 2.5 & still finds solace in the routines. They are the perfect combination of good storytelling & teaching & focused visuals on the poses. LOVE
- Yoga Motion | I give Yoga Motion (also by Namaste Kid) the same rave reviews I give Once Upon A Mat. Highly recommend.
- Yoga Pretzels (Yoga Cards) | Yoga games are such a fun way to get kids involved with yoga. This one is for kids & their grown-ups + gets great reviews.
- Kids Yoga Challenge Pose Cards | Another yoga pose game that gets high reviews on Amazon. The illustrations & explanations of the poses appear to be clear & accurate. It also looks fun.
*To be clear: I am not a medical doctor or a certified yoga practitioner. I also, on occasion, have been lucky enough to have had some amazing yoga teachers: it is always best to practice with a teacher when you can, even if you cannot always do it regularly. The last thing any of us want is to hurt ourselves (let’s face it, moms don’t get hurt or sick EVER, right)? So, if you have access to a yoga class or a yoga teacher and you can, it’s best to attend regularly or often enough to ensure your alignment and positioning are correct, and that any changes to your body or health aren’t throwing those off (especially is you’re pre- or postpartum).
Yoga at home is supposed to be easy. That’s why I do it this way. Please feel free to shoot me questions or leave ideas in the comments for us about your own home practice. I’d love to hear how other women fit home exercise and/or restorative routines into their lives.