How to Practice Yoga At Home

How to Practice Yoga At Home

Last week, I shared some thoughts on why you should practice yoga at home.  This week, I thought some tips on how to practice yoga at home might be helpful.  Part of my yoga teacher training is keeping a diary about my own practice; it’s been a while since I had a regular at home practice so it’s something I’ve had to work to redevelop.  At the same time, my mum has recently discovered yoga and has been asking for advice on how to practice at home as a beginner: where do you start?

Where to go for ideas and inspiration

Go to a class

This might sound counter-intuitive but going to a yoga class is really important to developing your own practice.  Firstly, it’s a great way to learn the basics and how to practise the postures safely.  Secondly, your teachers (and I suggest you try classes with different teachers) should be a source of inspiration.  Many teachers use a set sequence to base their class around so, once you’re familiar with it, use this as the basis of your practise.  If you’re worried about not remembering it all (which doesn’t actually matter, by the way), take a pen and a notebook to your next class and jot down the sequence; just remember to let your teacher know what you’re doing – a, it’s polite, b, they are there to help you and may have their own tips on self-practice.

Go on retreat

In a similar vein, a yoga retreat is a great way to cultivate self-practice.  You’ll be taking your yoga practice to new depths anyway, exploring new postures and techniques, and you have so much time on your hands away from the usual distractions of life.  So take advantage!  Use some of that spare time to practise on your own – your yoga teacher will be on hand to give you advice if you’re struggling.  There are lots of retreats out there so hunt around and find one that appeals to you.

Get online

The internet is a wealth of resources for yogis!  There are literally hundreds of websites out there with advice and ideas for your practice.  Some of the ones I use include: MindBodyGreen, DoYouYoga, ElephantJournal, YogaJournal, Yoganonymous, and GaiamLife. There are also plenty of sites offering free and paid-for classes – not something I have tried yet but check out this handy little guide to some of the best.

Use a book

In addition to the internet, there are a whole plethora of yoga books out there.  I am going to recommend two that I use a lot.  First up is Om Yoga: A Guide to a Daily Practice by Cyndi Lee.  This is such a great little book to practice with; it has short sequences for each day of the week, handily tabbed, with easy-to-follow stickmen drawings.  You can use the daily sequences or the book also has a series of ‘recipes’ at the back to put together longer practices.  This is my go-to resource when I don’t know what to do with my practice.  The other book I love is How Yoga Works by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally.  This is actually a novel about a young woman in 12th century India, who transforms a community through her yoga teachings.  It’s a beautiful story in its own right but also provides a really accessible way to understand the Yoga Sutras.  I always recommend it to friends who have started practising yoga and they have all loved it!

Designing your own sequence

Keep it simple

All of my tips so far have been how to find ideas and sequences that you can practise at home but how do you make up your own sequence?  I asked one of my teachers this question while we were practising yoga in Goa a couple of years ago and her advice still guides my practice: start with a few rounds of sun salutations, then pick one posture you hate and one you love.  It’s that simple.  The postures you don’t like to practise are the ones you probably need to practise the most; I don’t like forward-folds because I have tight hamstrings (thanks, running!) and so they are hard but that just means I need to do them more.  And pick a posture you love because your practice should be enjoyable and it’s good to end on a positive note.  This will also help keep your practice balanced.

Closing your practice

Always close your practice with a moment of quiet contemplation; this could be shavasana or just sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Just take a moment to notice you feel after the practice and to reflect on all of the blessings in your life.

It can be daunting the first few times you step onto the mat without having someone else’s voice to guide you but it gets easier with time.  Try not to get too focused on how long you should be holding a pose for (as long as you’re comfortable for or about 5 breaths are both a good guide); instead, really try to focus on how the postures feel.


