Bespoke Living

Nama-Stay: A Yogi’s Guide to Incredible Home Yoga Practice

In your own space, yoga can feel more accessible than ever—here’s how an expert instructor recommends leaning in to the experience for the best possible practice

According to a survey by lifestyle app Freeletics, Americans exercised 25 percent more often on average thanks to spending more time at home in 2020—and the top piece of fitness equipment they purchased to help them work out was a yoga mat. But is this increase in home yoga helping us to live better lives in front of our screens?

“It definitely can,” says Tatum De Roeck, a London-based instructor who studied yoga in California and has taught around the world. “Practicing yoga at home makes it more accessible, and has the added benefit of reducing the pressure to be ‘present and correct’ at all times.”

Two women practicing home yoga over a Zoom call
De Roeck's online classes—such as this one recently held over Zoom—feel personal and are free of distractions. “In person, you can enhance a yoga session with music, lighting, and props. Digitally, you have to pare it right back,” she says.

Before the pandemic, De Roeck taught classes on corporate mindfulness, guided pupils through one-on-one sessions, and led yoga brunches for Shine, a UK-based cancer support charity. Now, with COVID-19 safety measures in mind, she aims to reach past geographical and technical boundaries to educate and inspire her pupils.

Rather than viewing it as a challenge, it’s an opportunity she embraces. “I’ve held remote sessions for people in living rooms, box rooms, and gardens—even on a boat,” she laughs. “Each environment is enriching in its own way.” Here, she shares tips on claiming both your yoga practice and your space as your own, and making the most of a self-guided session or virtual class.

Trust Your Instructor

It’s common to worry that working out at home means you’ll lose out on the benefit of an instructor who can correct your form. With the right teacher, it shouldn’t be a concern, says De Roeck.

Woman exercising at home in front of her laptop, stretching her legs
Ensure your virtual class's instructor can see as much of your form and your surroundings as possible—they can make suggestions or adapt the movements according to your space. Image: Getty Images

“I’ve become observant of even the tiniest signals,” she explains. “I can’t always see exactly what angle someone’s foot is at or how their head is turned, but I can watch their breathing and listen to their voice for signs of exertion, then respond accordingly.

“I also find myself studying pupils’ homes, spotting how a table might be perfect for a right-angle stretch or the bottom stair for helping with their downward dog. There’s always a way to adapt.”

Enjoy the Positives of Remote Practice

“Having to turn up to a class at a set time can sometimes feel like an obligation,” De Roeck says. “When I taught in ‘real life,’ I found people often kept one eye on the clock, rushing in from work or worrying about the commute after. Practicing yoga at home does away with those pressures.

stay-at-home fitness during lockdown in self isolation.
In the zone: practicing yoga at home provides the opportunity to "arrive" at the class in a calmer state—without travel arrangements or rushing to your next location weighing on your mind. Image: Getty Images

“A home session can also reduce the temptation to compete or push yourself beyond your limits. Recently, a woman undergoing cancer treatment joined an online session for just as much she could manage—a couple of poses and the Shavasana relaxation at the end. Skipping poses or only taking them so far is a joyful, yogic thing to do, requiring great self-awareness. She might not have had the time, energy, or confidence to achieve this had she been wearied by travel or surrounded by others in a studio.”

Free Yourself from the Pressure of a Perfect Space

The desire to create the ideal, yoga-centered space in your home is understandable—but can hold you back from simply enjoying a session. “I think we can be too focused on setting up the perfect environment,” De Roeck explains. “This is something that was true of practice before COVID-19, too. You can fly halfway round the world to the most perfect, picturesque setting, and still find yourself distracted by jet lag or the thought of what’s for dinner.”

Woman practicing yoga with trainer via video conference.
De Roeck believes any area can lend itself to a great home yoga session. "If you use a space to switch off from life’s demands, eventually you'll look forward to the energy you feel in that space, wherever it may be," she explains. Image: Getty Images

“It’s possible to enjoy a beautiful practice in the simple space of your own yoga mat. So, my advice is to free yourself from the urge to arrange your surroundings first. When you’re enjoying yoga just as it is—and just as you are—you might find that the space around you is transformed. Feelings of happiness and calmness can imprint on an environment just as much as an environment can help to induce those emotions.”

Make Resolutions Mindfully

At the start of the year, it can be tempting to set lofty aspirations for yourself and your practice. De Roeck recommends taking stock of your own mental state before doing so. “If you’re the type that feels strengthened and gathers momentum by setting a goal—go for it and enjoy seeing the change as you grow stronger and more confident,” she says.

“But if you find that lining yourself up with ambitions is a recipe to feeling bad, it can help to treat each session afresh as a unique experience. Rather than think, ‘I must master a dynamic yoga headstand by the end of February,’ think, ‘How do I feel today? Am I enjoying this? Could I change something to find more joy here?’”

Woman practicing yoga dynamic headstand at home
Want to master a pose such as this one? De Roeck is all for setting a goal to do so, but recommends checking in with yourself along the way to ensure you're still enjoying—and benefiting from—the process. Image: Getty Images

Incorporate a Pose into Everyday Life

“None of us mean to slump over our computer, but as the hours roll on, our heads roll forwards, our shoulders follow, hollowing our heart back towards the chair, and suddenly there we are, full on hunch,” De Roeck says. To combat the stress this can place on your muscles, she recommends trying a seated cat cow pose straight from your desk. “It’s a really nourishing movement for the entire length of your spine,” she explains.

“To do so, sit towards the front of your chair and widen your stance with your feet flat on the floor.  Place your hands towards your knees and, leading with the center of your chest, lean slightly forward, allowing your shoulders to melt back. As you breathe in, lift your chin and feel the air move all the way down into your lower abdomen. As you breath out, round your back and let your chin move down to your chest.

“Repeat this flow and make it as small and subtle or large and dramatic as feels good to you. The key is to come as you are and let your surroundings adapt to fit you. That can be a very empowering experience indeed.”

On the Market

Shangri La, Bristol, Rhode Island, at Sunset
This estate's health and wellness amenities include a heated infinity-edge pool with two cabanas, a koi pond, tea house, and a private sandy beach.

This extraordinary estate, on the market with Lila Delman Real Estate, is a carefully curated collection of four waterfront residences with a private sandy beach. Expertly placed to capture the dramatic sunset views over Narragansett Bay, the property is ideal as an exceptional seaside compound for family and friends or as a quiet wellness retreat.

Yugawara Hot Spring Estate in Ashigarashimo-Gun, Japan

A home in Japan lit up at night
Floor-to-ceiling windows, with views onto the landscaped gardens and water fountain, illuminate this home and increase the sense of well-being to be found here.

Set on almost half an acre (0.2 ha) in one of Japan’s ancient hot spring resorts, this 8,080-square-foot (750 sq m) residence is available through Japan Capital Realty, Inc. It comprises two principal suites, four bedrooms, and two guest rooms. The home’s lavish spa amenities place a prominent focus on wellness, and include both indoor and outdoor onsen (hot spring) baths in keeping with the region’s rich history.

Banner image: Getty Images