Yoga at Home: 5 Easy Ways to Make Your Home Feel Like a Studio
PHOTO: SYDA PRODUCTIONS VIA CANVA PRO LICENSE
Like practicing yoga at home? You aren’t alone. A survey of more than 10,000 yoga students from 124 countries found that 85% of respondents practice yoga at home. Ask these students what makes practicing at home so enticing and they’ll tell you it comes down to three things: convenience, cost, and privacy.
It’s true. When you practice at home, nearly everything is on your terms. From the time class starts and ends to who’s instructing, an at-home practice offers students a lot of control with minimal investment. To practice yoga at home, all you need is a little time, a little space, and a little sequence to flow to. But, what if you’re really going for that studio feel? From space basics and classic props to luxurious cherry-on-tops, this is your guide to creating a yoga studio-like experience at home (and on a budget).
The Basics: 3 Must-Haves to Practice Yoga at Home
When you strip it down to the absolute necessities, there are only three things you need should you want to practice yoga at home: time, space, and a sequence to flow to. These basics make up the backbone of an at-home yoga practice, so let's spend a moment with each, shall we?
1. Doing Yoga at Home Must-Have: Time
“How long should an at-home yoga session be?”
Time is the true wild beauty of an at-home yoga practice. You can practice at home when you have the time, even if you’ve got very little of it. Whether you turn to YouTube or a paid membership for access to instructors and flows, class is essentially always on-demand. Class instructors? They are very aware of student time constraints. For this reason, you’ll find flows ranging from less than ten minutes to over an hour. This means, whether you’ve got a sliver of time or a windfall of it, you’ll find a class length that’ll fit it.
If you’re really curious about how long other students typically practice, here is an excerpt from the DoYou survey:
The most common time intervals for yoga practice were 30 minutes (28.4%) and 60 minutes (28.2%). Still, 19.1% of yoga practitioners do yoga for only 15 minutes or less, and 10.5% do yoga for 90 minutes or more each session.
That shared, please, do you. (See what I did there?)
Studio-Like Pro Tip: Build in a Time Buffer
One common snag to at-home yoga practice is the potential to have your session interrupted or abruptly cut short due to, you know, life happening at home. One way to handle this is to be realistic about how long of a session you can fit in.
For example, if the clock tells you that you've got one hour before the kids get home from school, resist pressing play on a 60-minute flow. Instead, go for a 30- or 40-minute session. This way, you give the yoga a chance to “set in” after the session is over. In other words, give yourself a 20-minute transition from post-class glow to go-go-go.
2. Doing Yoga at Home Must-Have: Space
“How much space do I need to do yoga at home?”
The average yoga mat is 24 inches wide (60,96 cm) by 68 to 72 inches long (172,72 cm to 182,88 cm). But, in addition to mat space, we also have to factor movement of our body parts into our space needs. A few examples of space-hungry moves:
Studio-Like Pro Tip: Test-Drive Your Space
Yoga studios are designed to allow roughly 22 square feet per person. This breaks down to a space that is somewhere around 3.5 feet by 6.5 feet.
It’s tricky for me to tell you exactly how much space you need for your home studio. Why? Because all bodies are gloriously different. My recommendation is that you use the shortlist of asanas above to test-drive your own space for fit. Be sure to clear any elbow-clunking furniture out of the the space first and to take a quick glance at the ceiling to make sure you won't be kicking any lights out.
“Do I have to have hardwood floors to practice yoga at home?”
Nope. When it comes to what lies beneath your feet, what matters is that you strike a balance two safety factors: slippage and cushion.
A NOTE ABOUT CARPET:
I’ve consistently practiced on medium-pile carpet without a yoga mat or a rug with no issue.
Now, low-pile carpet DOES concern me a bit because it might not offer enough cushion for the sit bones, knees, and heels. That said, this can be fixed by layering a yoga rug on top of the carpet. I do not recommend a yoga mat on top of carpet because of potential slippage.
The potential problem with high-pile carpet is that it might introduce balance issues. A nice albeit potentially pricey fix for high-pile carpeting is to purchase a wooden mat platform to layer underneath a yoga mat.
A NOTE ABOUT HARDWOOD FLOORS:
If you have hardwood floors, your potential issues are both cushion and slippage, however, these are both quickly solved by the use of a yoga mat or yoga rug.
