The Guide: Yoga at Home

The Guide: Yoga at Home

How many sports do you know that encourage you to sing while you 'frog', to breathe whilst making the rolling sound of waves or to smile as you bend yourself into a tricky position? Can you think of any other physical practices that are profoundly traditional yet trendier than ever? How many sports take care of your muscles, your diet, your thoughts and your emotions; all at the same time? Multi-faceted, multi-Millenial and holistic, yoga has a lot to offer everyone. As a truly ancient discipline, yoga is everywhere. But that hasn't prevented us from continuing to ignite and share an interest in it. With its notable, positive effects on stress reduction, quality of sleep, attention span and general well-being, yoga is obviously not just for women. Men and children also benefit from this complete discipline that impacts on all physical levels – breath, endurance, strength, flexibility, among others – not to mention its remarkable effects on the emotions and the mind. And since yoga can be practised almost anywhere and require little equipment, it would be a mistake not to try it out – especially in the absence of our usual trail and outdoor adventures. Here are a few tips that may make you want to roll your yoga mat out in your bedroom and broaden your inner horizons.



Current conditions force us to get creative

When exceptional conditions drive us to do so, (government measures to protect populations, childcare or a lack of time) practising a sport at home can be a life-saver. And if you're tired of repetitive indoor cycling or efficient but monotonous push and pull-ups, there's nothing better than broadening your efforts and giving yoga a go.

Discover muscles you didn't even know existed

Supplementing your favourite activities with a new practice means training your body in unused areas and strengthening your entire system. These different sports practices aren't mutually exclusive; on the contrary, they complement each other. Becoming aware of neglected areas of your body can enrich your repertoire of movements once you're back on your board, bike or rope. Yoga will introduce you to the deep muscles (such as the psoas and iliac or intervertebral muscles) that – in combination with our superficial muscles (e.g. biceps and quadriceps) – are essential to our posture and precision of movement. Strengthening these combinations pays off for many activities – whether you're handling a bike or tackling a climbing wall.

Take a break from the craziness of everyday life

Our working lives are sliced up into time slots, multi-tasked and structured by 'hurry'. And often we tend to reproduce the same patterns in our free time. We'll walk quickly instead of loitering, see three friends instead of one and stare at our GPS instead of navigating our own way in the sun – always optimising. The thinking goes like this: If you don't go for a run in the evening, you won't be able to keep up at work the next day. But if you do go running, you'll have dinner later and won't be able to play with the kids – unless you put off going to bed – in which case you'll sleep an hour less; which will compromise your performance at work the next day... But, didn't you just want to go jogging so that you'd be more relaxed for work the next day? And doesn't all the stress created by calculating each step also have its own consequences? By planning and measuring everything, we lose sight of the essentials and forget that we're the true masters of our bodies. Yoga helps us to feel that we're in control of our own lives – and no-one else.



Which type of yoga should you choose?

  Even if youth and fashion have hijacked it for their own, yoga – probably more than 3000 years old – is originally a state of mind that has little in common with the unbridled quest for self-improvement. Of course, it has its own goals, but they are based achieving a balance between the physical, mental and spiritual. In India between 200 B.C. and 500 A.D, a sage named Patañjali recorded instructive texts to help achieve this state of balance. Compiled togther in a small compendium: these aphorisms formed the Yoga Sutra. The teachings formed the basis of the entire system of yoga: at the intersection of religion, philosophy and gymnastics. The physical/psychic connection continues to hold its mystery for modern medicine, but that doesn't prevent us from enjoying its indisputable tangible effects. In the West, we call the series of exercises 'Yoga' and not the entire lifestyle. The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are a collection of 196 Sanskrit sutras (aphorisms) on the theory and practice of yoga. There's one that relaxes and one that invigorates. There's integrative yoga more focused on breathing and meditation, and a type that aims above all to increase strength and flexibility. There are schools that alternate static positions and those that lead you towards almost continuous movement – so how do you pick one to start with? Well, here are six types of yoga that you might like:

Hatha Yoga is the more traditional type of yoga. All the positions are designed to prepare the body for meditation and it's entirely suitable for those who are less athletic or sporty.

Iyengar Yoga, with very precise anatomical instructions, makes use of many materials (blocks, belts, blankets and chairs) to target the needs of different physiognomies – even those with great limitations. This technique tries to understand the body in order to use it better.

Ashtanga Yoga contains six series that form and strengthen the body, and quicken the pulse. The asanas are practised in the same order (unlike one of its variations, Power Yoga, which combines them freely). Each of these series is a Vinyasa Flow, in the sense that the yoga poses (which each require five breaths) are harmoniously connected.

Kundalini Yoga proposes movements centred around the spine, breath, meditation and asanas (poses).

Vinyasa Yoga energises and aligns the body, offers intense series and remains more accessible for some than Ashtanga Yoga – thanks to its changing series.

