I have had an ashtanga home practice for the past 7 years. In this time I have been there, tried that. Being a home practitioner can be very difficult as it’s up to you to find the motivation to commit to a daily practice.
Somehow it is very challenging to find the motivation to keep up a daily ritual that actually makes you feel energized and alive and that only takes about 60 to 90 minutes on average!
As amazing as it can feel to practice in a room full of people, there are many benefits to a home practice, one of which being that it’s just you and your breath flowing through your practice. Lethargy and loneliness may be your main battles to fight through.
The main reasons people choose to do a home practice maybe because there are no Ashtanga yoga teachers near you or you once had a teacher but you or they moved away. Perhaps you actually prefer practicing alone. Whether a home practice is your option or not, here are my simple tips for an ashtanga yoga home practice.
- The Ultimate Guide To Ashtanga Yoga
- How To Practice Ashtanga Yoga Without A Teacher (My 8 Tips)
- The 3 Reasons we don’t Practice on Ashtanga Moon Days
Yoga-tip: A good quality yoga mat can really make your yoga practice that much easier and may even motivate you to practice. If you want to invest in a good quality mat used by many Ashtangis around the world, check out the Manduka Pro which comes with a Lifetime Guarantee.
Create a routine
Creating a routine for your yoga practice helps make it part of your lifestyle. When I aim to practice in the morning, I make a coffee and a small breakfast, just something to give me enough energy for the practice. This is my daily ritual I have found it to help me keep up my daily practice.
Something that could help is to stick to the same routine you would have when you practice at your studio. This, of course, applies to those who are also able to practice in a studio.
The traditional method asks us to practice 6 days a week. This really does ask us to be consistent, in order to keep up with the daily practice. You may notice that once you are able to be consistent with your practice, it is easier to get on your mat everyday and the practice gets easier.
It takes an average 90 minutes to complete the full primary series, while naturally, you can shorten your practice when you feel like it. And so think of how much your practice could change and evolve if you were to practice consistently.
Become your own teacher
The feeling of practicing with a teacher present is much different from practicing alone. One key difference is that is it very hard to give up halfway through the practice when a teacher is present. And yet, the same is not true when we are alone. And so, we must become our own teacher.
And so gradually you become your own teacher and find ways to motivate yourself, similarly to what your teacher would be doing.
Even if you do a short practice and simply chose to do the sun salutations. Be proud of yourself for stepping on the mat and doing the best you could that day.
Be nice to yourself
We often have an internal dialogue that goes on during our practice. More often than not it is negative thoughts about ourself and about our practice. So imagine what its like when there is nobody else there to speak encouraging words or something there whose presence motivates us to push beyond.
And so even if you shorten your practice or skip a few asanas or vinyasas try to stay away from guilt. This is easier said than done of course! Instead, try to focus on the things you could do and the things you are finding easier to the things that you seem to be improving on.
And change the voice in your head to one that is your biggest fan.
Practice when and where you can
When we practice yoga in our studio, we practice on the days and times that the studio offers our class. But this is not the case when we practice at home. And so work with what you can then the best way you can. If your home and surroundings don’t help, then practice wherever and whenever suits you.
This is truly the opportunity to actually become flexible in your practice. If your lunch hour is the ideal time, then go for it! If just before bed is the best time, then that’s your time! If the cramped space next to your bed is the only place to practice, well then that will be your little home shala.
Find your little shala
Find a space big enough to fit your yoga mat. A space that feels inviting and safe, as small as it may be. Of course, spread out more if that is possible. Try to make the space clean and free from clutter to minimize any distractions. You could also add a candle or an artwork to make it more special.
Having a good mat that is ideal for your practice will also help with your little home shala. For more information on Ashtanga yoga mats read my article: Ultimate List Of Ashtanga Yoga Mats.
One additional word of advice is, where possible, try to remove any distractions, especially mobile phones. Move them to another room for the duration of your practice.