The Benefits of Self-Practice

The Benefits of Self-Practice

I love going to a yoga class.  Or on retreat.  I really enjoy the community that exists around practising yoga.  But ultimately, yoga is about your own journey, the connection with your body and your breath.  If you really to feel the benefits of yoga, whatever they are for you, you are going to want to step (bravely) away from a class and into self-practice at some point.  My yoga teacher training course, for example, puts just as much emphasis on self-pratcice as class attendance.

I’m going to talk about how you can do that in a later post; firstly, here are a few reasons why you should practise on your own.

Anytime, anyplace

You don’t need much to practise yoga.  There is only one essential: you!  A mat is a nice-to-have but not a requirement; you don’t even need a lot of space.  This means you can practise whenever and wherever you like, so no need to fit your life around a class schedule.  Find a time and place that works for you and go for it!

No time limits

In a similar vein, you can practise for as long or as little as you want.  Regular practice is the key to improving at anything; it doesn’t need to be an hour long class, even 10 minutes every day will help you start to feel the benefits of yoga.  I always better when I practice in the morning at home; it’s easier to get up in the morning, I ache less at work, I have more energy throughout the day.

Practise how you feel

I think it’s great to be challenged in a class, especially if you’re lacking energy, but the beauty of a self-practice is that you can tailor your practice around how you are feeling.  Want to really push yourself today?  Go for it with a fast-flowing vinyasa practice.  Maybe you’re feeling run-down and just want to relax with some restorative yoga.  Or perhaps you’re working towards a challenging posture and want to focus on postures to help you reach your goal.  You can do anything you want in self-practice because you are the only person that matters.

Save money

Let’s face it – yoga can be an expensive business these days.  The average price of a class in London seems to be about £15 and that’s before you’ve thought about travel or having the “right” clothes.  Practising on your own is free and who cares what you’re wearing!

Discover what yoga really means for you

People practise yoga for all sorts of reasons: to be more flexible, to get stronger, to feel more grounded.  Maybe all of those things apply to you; maybe you haven’t quite worked that out yet.  Yoga teachers can guide you through your journey but they can’t do it for you.  I would really recommend going to classes and learning from as many different teachers as you can but you are the one who needs to put the work in and discover what ignites your passion for yoga.  For me, it’s those little moments of peace and quiet in my head, where the rest of the world and all my worries just back off for a while; I just feel a sense of space and lightness after practising.

It’s fun!

There is no right or wrong way to practise yoga (as long as you are staying safe and listening to our body) so play around with the practice.  Have fun.  Enjoy it!  Put on loud music; laugh; experiment with postures and flow.  Whatever you want – it’s your practice.


May your life be filled with light and love xxx

*this post was originally published on my first blog, Voyages and Vinyasas, in 2014 – it has been refreshed for publication here.

Rediscovering Yoga Through Aerial Yoga

Rediscovering Yoga Through Aerial Yoga

On Friday night, I went to my first aerial yoga class. It was an introductory workshop at The Life Centre with renowned Aerial Yoga teacher, Richard Holroyd.

It was amazing!  I felt so brilliant afterwards and have been telling everyone who will listen…so now I’m telling you, dear readers!

For the first time in a long time, I really felt like a beginner; my teacher training is emphasising getting back into a ‘beginner’s mindset’ and it was so easy to do with a completely new style of yoga, exploring the world from upside down.  There was the slight trepidation first then the thrill of seeing the world upside down whilst being totally safe and supported. Being able to relax into backbends, using gravity to help get slightly deeper into the stretch opened up backbends (no yoga-pun intended) allowed me to access the postures in a way I can’t normally.  We had started the class in a reclined posture all cocooned in the womb-like silks; it was so peaceful and calming.  I’ve never felt so childlike and playful in yoga before and there were moments when I felt like a dervish, circling in the brightly coloured silks to the rhythmic music.

I’ve been trying to explore new classes since I started teacher training in September in an effort to broaden my own horizons in yoga and experience different teaching styles.   I’ve been to some harder, more advanced classes, which have really challenged my body and I should be observing my first beginners class soon (it should have been at the weekend but there was an incident involving my hand and a knife that did not end so well for my hand – nothing too permanent – which wrote off most of my weekend plans).  I’ve really been enjoying thinking about yoga from different perspectives, being curious about the practice and thinking about how I could teach this to different people.