Yin Yoga promises relaxation and deep stretches. Poses are maintained for a longer period of time and muscles aren't strained as much. The goal is calm and self-focus.

"For beginners, the gentler forms of Hatha Yoga are recommended"

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For beginners, the gentler forms of Hatha Yoga are recommended. For those looking for a more energetic style, Vinyasa Yoga is recommended, starting very gradually. You'll find specialised guides to each in books and online. Apps, YouTube channels and recorded or live classes offer focus, advice and almost make you feel like you have company in your practice. The Down Dog app, for example, regularly offers free classes. Daily Yoga, Workout & Fitness, one of the most downloaded yoga apps, offers a wide range of pose sets. MyYogaConnect, the French app, offers "beginners", "anti-stress" and "sun salutation" programs. Asana Rebel has 13 programs adjusted to your personal objectives ("yoga basics", "summer ready", "cardio", "yoga for men", etc.). And on YouTube you can find classes "for men" as their physiology is generally less flexible but stronger. By choosing based on the level, duration, style and your goals, you'll be able to tailor a session to suit you. Some classes can even be taken live – via yoga teachers who offer classes on their Instagram accounts at the same time every day. MyYogaConnect, Modo Yoga, (for kids) and other live class offerings abound. If you'd like to support teachers in your city, why not ask them if they offer online classes? Many of them have started to recently.


To create a relaxing atmosphere we can use essential oils, burn incense or play music. Spotify, for example, offers playlists entirely dedicated to tunes that'll enhance your session – including Zen Buddha Garden for Yin Yoga and even music that's especially perfect for pairing with Sun Salutations. Music can be distracting for some – but if it motivates you, then go for it!

"Taking care of your body means nourishing the five senses."

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Are your neighbours noisy? Perhaps this is where your first lesson begins... for the yogi seeking inner peace; there are obstacles to overcome. If external noise is unacceptable, we can acknowledge our feelings of anger, and allow ourselves to explore it. Very often, once we've recognised an emotion, it will either calm down or lead us to clear actions that are guided by reason: like gently but firmly explaining to the neighbours how nice it would be to be able to focus on our practice...

Our advice: a prominent landscape picture will also help set the mood: the effects of green on the psyche are notable and proven.

As for the visual sense, that's often another matter. Is it tidy in your house? Good, because external order influences internal order. Is it messy? Why not throw a sheet over the desk full of papers or that cluttered window sill? Our eyes, which record and process every detail, will be able to rest. Can we practise yoga in a square metre of space? Hardly. Ideally, you should be able to spread out your mat and still have a bit of space in front, behind and at the sides for free movement.

The senses of touch is also present – in our skin, in the contact with our clothes and yoga equipment. Choose clothin­­­g that feels comfortable, loose or close to the body, and underwear that fits snugly. Clothing should fit your body, not the other way around. Your body rules here and you can forget the rules of style for a few moments. There's no audience needed for this inner journey. That said, to delight your senses even more, some brands do offer specialised ranges for the practice of yoga. These include Prana, super.natural (environmentally friendly) and tentree (vegan).


Good material makes us forget about ourselves, and allows us to focus on our bodies instead of spending our time being distracted by irritating labels or a slipping mat. There are several types of yoga mats; all made of different materials (cork, rubber, TPE). Synthetic mats clean better and don't absorb perspiration whilst cork mats­­ make you feel more in harmony with nature. A towel is also needed to wipe away sweat from your forehead or mat. It's also nice to have a blanket to avoid getting cold during the final meditation. And finally, a yoga block and a belt may be useful, depending on the style of yoga practised.


As for contraindications, untrained pregnant women should choose yoga specially designed for pregnant women. Sports yoga techniques (Ashtanga, Power Yoga and Iyengar) require a good level of physical condition and should be avoided if you have a chronic heart or respiratory disease. Of course, beginners should avoid poses such as Inverted Tree, Candle or Plough (all positions that place a high load on the head and shoulders). Be very attentive to your feelings and don't push yourself too hard.

"Everything is ready, but my motivation has vanished"

Papers are staring at you from the desk in the study, the smell coming from the kitchen is tempting and that bedroom wall needs repainting – how can we find peace and quiet in a place that's constantly distracting us? When morale is low and there's no teacher or group to motivate you, then what could possibly get you onto your yoga mat?

Our advice: think of the benefits! They are far greater than the effort you'll put in. Think about how you'll feel after the class. Your body will be pleasantly tired, and a kind of calm will have quietened your mind. Overcoming initial reluctance also brings well-earned pride.

How to respond to a few passing thoughts...

"I have absolutely no desire to do it": this is probably an acceptable reason to give your session a skip – as a body that has zero will to participate will be a bad partner. "I kind of feel like it, but I'm lazy": in this case, remind yourself of the reasons that motivate you. "I'm ultra motivated": that's wonderful! Just be careful not to overestimate your abilities and risk injury.



