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The Beauty Trust

Setting Up for a Home Yoga Practice

Setting Up for a Home Yoga Practice

I don't give a hoot about what I wear for yoga. But I'm serious when it comes to my practice props.

Personally, I'd be happy wearing the same pants, tank and savasana sweatshirt for every single practice. Yoga fashion does not get me jazzed. But I *will* be walking into class with about 100 props and aids to get me closer to my yoga faster and more comfortably.

The truth is, you don't need a thing to practice yoga. A body? Yes, that. A comfy place to sit or lie down. I think that does the trick. But if you're suddenly practicing from home and missing your studio's equipment, let me hold your hand toward toward an easeful, supported home practice.

Before continuing to read, know that, yoga is not a sport of consumerism. It is about finding an easeful path to the yoga that already exists inside of you. Props and aids are there to clear your path. Almost all of these can be collected from around your house, by simply focusing on their purpose and being creative. But I also included specific suggestions when I think I can share something exceptionally good. Here are my personal essentials based on my two decades plus of practicing yoga, and the ones I include in the practices I teach.

1) Something to make the floor softer and stickier (other than my son's maple syrup)

While a blanket on the floor can be suitable for seated or reclined poses, if you want to practice standing postures or sun salutations, you will need a mat with some cushion and some grip.

JadeYoga** makes my favorite sustainable, eco-friendly yoga mat. These mats are made here in the US from renewable rubber. Even better, Jade is a family business, which speaks to my tender heart.

But what I really love about these mats is that they are super grippy. If your hands or feet tend to slip while practicing, this is the best choice. And I have tried -- I won't say "all" -- but upwards of 20 yoga mats.

With two shot knees and sensitive joints in general, I opt for the Jade Fusion mat, which is super thick and cushy. I also love that this extra cush challenges my balance -- and, therefore, keeps me a little more present in my balancing poses.

2) Something to bring the floor up to you

In my practice, I am always focused on the line of energy from my root to my crown. I like to loosen my body, find my breath, feel this line, and then be ready to sit with attention to the flow of energy up and down (and down and up) this line. If I'm in a pose and reaching for the floor in a way that's tweaking my spine or that line, I want to bring the floor up to me. 

At home, to bring the floor up, you can make use of some thick, heavy books. Paperbacks will not do; trust me, they're just not sturdy enough. As one of my teachers quipped this week, "ah, those encyclopedias finally have a purpose." Keep your supports at the front of your mat as you practice, and grab them as needed.

If you want to stock up deliberately, purchase some yoga blocks. I recommend three in total, because it enables you to come into a most luscious supta baddha konasana (reclined bound angular or reclined goddess), with one block under each thigh and one raising one end of your bolster (more in a moment) into a ramp. There are foam blocks, wooden blocks, and cork blocks. I prefer the foam blocks to the wooden or cork blocks, which I find too hard and uncomfortable for certain postures (such as my beloved yin fish on two blocks). But I also don't like a foam block that's *tooooo* soft and, therefore, like a paperback, just not supportive enough. It's definitely a case of the princess and the pea.

3) Something to bring your limbs to you

If your body is not comfortable when reaching for your feet in a seated forward fold or joining opposite hands behind your back, do make use of a belt or strap to make the posture more easeful. When the body is not struggling, the mind can be more at peace in the moment. 

This should be one of the easiest things to find around the house. Any belt or strip of not-too-stretchy fabric will do. I use a cotton yoga strap with metal D-rings at home. When I practice at the gym or studio, I use my mat strap, which has two loops already built in.

4) Something to support the full weight of your torso and legs

The most important part of my yoga practice is my restorative practice. I cannot imagine yoga without these deeply restful components to soothe my body after a physical practice or to help settle my mind for meditation. To recreate these poses at home, use the guiding principle, "the place of maximum support" (contrasted with "the place of maximum stretch"). The objective in the restorative postures is to make the body feel so supported that it can completely release into your props. When kitting out your yoga area, consider about 40 pillows. Okay, not really. But several pillows. Firmer is better -- again, think support.

In my own practice, I use a very large, very firm rectangular bolster. Or two. I prefer the bolsters from Yoga Accessories, because of how sturdy they are. If I build a bolster ramp (one block at one end of the bolster) and my bolster or pillow is sagging at the midpoint, it needs more support. To create this support, you may use all manner of cushions, pillows and books. Just make sure you leave a soft side to lay your body on.

5) Something to darken the room

For the most deeply calming restorative postures or savasana, see about darkening the room. At my yoga studio in New York, ISHTA Yoga, the downstairs room was subterranean and was so dark you could be transported out of the lively vigor of the Manhattan sidewalk in just moments. (I'm using the past tense because I'm now in Chicago; the studio is still going strong, albeit on Zoom ATM.)

At home, this comforting, womb-like feeling is hard to recreate. I'm usually interrupted by one or both children during my practice. And by the time they go to bed (and nature is giving me the calming darkness I like for the end of my practice), there's no way I'm up for practice; I'm up for sleep.

I rely on my eye pillow -- placed on my forehead and then gently drawn down over my eyes to just the point where the light is blocked -- to deepen my relaxation during or after practice. An eye pillow has two purposes: first, to provide weight to your third eye center, the space in the middle of your forehead. Second, to darken the room. Your eye pillow should be wide enough to do both at once. A thin rectangle not much bigger than your sunglasses case just will not do the trick. (To add a third purpose to your eye pillow, add some aromatherapeutic lavender.)

Eye pillows are also useful if your mind is racing in savasana and your lids are twitching, like an infant in a dream state. Placing your eye pillow over your third eye and lids will help calm the lids, and also your thoughts.

You need nothing fancy for an eye pillow. Use a folded-up hand towel or fill a sock with rice. Or call a local shop that might need some business right about now. My personal eye pillow was gifted to me by my dear teacher Al Bingham at Encourage Yoga in Croton, NY. I love this pillow because it's extra wide and made of the softest fabric.  

6) Something to weight you down

Can you tell I'm obsessed with savasana? Please, never skip these moments of rest at the end of your practice. I can count on one hand my pet peeves. One of them is yogis leaving class in the middle of savasana. ACK! Why rob yourself of the most critical part of the practice? By lying down and resting at the end of your practice, you give the body-mind a chance to integrate the movement. If you're tempted when practicing at home to skip this portion of class, with no teacher encouraging you to do include it, please, please, resist the temptation. Take the two minutes and give yourself this gift.

Set up for savasana by covering yourself with a nice, heavy blanket. If that's too much or you run too hot, consider just covering your lower belly, fronts of your hips, and upper thighs. These actions help soothe the nervous system and are especially comforting if you're feeling anxious. (Anyone?! Anyone?!?)

If you want a yoga blanket dedicated to your practice, I love the heavy cotton ones -- without fringe -- from Yoga Accessories. They are super heavy and really give me that feeling of being soothed and comforted at the end of my practice. And I don't have fringe tickling my neck, chin or nostrils. Extremely distracting :)

Finally, a sandbag (or two) is an extremely useful tool for your home yoga practice. I love these props for breathing exercises, weighting down the fronts of my thighs in savasana or seated forward folds, and as added weight for strengthening exercises. My recommendation here is to find a nice thick fabric, such as a canvas, to avoid them slipping, and at least one carry loop.

Do you have a home yoga practice? Is it harder or easier with your current constraints? Do you think you'll change the way you practice after we reach a new normal?

(**.This is an affiliate link. If you visit and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. Yay! I've been telling people about these mats for years, so that would be just fine.)

Comments? Questions?