Studio-Like Pro Tip: Mental Space
We’ve talked a bit about giving your body the physical space it needs to practice yoga at home but there’s another space-factor to consider here: mental space. There are three things that you can do to help your mind settle into your home practice as it does in studio. Those three things are:
Silence your cell phone.
Keep your space clean and clutter-free.
If you have young children, recruit your partner to give you the free time to complete your practice. If you do not have a partner, it might be best to practice before or after the kids go down. (I know that’s hard.)
3. Doing Yoga at Home: A Flow
“Where can I find a great online yoga instructor?”
Independent instructors and fitness brands have responded to the rise in demand for online yoga classes by building out digital platforms for their offerings. This is great news for the at-home yoga student.
It means you can try multiple class styles in one week without leaving home. It means you can practice with an instructor based in New York one day and in India the next. It means you have options, like, a lot of them. We’ll break these flowing-at-home options down into two categories: free classes and paid classes.
FREE ONLINE YOGA: The Promised - but Impacted - Land of Free Yoga Classes is YouTube
As we touched on in the “How much time do I need?” section, there are many talented yoga instructors offering free yoga classes online, typically via YouTube. When I say ‘many’, I mean it. There is so much free yoga available on YouTube, that it’s almost overwhelming.
To cut through the thick of it, I'll share that one of my personal favorites is Allie Van Fossen, but I can’t emphasize the word ‘personal’ enough here. Embedded in that word ‘personal’ lies two of the major advantages of practicing yoga at home: it's at your convenience and at a cost that works for your budget.
Now, I teach and take yoga classes in person and I love it.
To that honest-to-goodness emotional truth, I will add this fact:
…there are two different “investment” realities to the in-person experience versus practicing yoga at home. The first is time. When you practice in studio, not only are you investing class time, but you also have to tack on the additional time it takes to drive to the studio and back.
The second is cost. The current average range for a 60-minute group yoga class at a drop-in rate is $15-20 (in the U.S.). When you attend class in a studio, you pay this cost upfront and regardless of whether you’re familiar with the instructor or know what to expect from his or her class. When you practice at home using online class experiences, you can explore a variety of instructors for minimal time and financial investment.
PAID ONLINE YOGA: Memberships and Retreats
From Big Brands and Fitness Houses
In addition to free yoga classes, there are paid memberships through outlets like Alo Moves and Gaia. Paying monthly dues give you access to both live and on-demand classes with instructors that have a certain amount of “celeb” status in the fitness world.
At the time of writing, an annual subscription to Alo runs $199 (and includes other fitness formats like barre and strength) and an annual subscription to Gaia costs $99.
From Independent Instructors
Aside from larger brands, there is also the option to work with independent instructors, like me! In addition to teaching in person here in the Nashville, Tennessee area, I create online yoga offerings. Two things to know about me:
I don’t do YouTube. This is because being that “discoverable” just isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I like the idea of students finding me serendipitously through a post like this.
I don’t offer class online. Why? Because lots of instructors offer classes online. Instead, my online offering is mini-retreats. These retreats are designed to help students find a specific purpose and meaning on the mat. For instance, in The Anxiety Relief Retreat, I help students combine their yoga practice with mindfulness meditation and journaling exercises to learn how to make it through and manage anxious moments. That 8-hour retreat is $47 and, once purchased, students have forever access to it. You can learn more about The Anxiety Relief Retreat here.
The Bottom Line: There’s great news for practicing yoga at home here in the Flow need: online instruction is available at a wide range of price points and formats. You just have to explore a bit to discover what works for you.
Studio-Like Pro Tip: How to Know When You've Found the Right Instructor For You
The right instructor for you is the instructor whose flows, philosophy, and personality keep you coming back for more. So, explore! Take lots of classes both online and in-person. When you find yourself doing yoga more often or even thinking about yoga more often, it's likely that you’ve made a solid instructor connection.
The At-Home Yoga Studio: Beyond the Basics
Aside from a little time, space, and instruction, there’s not much more you need to practice yoga at home. But, if you’re really going for that studio feel there are a few props and ambiance-boosting items that you might like to add to your space.
How to Get Yoga Studio Vibes at Home: The 5-Prop Collection
Let’s start with props. You will find my recommendations for purchase-able versions of each of these items in the budget-based checklists in the next section. For now, I’ll introduce a five-piece collection of the most common yoga props and a simple substitute for each one that you probably already have at home.