Having a supportive partner and family will be a true benefit
Practicing at home when your partner and/or kids are at home can be rather challenging. If your partner is supportive and can make sure you get the time and space to do your practice then that will be extremely helpful. If not, then see how to work around your kids schedule to fit your practice in.
I have heard many parents who get up before their kids to do their practice or others who do their practice once the kids are in bed. Do whatever works for you and your living situation.
Be more flexible about your practice
Being more flexible about the practice means maintaining the structure of your Ashtanga home practice but perhaps playing around with it more. For example one day you want to more on backbends and on others you may want to work more on inversions. It is your practice so do what feels right to you.
Of course, it goes without saying that we don’t want to dilute our Ashtanga yoga practice too much and lose the overall set sequence. However, if it feels right to focus on key elements of the practice on certain days, then go for that.
Use variety, allow yourself the freedom to mix things upon some days get creative, for example, place emphasis on a category of asanas (back or forward bends), stay longer in your postures, do fewer asanas, or go faster and do more asanas.David Garrigues
At the end of the day, when we stay within the limits of the practice, by focusing on Drishti, bandhas, and breath, then there is no right and wrong. Just what is right for you in that given moment in time.
Measure progress by the fact that you practiced
In the Ashtanga yoga world, we tend to develop a sense of greed with more poses. We want more and more. Our ego gets bigger, our practice gets longer and we become more advanced. A home practice helps us get over the ego and grounds our expectations and need for more poses.
I know that feeling. Wanting the next pose. Associating your commitment and ego with that next pose.
After years of a home practice, I now feel proud of myself when I complete a full practice. And I make sure to pat myself on the back so I know that I am proud of myself for turning up and facing the solitude of a lonely yet deep practice.
Use your drishti and breath to help concentrate
When we practice alone at home it can be very difficult to concentrate. Practicing with others in a studio designed for this practice really does help the mind stay focused. And yet, at home, this is when we really need to up our game and fine-tune our Drishti and breath to support our practice.
And it is important to be aware of the fact that concentration may be a bit more challenging at home.
I remember as a student at university, the joke was that during exam periods, students’ bathrooms were the cleanest you would ever find them. Anything to not study, right?
And the same is true with our ashtanga home practice. The unfolded washing, the dirty dishes, bills you forgot to pay easily distract us from our practice.
And a steady drishti and deep breathing with sound may eventually help us distance our minds from those distractions and stay present with the practice we are doing. And after savasana, when we are ready, then all those things will still be waiting for us. Fortunately and unfortunately!
Commitment is key
Stepping on the mat can be considered as the hardest bit. Soon though it becomes a habit that is when you get to enjoy the benefits of a committed practice. We all have our good days and our bad days. It is nice to have a constant practice to guide us when we are feeling low and when we are happy.
The practice is a set sequence of postures linked by breath. there is no guessing game, no unknowns. All that is asks you is to be committed and from there you can then take the practice with you everywhere.
Get a practice buddy
Having a practice buddy can be a real game changer, especially when you feel you need that boost in motivation. Having someone practicing next to you can really help those struggling to commit to a steady practice alone. If that is not possible, the online world can be a source of inspiration.
The Facebook group ‘Aṣṭāṅga (Ashtanga) Home Practitioners Network’ is a network of currently over 14,000 members from all over the world. They are home practitioners who support each other and answer any potential questions people may have. Well worth checking out.
Use an audio or video led class to follow
On days when I feel less motivated and rather lethargic, I like to practice and follow a led class. I have a variety of teachers and audio recordings I like to follow. A wonderful option is to follow one of the videos from Purple Valley where many well known teachers go and teach.
Here is one of my go to youtube classes with Petri Räisänen that helps guide me in my ashtanga home practice.
For the Ashtanga yoga beginners, here is a short practice you could try with Laruga Glasier.