I’ve also really enjoyed getting back into my own practice and I’ve reconnected with my self practice again.  I’m so, so glad that I took the plunge to start my teacher training despite not feeling ready (do you ever feel ready?!).  It still feels quite overwhelming at times….there is so much work….but I’m already feeling the benefits.  Not only am I deepening my own practice but I’m starting to make new friends and to feel part of a new community.  This is such an exciting journey to be on and I hope you enjoy reading about it.  In the meantime, I cannot recommend Aerial Yoga enough – Richard teaches near-daily in Whitechapel for those of you in London.

Photograph courtesy of The Life Centre (I was far too busy enjoying myself to take any photos!)

Books I Read in September

Books I Read in September

A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierley

What the Cover Says:  Aged five, Saroo Brierley was separated from his older brother and ended up alone on the streets of Calcutta. After weeks surviving alone, he was taken into an orphanage and later adopted by an Australian couple.  Although happy with his new family, Saroo couldn’t help but think about the family he’d lost. Years later, he swapped the map of India on his wall for Google Earth scouring it for landmarks he recognised from his childhood. One day, he saw something he recognised.  And he set off on a journey to find his mother, half a world away . . .

Why I Picked it Up: This was the September Rebel read.  The theme was ‘adventure classics’, which makes a refreshing change from some of the hard-hitting books we’ve read recently.

What I Thought: This was my fastest Rebel read yet.  The book arrived in the office on Monday and I had finished by Wednesday evening!  I absolutely loved it.  It was a compelling read that had me hooked from the start.  My heart broke reading this story of a little boy getting lost and then it broke all over again when he was reunited with his family twenty-five years later.  It gives you hope that, even in extreme adversity, good things can happen.

Touching the Void – Joe Simpson

What the Cover Says: Touching the Void is the heart-stopping account of Joe Simpson’s terrifying adventure in the Peruvian Andes. He and his climbing partner, Simon, reached the the summit of the remote Siula Grande in June 1995. A few days later, Simon staggered into Base Camp, exhausted and frost-bitten, with news that that Joe was dead.  What happened to Joe, and how the pair dealt with the psychological traumas that resulted when Simon was forced into the appalling decision to cut the rope, makes not only an epic of survival but a compelling testament of friendship.

Why I Picked It Up:  This was one of the other books on September’s vote at Rebel Book Club.  I’ve never read it, not the seen the film and didn’t really know the story but really wanted to read it so bought it along side A Long Way Home.

What I Thought:  Reading this reminded me of reading The Kite Runner.  You know something awful is coming and spend half the book effectively peeping out from behind the sofa waiting for IT to happen.  I loved it reading this book but really had to force myself to keep reading – my heart was in my mouth the entire time.  I mean, you know Joe must get out okay because he wrote a book but still!  Hearing the two men tell the unfolding story was gripping and horrifying all at the same time.

Be A Free-Range Human – Marianne Cantwell

What the Covers Says:  Free Range is the new career change.  Trapped in a job that’s ‘just not you’? Always dreaming of your next vacation and counting down to the weekend? Imagine getting paid to do something that brings you alive, without ever having to walk into an office again. It’s all possible with this smart guide that breaks you out of the career-cage and puts you in control of your life. Be a Free Range Human is a breezy, energizing and straight-talking guide to creating an amazing lifestyle and a great income, doing what you love (on your own terms). Packed with inspiring case studies from people who’ve done it, this book shares unconventional ideas and practical steps.

Why I Picked It Up: I bought this month’s ago on an Amazon recommendation, I think.  Having made a big career change out of the military two years ago, I’m still working out what I want to do when I grow up and this seemed like a good book to help me think about alternative careers.

