Now that thousands of yoga studios and gyms are closed temporarily due to COVID-19, many yogis, seasoned and new to the practice, are looking to create a regular home practice. As we are currently on media overload; spending longer times seated; looking at our electronic devices more often and for extended periods; and experiencing anxiety of the unknown, yoga, breathwork and meditation are becoming a staple in self-care as we go through this tumultuous time. A home yoga practice is exactly what each one of us needs right now, but what if you’ve never practiced yoga before? What if you have certain physical limitations? What if you don’t own all of the fancy props like they have at the yoga studio or you are lacking in space? Creating an accessible home yoga practice can be intimidating for those starting out, but here’s a few tips that might help you to get on your mat.
If you’re lucky, maybe you have an extra room or place in your home that can become a dedicated yoga room. If that isn’t available, you need only to find a space that is big enough for your mat and can be peaceful and quiet. It could be as simple as just rolling out your mat beside your bed on the floor. In truth, yoga can be practiced absolutely anywhere! For a chair or seated practice, you only need a sturdy chair like a folding chair or a dining chair and a small space around it to move freely. A wall nearby might be helpful for supporting balancing poses. A spot in front of the tv on the living room floor or even your bed will do!
Props are a huge part of my personal practice and I use them abundantly when I teach. Not everyone at home has blocks, bolsters, and straps but I guarantee that you have something that will make a good substitute. For straps I always suggest a scarf, towel, bathrobe belt or even a dog leash. Instead of blocks, a stack of books, a small stool, or a low table can provide the same support of a block, just be careful when pressing your full weight onto them so they don’t slide out from beneath you. Large and small pillows as well as sofa cushions work great as bolsters. The addition of blankets and towels as well as chairs and walls and you have a fully stocked home yoga studio!
To begin your home practice, know that there are thousands of free videos online at your fingertips. Search “beginner yoga’ or “accessible yoga” when you are perusing YouTube or Google. There are also some fantastic yoga subscriptions that are available for a low monthly fee, some are even income based. I suggest keeping it even more simple than that to start. You possibly already know 3 or 4 poses that you enjoy. Move yourself through them at your own pace while taking the time to notice the sensations in your body. Connect with your breath and perhaps match breath with movement. Somedays I sit or lie in stillness and some days I follow my body’s lead and just move instinctually. Whether you are on your bed, in a chair, or on a mat on the floor, anything is the right thing as long as you are honoring and listening to your body. If you experience any pain or pinching, do not push through it. Just soften or make any adjustments and use your props to make your pose more comfortable and supported.
Understand that your yoga will probably not resemble flashy pictures you see on Instagram of thin, able bodied young women doing party trick poses that were snapped in a split second. Your accessible home practice will be breathing and meditation. It might include small movements in the joints with wrist or ankle circles. It might be a basic sun breath flow every morning after you wake up. However you do it, make it your own. Release expectations of perfection and find joy and beauty in movement of any kind. Thank your body for showing up, whatever that looks like. Forget what you think a yoga practice is supposed to look like. Know that your practice will be different from one day to the next and what you could do yesterday might not be in your practice today. And don’t worry about having to be on your mat for a specific amount of time. One minute on your mat is still a practice. I suggest setting a goal of 5 minutes each day but don’t be surprised 5 minutes turns into 20! And don’t skip savasana (corpse pose)! This is such a healing pose helps to restore and rejuvenate after your active practice.
There is no “right” way or “wrong” way to do yoga. This is a personal practice that can be used as a journey to within yourself. It’s a time and place for you to make peace with your body and show it the love it deserves. Take the time to get on your mat and find your light and connect with your breath.
Jacquie Barbee came to yoga as a way to heal past trauma and make peace with her own body after years of disordered eating and chronic illness. As she deepened her practice she found there was a need for yoga teachers that looked like her and who understood how to do yoga in a larger body with limitations. Jacquie who has been known as Sunny since she was born, teaches from a perspective that any body can do yoga and that we needn’t force our body into a pose but rather find the variation of the pose that fits the body whether it is on the mat, chair, or bed. Her goal is to help you find a way to use yoga as a vehicle of transformation -physically, mentally, and emotionally. Jacquie is currently a E-RYT200 Yoga Teacher with certifications in Yoga For All and Accessible Yoga. You can find her on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as SunnyBee Yoga and her website is SunnyBeeYoga.net. She posts regular videos on her social media for brief practices mostly in a chair helping to bring accessible yoga to all. She works mostly with students who are new to yoga, and those you are older; have disabilities; and don’t have what is perceived to be the “stereotypical yoga body”. She loves to go to the beach, camp, and hike, and ride bike with her family whom you will often see in her family yoga videos.