1. The Yoga Mat
A yoga mat is the most basic of all yoga props. It might seem odd that I’m referring to a yoga mat as a 'prop' here, but as we talked about earlier, you can do yoga on a medium-pile carpet just fine. That said, it does make sense that your first yoga prop purchase is a proper yoga mat. For beginners, I recommend a mat that is at least 5mm thick.
NOTE: Some people will use a towel in place of a yoga mat at home. I don’t recommend this. Why? Because a towel doesn’t offer protection from slippage nor does it offer enough cushion to support any parts of your body that come into contact with the floor. As a substitute for a yoga mat, I recommend practicing on a medium-pile carpet or non-slip rug.
2. Yoga Block(s) or Brick(s)
After a mat, the props I recommend next are one or two yoga blocks. Two is nice for certain asanas, but one will often get the job done. Yoga block dimensions are usually around 6-inch x 4-inch x 9-inch and they are often made out of wood, cork, or foam. The studio where I teach provides foam blocks, however, I use cork at home.
Easy at-home alternatives for blocks include shoeboxes or shipping boxes. If you like to use boxes in seated poses, you might consider filling those boxes with books, then duct or mask-taping them up so that they are sturdier. You can also use a short stack of books as a substitute for blocks.
The most common yoga strap length is 8 feet, however, you can find them in 6-foot and 10-foot lengths as well. They are typically made of natural fibers like cotton or hemp.
Substitutions for a strap are super easy, they include a belt, a scarf, or a jump rope. Now, if you choose to go with a belt as your substitute, be careful, okay? We don’t want to get smacked in the kisser with a buckle.
Another common yoga prop is a blanket. Confession: I have never purchased a yoga blanket. I use whatever I have handy because, really, any rectangular blanket that is somewhere around the dimensions of 5 feet by 7 feet will do. I typically use a Mexican-style blanket, but there are some really nice n' lux woolen yoga blankets that are very popular in studio settings.
Whether you are purchasing a blanket or using one you already have, you will need to know how to fold a yoga blanket like they do in a studio. Let’s learn how to do that now!
How to Fold a Blanket, Yogi- Style
Fold the blanket over so that the shortest ends meet. Keep the fold of the blanket near your left hand and the open part of the fold near your right hand.
Grab the bottom left and bottom right corners of the blanket and fold them up to meet the top left and top right corners.
Grab the bottom and top left corners of the blanket and fold them over to meet the bottom and top right corners. You can use the blanket just like this, or for that bolster effect...
...you can take this new shape and fold the sides in one after the other, such that you’ve created thirds. This shape works nicely for back support in poses like Legs up the Wall and for support of the chest in Child’s Pose.
Last, but certainly not least in the yoga prop world is a bolster. Bolsters are commonly used in restorative poses, but they can also be unsuspectingly useful in more advanced poses.
For example, when cueing Crow Pose in class, I suggest that students place a bolster on their mats where their faces would land should they fall forward. Knowing that the worst that can happen is a face plant into a soft bolster does wonders for a student’s willingness to experiment with a difficult pose.
A bolster is another prop that can easily be substituted with a common household item, in this case, a firm pillow or couch cushion will do.
How to Get Yoga Studio Vibes at Home: 5 Ambiance-Boosters
We just covered what a well-stocked home studio looks like from a prop perspective. Now let’s move on to those extras that can really enhance the home practice experience.
Much like there might be a specific street we “grew up” on, there is often a yoga studio we "grow up" in. It’s the place where yoga imprints on us. For me, that was place was Maha Yoga in Brentwood, California. It smelled like Nag Champa.
To this day, when I catch a whiff of Nag Champa, I am transported twenty years back in time to Steve Ross’ Saturday morning class. Although I might physically be in my bedroom in Franklin, Tennessee, I am flowing in studio with Steve in spirit.
Whether it’s lighting incense or plugging in your essential oil diffuser, the addition of scent to your at-home yoga practice can be transformative. Popular scents that can make you feel like you’re practicing in a studio include cedar, sandalwood, frankincense, and eucalyptus.
There’s inexplicable magic in a tiny, flickering flame. Day or night, lighting a candle is a simple way to elevate an at-home yoga session.
