Why Practice Yoga at Home?
practice: we all know we should be
doing it, but why bother, when we could just attend a class anyway? If you
needed any further urging, a recent preliminary study suggests frequency and
duration of home practice may be the key to reaping the most benefits from your
To conduct the study, researchers
distributed anonymous surveys to 4,307 randomly selected participants drawn
from 18,160 Iyengar practitioners at 15 Iyengar studios in the U.S. The
researchers measured dimensions of physical, behavioral, and psychological well-being.
were striking. It didn’t appear to matter overall how long participants had
practiced yoga, but rather the frequency and total time practiced on a regular
basis. Home practice, whether comprised of asana, meditation, pranayama, or
philosophy was found to be an important predictor of many aspects of health
while class attendance was not. Improvements included mindfulness, subjective
well-being, fruit/vegetable consumption, and reductions in sleep disturbance,
BMI, and fatigue. Those most likely to practice yoga at home were also more
likely to practice a broader array of yogic practices and potentially glean a
more comprehensive span of benefits.
Due to the
study’s cross-sectional design, it does not suggest that home practice is
necessarily more beneficial than class practice. For example, it may be that
the individuals most likely to practice more at home in their study were also
higher in self-motivation, mindfulness, etc. to begin with, which helped them
practice at home. However, we can equally surmise that home practice may have
promoted these qualities. Future research should thus investigate these relationships
The results of
this study may seem fairly commonsensical. Because it can be challenging (and
expensive!) to attend yoga classes daily, having a regular home routine
established can thwart the standard excuses for not practicing (for example,
being too tired, broke, or busy). It also projects a reminder of the importance
of yoga practice—and everything that entails—into the home environment, where
many important decisions are made and your habits, for better or worse, reside.
For me, the most
important part of developing a home practice was starting by creating a safe
and sacred practice space. While you may not have the luxury of an exclusive
room for this, you can designate an area of your home and utilize room dividers
or other techniques to cordon it off from your normal environment. If children,
technology, or other distractions beg your attention, hang a sign on the door
or divider, set a timer, and communicate clearly that you will be available in
X minutes. Turn off all distractions, and tune into the sweet sensation of
If you want to
practice at home but are not yet sure you know enough postures or need more
safety/alignment tips, supplementing with yoga class attendance or private
sessions is a great way to expand your knowledge base and support home
practice. For advanced practitioners, an exclusively home-based practice can
become stale; continually supplementing with classes, workshops, and other
experiences ensures continued growth and evolution.
Do you have a
home yoga practice?
Editor’s Note: This is Part One of a two-part series. Read Part Two here.