One of the most common questions we get at Yoga for Men is “How can I begin my home Yoga practice?” While there are many answers to this broad question, the solution varies greatly depending upon which stage of practice you are in, and what your prior physical history has been up until this point. While I’m not going to get too deep and throw a bunch of Sanskrit words at you…yet, I do ask that you give your Yoga practice an honest effort and keep an open mind to possibility.
Most importantly, try to approach your practice with a sense of playfulness and curiosity. Ultimately, your own internal voice is your truest guide. I know you have a plethora of questions (yes Alfred W in Spokane, this post is for you), so I’m going to try to tackle some of the ones that have been showing show up in my inbox the most as of late, while at the same time keeping it simple and not going too far down the rabbit hole.
What is an asana?
“I went to a class and the instructor used the word ‘asana’…a lot”
Remember a paragraph ago when I said there’d be no Sanskrit words? Well, I lied. Don’t be afraid though, this is the only sanskrit word that you’ll need to know for now, but it’s kind of a biggie.
Take note, you’ll see the word asana A LOT in the Yoga world. It’s most basic meaning is a “hatha yoga posture”, but essentially asana [ah-suh-nuh] is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. You see, the postures (asanas) that most people in the West think of as “Yoga” are but one of the Eight Limbs. The word “Yoga” itself encompasses the Eight Limbs. So when you’re on the mat moving through the postures in a sequence, you’re doing one particular branch of the entirety – Asana. I won’t get into the Eight Limbs of Yoga in this post, but I will be doing a series on them in the future.
Quick tip: Most yogic postures END with the word “asana”…virabhadrasna, tadasana, savasana.
In a nutshell, Rod Stryker says it best:
“The intent of asana is that you are calm in the midst of turbulence. The success…of your practice should be judged by how well you remain centered in the midst of change. Not your leg behind your head or handstand in the middle of the room. Success of asana is measured by how well you deal with the challenges of life.”
What equipment do I need to start?
“I REFUSE to wear purple Yoga pants! Ok…well…maybe just once”
Besides fierce determination, inexorable desire, the willpower of Hercules and a continuously stoked fire in the belly, your Yoga practice doesn’t really require much equipment. One of the things I like about Yoga the most is how portable and inexpensive it is. It can be your chiropractor, your psychologist, your best friend, life counselor and personal trainer all in one, and all for under $30. And you won’t need to buy purple Yoga pants. Unless, that’s your thing of course. Hey, I don’t judge :)
So when you do finally get some hours on the mat underneath your belt, what you’ll quickly come to realize is that you’ll have Yoga with you wherever you go. And I find that that’s a very secure feeling. All it takes is a little familiarity and comfort with just a simple handful of poses and you have will full body workout with you at all times.
But with that in mind, some of the more practical real-world items that you’ll need for a home-based practice are:
- A good Yoga mat. I use a very sturdy Kharma Khare “Yoga Reincarnated” mat at home, but I also have a lighter “sticky” mat as well that I use for the studio and for travel. It just depends on what type of Yoga session my body is asking for on any given day. I’ve gone through a lot of mats and have a closet full of them. It’s taken me awhile to find the right ones.
- Yoga props such as straps and blocks. These are used simply to assist you in the poses and are not required (but I recommend them for beginners and veterans alike and there is ZERO shame in using them.); e.g. use a block when in triangle pose (trikonasana) if you can’t reach all the way to the floor. Or use a strap wrapped around the ball of your foot for seated forward folds (paschimothanasana) to coax yourself a little deeper into the posture.
- A space of your own. This, to me, is the most important thing. Whichever space you choose, it needs to be yours. And you need to make it FEEL like your own. Maybe light some incense or keep the lights dimmed during practice (I like low light), clean the space regularly and keep the floor vacuumed. And let the family and pets know that it’s yours.
Quick tip: When I travel, which is often, I will grab a couple of towels out of the hotel bathroom, layer them on the floor, and that becomes my personal studio. And since I have my Mac loaded with all of my Rodney Yee videos, I always have a world-class instructor with me as well. If you have never heard of Rodney Yee, I highly recommend his videos for a beginner. His “Flexibility” video was a huge catalyst for getting my back on the yogic path.
That’s all for now. Be sure to leave your comment in the comments section below, along with any other “newbie” questions you may have.