There's no need to channel Madonna’s Like a Prayer video here, just one small candle will do. I recommend unscented candles, especially if you are already using incense or a diffuser during practice. I like to fill a glass dish with water and float an unscented tea candle in it.
Studio-Like Pro Tip: Safety First!
If you don’t trust yourself to remember to snuff out the flame after practice, please use a battery-powered flameless candle. (But, don’t place it in water!)
3. Aromatherapy Ice Towels
You know what's really, really nice to have toward the end of practice? A cold towel infused with an essential oil like lavender, citrus, or eucalyptus.
To make such a tiny chilled joy, simply fill a bowl with 3 cups of water. Drop somewhere between 5 and 10 drops into the bowl. Submerge a small face towel in the water, then wring out the excess. Roll up the towel and place it in a plastic container. Place the plastic container in the refrigerator.
When it's time to practice, pull the plastic container out and place it near your mat. Toward the end of practice, when you are in resting poses, remove the towel from the container and place it either over your eyes or set it at the corner of your mat and let it unfurl.
If you are turning to an online instructor for your in-home studio flow, note that there may or may not be music in the background. This is because, in order for an instructor to legally include music in the background of an online class, they must purchase a license for that music. That can be pricey for an independent instructor.
So, if music is an essential part of your yoga practice, but the class you have found does not include music, you can simply play your own tunes at low volume while streaming an online class. If you have Spotify, this is one playlist I like and this is another.
5. House Plants
3 Home Yoga Studio Checklists to Fit Your Budget
Ready to put your home studio together? Check out my recommendations for a studio-like experience at home for three different budgets!
Practicing Yoga at Home: The $50 Home Yoga Studio
Practicing Yoga at Home: The $100 Home Yoga Studio
Practicing Yoga at Home: The $250 Home Yoga Studio
What You "Miss Out" On When You Practice Yoga at Home
When you practice yoga at home, you gain the benefits of convenience, lower cost, and privacy. These have tremendous value. So, what makes yoga students continue to drive to their local studio to practice in person when they could simply unroll their mat at home?
Tailored-to-you guidance from a trained pro.
One of the main benefits of practicing in a studio includes receiving hands-on guidance for advancing your practice or reducing your risk of injury. At the end of my beginner classes, I tell students they are free to stick around and ask any questions they may have. Many often do.
An interruption-free space.
In addition to having trained eyes on your alignment, being in studio offers students a sense of away-ness. Remember when we talked about mental space? The studio setting protects it. No phones are allowed and no toddlers are sliding their fingers under the door.
The last thing I will mention here is community. One of the most unexpected joys I have had as an instructor is watching a class become a community. I see it when students chat each other up before and after class and root for each other during. In Sanskrit, this is called sangha. It is created when a group comes together to support one another in what they seek.
Practicing Yoga at Home vs. Practicing Yoga in Studio: Who Wins?
There is no reason to compare the two. They each offer different benefits that you can partake of as you need. You can spend your life practicing yoga at home and that is yoga. You can devote yourself to an in-practice studio and that is yoga.
The form of practice that "wins" is the form that keeps your practice blooming. So, if an online, at-home practice helps keeps you on the mat, do it. The world of online yoga is thriving. This means your at home yoga practice can, too.
Questions? Experiences to Share? Enter them here.
Do you have a preference between practicing yoga at home or in a studio? What tips and tricks do you have for making your at-home yoga space special? Tell us in the comments!
PHOTO CREDIT, TOP TO BOTTOM: WOMAN DOING YOGA ALONGSIDE CHILD BY ORBON ALIJAH VIA CANVA PRO LICENSE; HAZY PURPLE AT HOME YOGA BY JAMIE CASPER VIA CANVA PRO; WOMAN IN TEAL OUTFIT DOING YOGA ONLINE BY ALESSANDRO BIASCIOLIO; YOGA PROP SETUP BY OWNGARDEN VIA CANVA PRO; WOMAN DOING TRIANGLE POSE WITH A BLOCK BY FILMSTUDIO VIA CANVA PRO; WOMAN IN SEATED MEDITATION USING HER LAPTOP BY ANNA STILL VIA CANVA PRO; WOMAN IN CHILD'S POSE ON PALM TREE MAT BY SASHA PRITCHARD VIA CANVA PRO; WOMAN LEADING GROUP YOGA CLASS BY MEDIA PHOTOS VIA CANVA PRO