What I Thought: I really liked the tone of this book – very down to earth and practical.  Marianne made the big career shift seem totally manageable and accessible.  There were lots of thought-provoking exercises to work through and start your journey towards free-range freedom.  This is a book I’m going to keep go back to as I keep working on this; I’m definitely feeling a bit stuck and short of ideas at the moment but I’m going to keep going!

Embarking on a new Yoga Journey

Embarking on a new Yoga Journey

This weekend, I took my first steps on a brand new journey – my first days of yoga teacher training!

Over the next eighteen months, I will be training with YogaCampus, working towards my Yoga Teacher Training Diploma.  After the first weekend, I can tell you, without doubt, that it is going to be full of ups and downs, hard work, self-reflection, fun and community.  I have no idea where this is going to take me; I really haven’t decided how yoga teaching is going to fit into my life but it’s something that has been niggling away at me for a couple of years and I finally realised that I was never going to know where this might end up unless I got started.

I will be blogging about my journey over the coming months – I find writing about my experiences really helps me process and hopefully I can share some useful things along the way.  Here are a few thoughts immediately after the first weekend…

  • Being a practitioner and a teacher are two different things.  I need to work out how I keep growing and learning in my own yoga practice, whilst learning how to develop at authentic teaching style that is mindful of my students’ needs.
  • Approach everything with a beginner’s mind…be curious, explore and observe the practice…how does it feel?
  • Every body is different and everyone comes to yoga for different reasons.  As a teacher, my job is to provide to an inviting space for everyone to explore how they want to.
  • Flexibility is not necessarily the end goal…in fact, flexibility without strength and stability can be ‘worse’ than stiffness.

There is so much to learn…the next eighteen months is going to barely scratch the surface!  This is way more than a few weekends over the coming months.  I am going to need to create new routines around self-practice, study, classes and finally my own teaching.  I don’t think I had quite appreciated how much space I am going to need to create in my life and that feels a little overwhelming right now.

Speaking of which, my perfectionist Shitty Committee are already on full-volume in my head…not knowing all the Sanskrit posture names today made me feel really inadequate!  I am going to have to remind myself frequently that I am on this course to learn, not to know all the answers already.  That I will never know all the answers and that’s okay.  That I am enough.  Full stop.

But for all of the self-doubt and uncertainty, I feel really proud of myself for taking this step and for just showing up.  Maybe I will be a world-famous yoga teacher; maybe I’ll never teach a public class.  I don’t know what will happen but I do know that the only way to find out is to start walking the path.

May your life be filled with light and love xxx

What I Read in August

What I Read in August

Looking back over August, I read a lotMostly fiction – luxuriating in the pure please of reading a thrilling novel for no other reason than I wanted to.  But August has also been the month of starting and not finishing books so expect to see some of these books crop up again in later months if and when I finally finish them!


The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown

Why I Picked It Up: This was recommended by my new friend Siobhan, who blogs over at ToGetHer Further.  Siobhan and I both struggle with perfectionism, piling on the pressure for no real reason.  She said this book really resonated with her so I was curious to try it.

What the Cover Says: Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, “What if I can’t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn’t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?”

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, Ph.D., a leading expert on shame, authenticity and belonging, shares what she’s learned from a decade of research on the power of “Wholehearted Living” – a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.

In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” And to go to bed at night thinking, “Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave”. And, “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging”.

My Key Takeaways: Oh, there were so many!  The mantra of “I am enough” has really stuck in my mind and heart.  What I loved about this book was Brene’s honesty about her own struggles and the different things she has tried to come to terms with her breakdown spiritual awakening, as she puts it.  The book is full of practical exercises to try.  The idea of an “ingredients for joy and meaning list” definitely struck a cord and is something I’m working on at the moment, as was the advice to “Say no today.  Take something off your list and add ‘take a nap'”.  Those of you that read my last post on what I learned in August will notice a theme for me of creating more of a sense of ease in my life, striving a little less, and relaxing into myself and my life.  This book has been a key part of that realisation.