Some examples of poses for beginners

These poses are a great way to get into the discipline. You'll find some basics that you can then vary as you wish, and intensify as you progress. Start by sitting with your legs crossed, on your heels or on your block – or on a chair if other positions are too painful! Close your eyes and centre yourself, i.e. feel yourself in the present moment, with no other purpose than just to be. Nothing to do, nothing to achieve, just be. Follow the movements of your breath and feel it in your body, ribcage and stomach. Bring your hands together in a comfortable position on your lap or rest them on each other.

CAT-COW: Energising, to awaken the body Get on all fours on your mat, taking care to align your joints with each other. Shoulders, elbows and wrists should all be aligned and place hip joints exactly above the knees. Take a first breath, then, like a cat stretching, exhale as you slowly round your back (the cat) and inhale as you stretch in the opposite direction, digging into the back (the cow) – keeping your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible. This position is the starting point for many more dynamic movements and will especially work deeper muscles required for balance if you stretch your left leg at the same time as your right arm above the ground – and vice versa.

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THE DOWNWARD DOG: Stretching the spine and much more Start on all fours with your knees the width of your pelvis; then spread your fingers apart and place your palms firmly against the floor (to distribute the weight of your body when you're in the pose). Push vigorously on your arms and legs to propel your buttocks upwards. This posture requires a lot of flexibility. At first your heels won't touch the ground and your legs will remain a little bent, which is quite normal. With your legs half-bent, gently stretch your back without forcing! Your gaze should fall onto your knees and your feet are well-aligned if you can't see your heels. Stay in this position for five deep breaths – or as long as it remains comfortable. You'll come out of it just as you went in: on all fours. Stretching the spine and the back of the legs in this way is known to have positive effects on the nervous system. Generally speaking, inverted postures are very beneficial because they put the body in a position that it almost never adopts in everyday life. Upside down, our precious brain is well-irrigated. The ultimate inverted position is the Inverted Tree Pose – reserved for advanced practitioners, and certainly not to be tried alone at home.

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CHILD'S POSE: Rest If the last asana required energy and challenged the suppleness of your legs, a short break may be needed. Sitting on your heels, lean your upper body forward on your thighs until you touch the mat with your forehead – hands and elbows fall back along your legs. Breathe in consciously and release any tension. This pose gently stretches your back and shoulder muscles and counterbalances poses where your spine was stretched backwards. Stay in this position for as long as it remains comfortable.

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THE SEATED HALF SPINAL TWIST: Unique stretch and internal organ massage Sitting with your legs out in front of you, place your right foot over the left knee and the sole of your foot flat on the floor, so ankle and knee are touching. With your right knee now elevated, place your left arm around your right knee. As you exhale, turn to the right and place your right hand on the floor. If your right buttock isn't touching the ground, bend your leg. Start the twist at the pelvis and let it rise to your head. Keep your head straight – even though you're now looking in a different direction. Grow upwards as you inhale and twist even more as you exhale. Repeat for five breaths. Assume a neutral position (Child's Pose for example, or lying on your back) before repeating the same exercise on the other side. Twists are very popular postures in yoga and for good reason; they stimulate the mobility and flexibility of the back and internal organs thanks to the pressure they exert. Again, rarely in daily life do we end up a position like this, so you engage your body in unusual movement.

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THE TREE: Balance and concentration Stand stably, then shift the weight of your body onto one leg. Carefully climb the free foot up the supporting leg to settle on the calf, knee, thigh or groin. You'll be able to take your foot in your hand and place it where you want it. When you feel comfortable to do so, raise your hands up to the sky and press them palm to palm. Focus your gaze on a point on the ground or in front of you to help you keep your balance for five deep breaths. This posture works, amongst other things, attention, balance and stability.

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THE FINAL MEDITATION: Relaxation and return A yoga session usually ends with a relaxing meditation session. Lie comfortably on your back (with support under your knees such as a rolled towel, to protect the pelvis) and prepare for ten minutes of meditation in which you'll return to your natural style of breathing and your thoughts. Or go through your body, starting from the toes to the face, relaxing each limb consciously as you go.

Breathing, hydration and breaks

Breathing in yoga is one of the most important aspects and, if done properly, should never feel unpleasant. If it does for any reason, return to your natural breathing style. Deep breathing should feel free and fluid. Yoga offers many breathing techniques and exercises that can be done independently or together with poses. If you feel you can do it without forcing it, try Ujjayi – chest breathing with the mouth closed, the larynx making a hoarse "ocean sound". Or, inspired by the Pranayama concept, interrupt the rhythm of your breathing by pausing at the end of each inhalation and exhalation. Pranayama harmoniously links the three types of breathing: diaphragmatic, thoracic and clavicular. Deep breathing inhibits norepinephrine and activates the autonomic nervous system for calming effects. As for the oxygenation of the cells, this is less due to breathing than to increased heart rate and muscle activity.