Trick yourself into thinking you’ll only do the standing poses
I do indeed trick myself into thinking I’ll only do the standing poses. This can work well for two reasons. If you only do the standing poses then you did what you set out to do, which in inteslf is an accomplishment. If you do more, well then you exceeded your own expectations.
More often that not, by the time we finish the standing poses were are all warmed up and in the zone and so it becomes less of a challenge to go form there.
Prioritize your practice
When we prioritize our practice, everything else becomes less important. And this will help create a consistent and committed practice. The reason being that with so many distractions at home, it is easy to get lost in all the other things we could be doing with our time.
And so step on to your mat and promise yourself that you will focus on just yourself as you and your well-being are more important than getting that job done just a little later.
Be flexible with the duration
Your Ashtanga home practice can be as long as you want it to be. Just one thing to make sure is that you always do the sun salutations and a version of the finishing postures. It is up to you how much of the standing and then seated postures you want to practice.
And so your practice can last 90 minutes every day. Or, it can last 15 minutes one day, 30 minutes another and 45 the next. It is up to you.
I remember being surprised when I figured this out. It was when I was going through David Swenson’s book Ashtanga Yoga – The Practice Manual. At the end of his book, he has the Short Forms as names it, with 3 short forms of practice, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 45-minute versions of the Ashtanga yoga practice.
He went on to explain the benefits of creating shorter practices:
Take pleasure in your practice. It is good to finish a session and be looking forward to the next one, rather than making our practice so difficult that we create a loathsome duty of it.David Swenson, Ashtanga Yoga – The Practice Manual
No More Excuses
We live in a world that glorifies being busy. Oh, I would love to but I am too busy. And yet, with a home practice, there is no studio to go to. It is making the practice a priority and staying away from excuses that end up self-sabotaging ourselves and what we could be achieving.
And so once you are able to commit to your practice, you may, in fact, notice that you are making fewer excuses to yourself.
Just Do Your Ashtanga Home Practice
Saying to yourself, just do it can be very powerful. It doesn’t really matter whether you jump backs were as effortless as even (or never) or whether you were able to stay in headstand for the 20 breath count you are aiming for. Just doing what you could on that day is powerful.
And for a quote that may help:
Do your Practice and All is ComingSri K Pattabhi Jois
Get creative with yoga props
In the Ashtanga yoga world, some of the more traditional teachers don’t use props. And yet, at home, you are your own teacher so you can use them to your advantage and really tap into things that you may be struggling with. Just try to not disrupt the flow of the practice too much.
Yoga props include:
- Blocks, which may be used to help with your jump backs
- Straps, which may be used to help hold your leg in Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana (the first balancing pose)
- Yoga wheels, which may be used to open up your back and prepare for backbends.
For a list of my recommended equipment for home practitioners check out this article: Ashtanga Yoga Equipment And Accessories.
Find time to study
By studying more about yoga and ashtanga yoga specifically, you will begin to understand the deeper parts and intentions of the practice. This will make it easier for you to understand how it works, which in turn will give you the motivation you may be needing to carry on.
If you are interesting in some key texts to supplement your practice, look at the lost of Ashtanga yoga books I compiled in this article: The 23 Best Ashtanga Yoga Books 2020 (Beginners & Home Practitioners)
Take baby steps
Taking baby steps is very important especially for beginners in this practice. It may be easy to get overwhelmed by all the poses and all the different elements of this practice. And so be sure to take baby steps and slowly but surely you will get where you want to go.
If you don’t have a teacher to guide you along the way be sure to follow along with a video tailor for beginners, as this will give you the foundations needed for this practice.
So for example, you may just start with sun salutations. And when they feel comfortable, move on to the standing poses. And when they feel comfortable to move on to the seated poses. And take it from there.
Here is one of my practice videos where I share a short and sweet 20-minute Ashtanga yoga practice.
Watch the Tutorials
Thanks to the internet, you can now find almost anything you are looking for. And so you will easily find tutorials on almost any of the poses or elements of the practice you may be struggling with. Look for those taught by well-respected teachers who safely help you explore the pose.