Jack Reacher Books 1-6 – Lee Child

For those of you who read my reflections on July, I decided that August would be a month of self-care and compassion.  Part of that was doing things I really enjoyed and reading fiction after so many intense non-fiction books in recent months felt like a real luxury.  I am a huge Lee Child and am very excited about the new Jack Reacher novel coming out later in the year so I’ve been re-reading the whole series from the start.  Pure chilled out bliss!

The Art of Extreme Self-Care – Cheryl Richardson

Why I Picked It Up: I have been doing an online coaching course with Project Love recently that, along with Brené Brown’s book, really opened my eyes about how little compassion I show myself.  This book was one of many Vicki and Selina recommended to improve practices around self-care.

What the Cover Says: This life-changing handbook by offers you twelve strategies to change your life, month by month. As each chapter challenges you to alter one behaviour or circumstance that holds you back, you’ll learn how to understand the true impact of your surroundings, accept disappointments in all areas when they arise, find your natural rhythm and ride life’s waves, and discover your passions and strengths to get the best out of your life.  With sound advice, effective exercises and resources to take each step further, this practical handbook for the heart and mind will show you that by changing your mindset, you can radically change your life.

My Key Takeaways: The book has twelve different strategies and recommends that you read the whole book before working through the exercises, one each month, in an order that feels right to you.  To be honest, I’m still working my way through the book so not much to report yet!  I really like the structure of the book with short chapters on each strategy to prompt your thinking, then a challenge and resources on that theme.  It feels like a practical book to change your habits and thinking about the importance and practice of self-care.

Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday

Why I Picked It Up:  This was our Rebel Read for August.  Ben Saul-Gardner, one of Rebel Book Club‘s founders, is a huge Ryan Holiday fan after reading The Obstacle is The Way and hustled like a rockstar to secure the books direct from the publisher and Ryan himself joined us – via Skype from Texas – for the meetup.

What the Cover Says: As in The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday delivers practical and inspiring philosophy, this time exploring a powerful concept that runs back centuries, across borders and schools of thought: ego.  Ego is our biggest enemy. Early in our careers, it can prevent us from learning and developing our talents. When we taste success, ego can blind us to our own faults, alienate us from others and lead to our downfall. In failure, ego is devastating and makes recovery all the more difficult. It is only by identifying our ego, speaking to its desires, and systematically disarming it that we can create our best work.  Organised into bite-sized observations featuring characters and narratives that illustrate themes and life lessons designed to resonate, uplift and inspire, Ego is the Enemy shows how you can be humble in your aspirations, gracious in your success and resilient in your failures. It is an inspiring and timely reminder that humility and confidence are still our greatest friends when confronting the challenges of a culture which tends to fan the flames of ego and encourage the cult of personality at all costs.

Key Takeaways: This is another one I started but haven’t finished, which is very unusual for me with Rebel Reads.  I struggled with it as soon as I started.  Holiday’s style with this book just has not resonated with me at all.  I enjoyed hearing him speak about the book at the meetup and tried again afterwards but I just can’t get through it.  Other people seemed to really enjoy it though so don’t let me put you off!   Just not for me at the moment.  I will put it to one side and come back to it every so often and we’ll see what happens.

The Bingo Theory – Mimi Ikonn

Why I Picked It Up:  Jess Lively mentioned this book in a recent podcast episode.  She has interviewed Mimi and her husband, Alex, a couple of times on the show.  Jess has talked a few times about exploring feminine and masculine energies – yin and yang – and mentioned this book in particular.  It just sounded like something I wanted to explore a little more.

What the Cover Says:  The traditional view of masculine and feminine energy is very black and white. If you are a woman, you are considered to be feminine, and similarly if you are man- you are considered to be masculine. This outdated and inadequate mindset has lead to a tremendous imbalance both internally in our lives, as well as externally in our world.  The Bingo Theory breaks through this traditional gender-polarized idea of man and woman, by providing a new fresh view and understanding of masculine and feminine energies and the important role both of these energies play in our lives. Every single human on this planet has two energies living within them: the masculine and the feminine.The masculine energy helps us to operate in the outer world; it makes us strong, independent, and confident. The feminine energy, on the other hand, helps us love and connect to others. It’s what makes us creative and intuitive.

