by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Earlier this week, weather forecasters predicted that Jersey City and the greater New York City metro area might be hit with one of the worst blizzards we’ve ever seen. Fortunately, the snow totals weren’t as bad as forecasters had predicted. Still, Yoga in the Heights, and all other local yoga studios, had to cancel some classes, in anticipation of snow accumulation.
Now, if there’s ever a time I need to practice yoga, it’s during a blizzard – snow stresses me out! So what’s a yogi to do when the snow prevents her from leaving the house?
First, let me be clear: nothing can adequately substitute a studio practice under the guidance of a trained yoga instructor. In a yoga class at Yoga in the Heights, the instructor can ensure that students are maintaining proper bodily alignment and motivate them to stay focused and pay attention to the breath. In addition, nothing can replace the sense of community that students feel when they visit Yoga in the Heights.
However, sometimes unforeseen circumstances, like snow, can prevent us from getting to the studio or might mean the studio has to close. Don’t sacrifice your yoga practice! Here are three tips for practicing yoga at home:
1) Create a comfortable space with minimal distractions: Put away your smartphones, computers, and other devices (unless you’re using an app or video to guide your practice). Try to find a hard, flat surface, where you can lay your mat (like tile or hardwood). If you have candles or incense handy, light them to create a calming atmosphere, or adjust the lighting.
2) Find a virtual yoga instructor: Though I’ve sometimes improvised my at-home practice, I find that I’m more focused and challenged when an instructor is guiding me. Luckily, many options exist, in the forms of subscription websites, smartphone apps, free YouTube videos, and yoga magazines.
- Subscription yoga websites include YogaGlo, Yoga Today, and MyYogaWorks. The benefits of using these subscription sites is they most closely resemble a full-length in-studio practice, and you can choose exactly what type of class you’d like to take.
- Smartphone apps include YogaStudio and Pocket Yoga, which allow you to build your own practice pose by pose. The advantage of using an app is that you can fully customize your practice.
- Some yoga instructors, like Tara Stiles and Adriene Mishler, have YouTube channels, where they share free practices. The downside of using free yoga videos is that they’re often not full-length practices and advertise a subscription-based service.
- Magazines like Yoga Journal always include a section with an at-home practice. The section features step-by-step photos and instructions.
3) Don’t skip savasana: Sometimes, when I practice at home, I’m tempted to skip savasana because I want to get up and finish washing the dishes or put away my laundry. However, the final relaxation pose is so important to counter all the work you just did in your practice! At the end of some yoga videos, the instructor will ask the students to take savasana for as long as they please, and then end the video. Challenge yourself to actually stay in corpse pose and observe how your practice has affected your body and your breath.
4) Incorporate pets into your practice: When I practice yoga at home, my miniature dachshund Charlotte thinks this is a good opportunity to play with me by jumping on my stomach when I’m in navasana or licking my face when I’m trying to hold plank. My first impulse is to be annoyed, but I welcome the added challenge. Yoga is all about staying focused and present. Or, you could do what the man in the video above has done, and teach your pet how to practice yoga too!
5) Try something new or practice something that needs work: First of all, be careful. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t try! However, if a yoga instructor has shown you how to do a pose that you’d like to perfect, take this opportunity to practice it at home. In a studio class, the instructor can’t customize the class to every student’s needs, so you might not be able to practice all the poses you’d like to improve. At home, you can spend some time working on crow or dolphin poses. I know I need to work on headstand, but I should probably move some furniture out of the way!
Hopefully the snow or other inclement weather won’t keep you away from the studio for too long, so you can go back to practicing with your favorite instructors and meeting/spending time with your community members.