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Yoga at Home
How to Get Started and What You'll Need for a Safe, Comfortable Home Practice
Gentle stretching before bed can help you sleep better, reduce muscle and joint pain, and make you feel better throughout the day.
Yoga is a great, inexpensive way to reduce joint and muscle pain, improve flexibility, and unwind before or after work. Along with making you feel better, there are quite a few studies that show promising results on using yoga to reduce insomnia and help people fall asleep faster and more easily. Most places will have a range of classes available (often offering intro or package discounts), but you can also get started at home with around $20 in basic equipment.
If you decide to get started at a yoga studio, they should provide you with everything you need for a safe practice and guide you through the poses. Wear stretchy, comfortable clothes that you’re able to move around in easily. If you’d like to try yoga at home, read on for the basics of getting started!
Getting Started With Yoga at Home
Yoga is often pitched as a trendy, high-end activity with brand-name equipment and expensive sportswear. If you’re looking for the latest in fashionable active wear, great! There’s a truly amazing selection out there, suitable to pretty much every taste and style. As far as what you actually need to do yoga, it’s really two blocks and a mat. Having a strap is nice too, but a sturdy scarf, belt or strip of fabric will do the job just fine.
Why You Need Some Yoga Equipment
Many yoga positions will put more weight on your knees and ankles than normal sitting, and a mat helps to keep this extra pressure from becoming painful. Even simple positions are much more comfortable – I’ve tried yoga at hotels when I didn’t bring a mat along, and even with the carpet there’s a serious difference. Yoga mats also help with balance; they’re designed to help you stay in place so that you can focus on the poses without worrying about sliding around on the floor. If you’d like the full rundown of what makes a great mat, check out our Complete Yoga Mat Guide for more info.
Yoga blocks are great for adding a little extra support for getting into a pose, and are required for some deeper positions. Especially in slow yoga, using a block to start off easy and get deeper over time can be a great way to improve joint flexibility and stretch safely. Having two blocks of the same height opens up some really great poses and helps a lot with providing support evenly on both sides of the body.
While there are pre-packaged yoga kits, the inexpensive choices tend to have thinner mats and only one block. If you’re looking for an inexpensive option to see if yoga is a good fit for you, these blocks and either this 68″x24″ mat or this 72″x24″ one will come in around $20 all together, and still provide adequate padding for a home practice.
Beginner Yoga, and Yoga to Help You Sleep
Yoga You Can Do Right Now, For Free
Youtube is a treasure trove of excellent beginner and intermediate yoga classes, designed to help with everything from a bedtime routine to targeted pain relief. My personal favorite channel is Yoga with Kassandra. She focuses on Yin Yoga (see below), with an excellent yoga series specifically for sleep and also a great selection of general yoga classes for beginners. I do yoga 4 to 5 times a week, from 15 minutes to an hour per day, and this is the channel that I use.
If you’d like to try Kassandra’s classes, I’d recommend starting with:
- Yin Yoga for Sleep – Bedime and Stress Reduction Class (45 min)
- Restorative Yoga For A Good Night’s Rest (25 min)
- Yin Yoga for Beginners (35 min)
Another fantastic and very popular channel is Yoga with Adriene – her channel includes a pretty comprehensive list of topics, including specialty classes like Yoga for Digestion.
If you’d like to try Adriene’s classes, I’d recommend:
Why I Recommend Starting With Yin or Restorative Yoga
Yin is a type of yoga that focuses on holding each pose gently but for a longer time. It’s great for relaxation and improving joint mobility, with a lot of time in each pose to learn and get settled. Yin yoga is as challenging as you make it – you have the option of shorter or longer poses, and how much you want to lean into the stretch (up to a point – yin can be very intense, but it should never, ever feel painful). Yin also helps with mindfulness and learning to consciously relax your body, both of which are fantastic for sleep.
Restorative yoga is like yin, but with an even more gentle stretch. It’s low impact and most of the poses require little or no balance to hold. This isn’t the yoga that looks flashy on Instagram*, but it will help you sleep, improve muscle and joint flexibility, and just generally make you feel better throughout the day (seriously, restorative yoga can feel great, especially if you’re sore).
*I genuinely don’t mean this as a bad thing. Vinyasa is an amazing workout and getting into challenging positions is satisfying and a lot of fun! The important point is that there’s no reason for anyone to feel intimidated or that yoga needs to be hard. Doing restorative yoga twice a week to reduce pain and fall asleep is just as valid and important as flexibility training every day to get into the hardest poses. This is something to do for yourself in whatever way makes your life better.
Starting Yoga FAQs
How do I know if I’m stretching too hard?
If you’re new to yoga, be gentle. Not going “far enough” will still be helpful, and is less likely to cause injury than pushing too hard. One good check-in for yin and restorative yoga is the “breath test” – you should be able to breathe normally the whole time you’re in the pose. If you start to hold your breath, or your breathing gets faster, you’ve gone too far and should let up on how far you stretch.
If you’re concerned about injury, taking a few studio classes is a great way to get personalized feedback on how you’re stretching and what you should be feeling.
Should I talk to my doctor before starting yoga?
It’s never a bad idea. Also, if you’re working with an injury or doing physical therapy, talking with your doctor is a must.
What about chakras and all the spiritual stuff?
If you do a lot of yoga, it’s something you’ll see floating around, but it’s also pretty easy to avoid if you’re not interested. Neither of the channels I’ve linked are heavy on the spiritual end, and if it’s there, it’s clearly labeled. You don’t need any kind of buy-in to get the benefits of doing yoga.
What about meditation? It’s paired with yoga a lot.
A lot of yoga channels also teach meditation, sometimes paired with stretching. There’s some research that indicates that meditation can help with stress, mindfulness, and sleep, so if this is something you’re interested it, it’s probably worth a shot. It’s not required to benefit from yoga, and you can do yoga without trying meditation. Videos with meditation will be labeled as such.
Should men do yoga?
Men can benefit from yoga in the same ways that women do, and research has shown cardiovascular, sleep, blood pressure, and mood benefits in both male and female study participants. If you’d feel more comfortable with a male instructor, try Yoga with Tim. His channel also includes restorative, relaxing classes. If you’d like to try an in-person class, but feel concerned or self-conscious about being in a class that’s mostly women, many studios offer classes specifically for men.
How often and how long should I do yoga?
That depends entirely on you and on your schedule. Yoga is meant to make your life more relaxing, not to add another chore, so do what fits in to your current routine. If you’re new to yoga, starting with half-hour blocks once or twice a week can help you get comfortable with stretching, while even a quick, 5-minute class can feel really nice.