And hydration? While less important than oxygen, water is obviously essential to life. Because sport can be really demanding on our bodies, it's very important to hydrate properly. So, drink, drink and drink again to flush out the toxins released while training. Some yoga schools believe that hydration should come at the end of the session, advising you to draw all your energy from your breath during the class and to drink half a litre or more before and afterwards. Others, such as Kundalini, recommend taking small sips during the class. In any case, if you get thirsty, drink.

As far as breaks are concerned, take as many as you need. You can stop at any time and adopt Child's Pose to regenerate, taking care to continue with the same type of breathing (if you're using the Ujjayi breathing technique, for example).

Discipline & Limits

In every yoga class there's somebody who seems to be nearing their limits; making the sounds of strained and painful effort. Often these people seek performance at the expense of enjoyment, forgetting that often it's the pleasure we take get from a task that helps us perform at our best. Exhausted at the end of the session, these people have gone through a tough ordeal and are ready to go to war again the next day – but how long can they keep this up?

Our advice: don't make this mistake at home. Here quality of training should take precedence over quantity, and pleasure over acrobatic prowess – which will come in due course.



How do you end your session in beauty and harmony after the last pose?

There's no need to stretch, since yoga helps you strengthen your muscles and be more flexible. Poses stretch as they strengthen, so unlike jogging, running, cycling or swimming, yoga lets you finish gently without having to stretch those strained muscles. Instead, you can rotate your head, shoulders, wrists and ankles for a final regeneration and thus compensate them for the efforts they've made. If you're hungry at the end of the session, eat unprocessed food. Recharge your body with minerals, because you lose many minerals when sweating. You can also massage your limbs with arnica massage oil, which is known to reduce muscle pain and bruising.

Take care of your equipment so it lasts

Do your yoga mat a favour and disinfect it after each session. Here you can use typical products from the supermarket, or a solution based on essential oils. Just make sure to let it dry before rolling it up: it'll last longer, and you'll appreciate the scent of spring breeze rather than sweat from the previous day's session.

Keep the state of mind for a few more hours

After a good yoga session, you should feel some kind of fulfilment. Unfortunately, this peaceful state often evaporates as soon as we put our noses back in our phones! How can we prolong this blissful state and enjoy it long after the session finishes? Deep down, you probably know what and what not to do. Trouble-free thoughts promote physical wellbeing, so this may not be the time to watch the news. On the other hand, you may be in the perfect condition to tackle an unpleasant subject in a more relaxed manner. A good hot shower will prolong relaxation, and a shower that alternates between hot and cold will wake you up by strengthening your immune system and transform your mood (if you haven't just left your session beaming).



Effects that last beyond the session

Does yoga have significant and lasting effects on the health? Anyone who's been practicing for some time will answer 'yes' without having to read any scientific reports on the subject. For those who need empirical evidence, many studies attest to the relaxing, healing properties of yoga. In 2012, American science journalist William J. Broad published his polemic "The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards", questioning beneficial effects that are universally praised despite not having any serious scientific research to back them up. After having sifted through studies, and interviewed teachers, professors and scientists, Broad nevertheless identified positive effects on sexuality, creativity and health: according to many studies, yoga improves quality of life and can cure physical ailments such as migraines or back pain. It strengthens the immune system, has a proven positive effect on depression and fear, and is believed to improve self-confidence. However, according to Broad, a relaxed yoga session isn't a substitute for daily movement. And, if not practiced properly, yoga can lead to knee injuries, sprains, dislocations and other injuries. It's up to you to see for yourself the effects of yoga on your body, mind and mood! But when so many people report positive results from yoga, there must be something beneficial about it!


Once you've found the right app, YouTube channel or book to inspire you – your teacher, that is – you'll be able to fine-tune the parameters of your session to create a personalised yoga class. Light, scents, music and rituals will create the right mood; style, duration, intensity will adapt it to your physical needs. Practising daily or weekly will multiply the effects tenfold. By respecting the rhythm dictated by your body and listening to any pain signals, you'll prevent injuries. So even if it requires a little discipline to get started, yoga rewards us with multiple benefits: from an intense workout reminiscent of gymnastics or acrobatics to meditative introspection, it offers more than just simple toning and relaxation. Yoga offers a very complete workout, strengthening us both mentally and physically to face the challenges of everyday life with a relaxed body and a clear mind. At the end of the session our gaze has changed, and even though the walls are still there, the space seems to have widened somehow. So why not start now?


Note: accepts no responsibility in the event of an injury. The contents of this blog post are merely intended as suggestions.

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