Learning the finer details and the correct technique will help you understand the purpose of each pose and more importantly, it will help you avoid any potential injuries. Both of which are very important when we are practicing without the guidance of a teacher.
An excellent example of a well-known and respected teacher who has many many tutorials on YouTube and does a great job explaining how to approach postures is Kino McGreggor. Here is one example:
Don’t force it
A teacher may be able to notice when we are forcing something, simply by the look on our face. And so when we practice alone we have t learn ourselves not to force or push anything. This will most likely lead to injury and then frustration. And so when you feel the urge to force or push, let it go.
Be softer and gentler with yourself. Easier said than done, I know!
Travel to a teacher
Traveling to a teacher can really help us and our practice. It helps us find the motivation we may be needed, it helps us fine-tune elements of the practice we may need help with, it helps us address and correct any bad habits we may have gained and it also helps us connect with a community.
I practice alone and make a point of traveling to my teachers once a year. I have three teachers that I absolutely love and feel lucky to have guided me along my Ashtanga journey.
My teachers are:
- Sharath Jois, Mysore, India
- Matthew Sweeney, Bali, Indonesia
- Kia Neddermier, Paris, France
When I can I travel to them and as they are all very different teachers and have a very different approach to the practice, I feel I get a well rounded ‘calibration’ form each trip to them.
Heat the room well
This tip applies to the colder months when you really want to have a warm room to practice in. Another alternative is to wear several layers of clothes and thick socks to start off with. At the end of the day, do what feels right for you and also what you can in fact do.
When the room is cold the body just tenses up and so we will need to do many more sun salutations to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping in order to generate more heat.
Track your progress with an app
Use technology to your advantage with the Ekaminhale Daily Yoga Practice App. This App lets you note down your practice in a calendar, something that is perfect for home practitioners who may need that feeling of accountability. This could be a game-changer and even has the moon days noted.
This is where you can get the app from
Prepare the space the day before
And last but not least, set up your practice space from the day before. This will help you set your intention and may make you less likely to skip practice or come up with excuses and your practice space will be already there waiting for you!
How can I practice Ashtanga yoga at home?
Try to start off with a teacher and when you feel comfortable then start practicing st home. if there is no teacher near where you are, try starting with some videos tailored for beginners. Here is an excellent example:
Is Ashtanga yoga harder than Vinyasa?
Ashtanga yoga is a set sequence os poses while Vinyasa can vary from teacher to teacher and class to class. There are Ashtanga yoga classes for beginners and there are Vinyasa classes for beginners. Try both and see which one is better for you.
Does Ashtanga yoga build muscle?
Many of the postures in Ashtanga yoga require weight-bearing. And so when combined with the repetition of vinyasas throughout the seated postures it becomes clear that Ashtanga yoga can help build muscle strength.
For more information on the benefits of Ashtanga yoga, read my article: Ashtanga Yoga For Beginners: A Detailed Guide
Can beginners do Ashtanga yoga?
Of course, beginners can do Ashtanga yoga. There is a famous quote that may help answer that question:
Old man, stiff man, weak man, sick man, they can all take practice but only a lazy man can’t take practice.Sri K Pattabhi Jois.
Have a look through the recommended videos in this article for beginners and you will indeed see that beginners can do Ashtanga yoga.
Can I do Ashtanga yoga every day?
We traditionally practice six days a week. Of course, you can practice less than that. It is a good idea to not practice more than that as the body also needs time to rest.
There are also two days. a month that we also traditionally don’t practice. These are the moon days (full moon and new moon). For more information on why we don’t practice on those days read my article: Why Not Practice Ashtanga Yoga On Moon Days?
How does Ashtanga yoga change your body?
For more information on the benefits of Ashtanga yoga, read my article: Ashtanga Yoga For Beginners: A Detailed Guide