For a practice that involves bending into various shapes, you’d think it’d be easier to Tetris yourself into the nooks and thin spaces of home, but yoga–like workouts, like meditation–is hard to do when you don’t have room for it. We spoke with Jessamyn Stanley, founder of The Underbelly and author of Every Body Yoga, for advice on how to get started turning your home into a one-person yoga studio.
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“It’s not a good idea to spend a lot of money right out the gate,” says Stanley. If you’re just starting out with yoga, get a cheap mat, literally from anywhere. It’ll force you to be more aware of your body positioning to keep from sliding around, instead of relying on an ultra-grippy mat to compensate for bad form. “Sometimes if you start with a really good mat, you don’t learn all the really important foundational, tactical body things that are really necessary to have a more advanced physical practice,” she says.
Once you start to grasp yoga principles, Stanley says you should step up to a good mat. She likes the Lululemon Reversible Mat ($78), which is actually on the cheaper end of where she considers “good mats” start. If you want what she calls the perfect mat, you’ll shell out for the Jade Yoga Fusion Mat ($135).
Regardless of the mat, you’re going to get it sweaty, so throw a towel over it. Stanley doesn’t think yoga towels are worth it. Use a bathing towel, she says, preferably one that’s been washed a few times, since a brand-new towel will be more slippery.
Decorate Your Space
Aside from making enough room around your mat so you won’t bang elbows on any furniture, a yoga space needs to be inviting, even if it’s just a temporary clearing on the living room floor with the coffee table pushed back. Try to make one spot your regular yoga area. Having a certain part of the home become familiar as your yoga spot can help ease you into the mindset that you’re exiting the workday and ignoring other flashy living room distractions—now it’s time for yoga.
Aside from that, all personalization is optional. This is the easiest step, because as long as it doesn’t get in your way or distract you, it’s fair game. Don’t neglect how much of a role scent has in centering your mind. Set up candles, burn incense, or use an oil diffuser. Lavender and sage, especially, are prized for their relaxing effects. Adding indoor greenery with houseplants is one of Stanley’s favorite ways to decorate a yoga space. Anything that speaks to you and makes you relax into a state of mind that lets you begin to focus on yoga—crystals, meditation bells, tarot cards pinned to the walls—will do.
If loud neighbors, roommates, or street noise keep you from focusing, buy a sound machine to drown them out. The LectroFan Classic is our favorite because it has 10 different fan sounds and 10 more varieties of white, pink, and brown noise. Even silence can be deafening sometimes, so it could come in handy if you need some background noise to focus on your yoga.
Prop Yourself Up
Get at least two yoga blocks. There are going to be times that, no matter how good your form and strength are, you’re going to wish your arms were a bit longer to pull off a pose, which is where a block comes in handy. In situations where you need to plant a hand on the floor but can’t aren’t flexible enough to reach, the block will allow you to brace yourself so you can pull off the pose.
You can also use blocks in other ways, such as raising the pelvis or resting your head in other positions. It’s the most useful and ubiquitous prop. “It’s not about assisting the practice,” Stanley says. “It’s about deepening the practice.” Bolsters are large cushions used for support in various positions where you wouldn’t want to use a hard block, and straps can help you reach your feet in poses where you need a little extra flexibility.
Like with the mat and towel, you can use stuff lying around the house if you want to save money while you’re still new to yoga. Tape cardboard boxes together to make blocks. Use books or a couch cushion. Stanley has even used a trash can as a block and her dog’s leash as a yoga strap. You really don’t need to buy stuff to practice yoga, she says, although once you start improvising equipment you’ll start to realize the virtue in buying gear that was made for yoga.
Wear the Right Clothes
“You should practice as close to naked as possible,” says Stanley. So, if you’re comfortable practicing naked, do that. If you can’t because you’re sharing your home or just aren’t down with the idea of it, then practice in your underwear. Still too much skin? Go for tighter yoga clothes instead of loose, baggy clothing. Tighter yoga pants let you be more aware of your body positioning, and less concerned about extra fabric getting in your way.
For yoga pants marketed to men, there are dramatically fewer options than for women. A lot of what’s marketed toward men is loose-fitting, which hangs and gets caught up while positioning yourself. It’s easier to just find a T-shirt in your wardrobe that’ll work for yoga, but it could still help to buy one with some stretch in the material so that it doesn’t restrict your movements. Yoga clothes are expensive, but you don’t need to spend big. Uniqlo has lines of affordable, tight-fitting pants marketed as leggings for women and tights for men that will work just fine for yoga.
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