In this book you will learn how to balance the masculine and feminine energies within you so that you can be a Bingo. What is a Bingo? A Bingo is a winning combination of both of masculine and feminine energies. This inner balance is crucial in order to have a better relationship with yourself, attract your perfect romantic partner, improve your existing relationship, as well as have a fulfilling career.

Key Takeaways: I only recently started reading this so full notes will have to wait for next month.  I am a masculine strength female, which came as no surprise to me at all.  What was a little surprising was that I do have some strong feminine tendencies as well and I’m excited to learn more about that.  I think balance in life in so important and I would love to tap into those feminine strengths more sometimes.  Stay tuned!

So September will be trying to finish some of these as well as picking up this month’s Rebel Read, A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly; Touching the Void by Joe Simpson was also on the Book Club vote and was my preferred choice so I might pick that up too.  There may be a little bit more Jack Reacher in my life too but time may be limited as my Yoga Teacher Training starts in two weeks time and I have to study…





I Learnt A Few Things This August

I Learnt A Few Things This August

August has been an interesting month and a far cry from how things felt in July.  I chose to make this a month for caring for and nurturing myself.  I took time to do things that brought me pleasure and joy and that turned out to be a really good idea!  Interestingly, I took a step back from thinking and working things too actively and, along the way, I learnt a few things.

I think the main thing I realised is that maybe I don’t need to try so damn hard all the time.  I grew up being told just to try my best, that the outcome didn’t matter as long as I had to tried my best.  I think that’s great advice except, somehow along the way, I took it to mean that I’m not doing enough unless I’m giving it my all, giving it everything, straining. I know I’m not the only person struggling with the idea that anything worth achieving has to be hard work – my wonderful friend Siobhan has been thinking this too.

But I think I’ve had a bit of breakthrough over the past couple of weeks.  Well, maybe not a breakthrough, more of a gradual realisation.  An awakening, if you will.  It turns out that all that stuff about ‘flow’ is kind of true.  When I relax my tight little grip on controlling everything, life flows in its own way and seems to work out pretty well.  Since relaxing into it a little more, nothing’s fallen apart and – news flash – the world did not stop turning.  In fact, things have been going really well and I’m happier for it.

It feels like a really good place right now.  I’m choosing where I focus my energy.  I’m making decisions about what feels good. I’m listening to my gut, to my intuition, and to people that care about me, all the while knowing, deep down, that there are no wrong decisions.  By the same token, there’s no gold star or a + or report card at the end of all of this.  I was reading this blog post by Project Love – What If – and thought “that’s me”!  Focusing on the destination at the expense of just enjoying the ride.  So now it’s less about the ‘what’ and more about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.

And there are lots of exciting things going on.  As always, there is absolutely no plan!  I have no idea where this will all lead.  But you know, it doesn’t have to lead anywhere.  As long as I keep putting positive energy out there, opportunities will come along and then it’s about going with the flow.  Which means taking the oars out and letting the river carry you…not all about battling upstream all of the time – this podcast episode from Jess Lively really resonated with me on this.

Here a few of the things that I’ve been enjoying this month:

Yoga with Becky Pate at the wonderful Canvas Cafe…check out these amazing healthy FreakShakes – post yoga of course!


Sunday Assembly – a fortnightly celebration of life…so uplifting!

Window-shopping for my new flat – hopefully moving in by the end of October and very, very excited


Spending time with friends and family at the theatre, at comedy shows, over good food, and out for walks.  Nourishment for the soul.


Starting to study for my Yoga Teacher Training course, which starts in a couple of weeks…


May your life be filled with light and love xxx