How to Build a Home Yoga Practice

Backbend into full Kapotasana Yoga Pose

It is not easy to find time to practice things we love. Yoga can fall in that melancholy category.  To practice regularly, we need to spend a few minutes every day or every other day on the mat. It is a commitment to the mat and to ourselves and it takes discipline.

Discipline has a strange effect on our system sometimes. It gives what we love a taste of obligation, and obligation is what some of us escape to pursue our passions.  I wonder then, is putting discipline into our yoga practice feeding or starving our passion for it? Is a structure of dedication a means to dismantle the elusive joy and floating sensation we achieve from our yoga experience? Or perhaps, is it a systematic approach to build our confidence, our bodies, and our spirit? Is it a means to move us confidently forward  into the idealistic vision of what we can be when we fully embrace the passion?

Yoga can be sweet, like a gentle lover, attentive to our whole being and rewarding much after its departure. You can fall in love with it, embrace it a thousand times and still be starving for it, and each time, step closer into a more magnificent you.  But when ignored and set aside, when forgotten for days or weeks, yoga is no longer a kind lover at that first new encounter.

The first return to our yoga is like going home after a very long trip away, away from our best self and from time for our own self.  Rightfully so, yoga will greet us with a painful  salutation. It will torment our bodies back into long muscles, straight spine, great posture and deep breathing.  The longer you stay away, the deeper the torment – and the more committed you become, the sweeter the delight.

My relationship with yoga is an eternal pendulum of joy and torment.  To swing more to the joy, I use these podcasts.

About My Favorite Home Practice Yoga podcasts:

There are free and paid podcasts offered through iTunes or directly from YogaDownload website. The length of the free podcasts runs between 25 to 35 minutes, with 3-4 minutes set aside to Savasana and rest.  The longer podcasts of 40, 45, 60, or 75 minute class durations are offered for a minimal cost. The website also runs promotions regularly.
Each podcast starts with a 30-second promotion for YogaDownload before the instructor starts the session. You can choose to have most classes with or without the soft background music. All the music compliments the instructor’s pace and the class’s intention. I find the music an excellent accompaniment with the voices of this incredible set of instructors.
You can also find the pose guide for the podcasts, all of which clearly illustrates the pose sequence for the particular class. I recommend glancing at the guide prior to your practice only for reference, and not to use it to follow the class.

It is generally not easy guiding one clearly through yoga without any visual aid, and we recognize that as soon as we start listening to audio podcasts, in the absence of teacher, classmates, and video. It tests our own knowledge of how much focus we can afford our practice and our mind, and it is a test of the instructor’s ability to communicate well.  Even with wonderful visits to yoga studios during my travels, some of my favorite yoga instructors of all time come from the Yogadownload.com staff for this gifted talent.

Podcast Reviews of YogaDownload.com:

Dawnelle podcasts:

  1. Morning Flow: There is no exaggeration when I say this is the best flow podcast series of all the productions on this website. There are 4 morning flows: 20min, 30min, 45min and 60min. I started doing the 20-min flow and then purchased the rest. Dawnelle focuses on backbends as they “awaken the body and invigorate us, preparing us for our day”….I can hear her voice now. She has a stunning voice, one that you cannot help but listen and follow. Her instructions are clear, and her pace is ideal for the first flow of the day.  She is well-versed in the Sanskrit names and provides ample modifications to suit beginners to advanced students. The back bends are excellent, and she prepares you for each and warms your body slowly, considering this may be very early in the day.  With the longer sessions (45min and 60min flows), she adds my all-time favorite pose, Pincha Mayurasana followed by handstand.  Pose guides show the visual on series of poses only as reference before you do the podcast.  Dawnelle guides you through every pose and the experience is best when entirely uninterrupted. The sensations and invigoration following the morning flow lasts for hours.
  2. Shoulder Opener #1:  The 25 and 40min podcasts on shoulder opening by Dawnell are wonderful for the shoulders. The sweet voice of Dawnelle with clear instructions and perfect pace give a wonderful opening to tight shoulders. Her 40min flow builds on the 25min version, adding in some balancing poses and deeper stretches for the neck and shoulders.  Both flows give relief to upper and lower back and promote supple movements throughout the day. The 20-min free podcast is very short for really getting any opening, and is more of a stretch than a yoga session.  This flow is best after hours of working at a desk or after a long walk.
  3. Core Yoga #1: I finally made time to do an afternoon 60-min core yoga class. It was a test to see whether it would give me more energy since I woke at 4:30am today. It was a thoroughly energizing flow. The core yoga series have not been my favorite, and I know that is precisely why I need it the most. I particularly need strength to still hold my Navasana beautifully. Dawnelle takes you through a slowly but steadily building flow with focus on the core muscles in every move. Her instructions are clear and her voice pleasant, and you get to do a few poses that are out of the norm, such as up-dog with plank toes and variations to Trikonasana and Prasaritta series.  She incorporates abs and bicycle into her flow, and while not strictly yoga, they are certainly yoga inspired and ab-strengthening exercises, as she mentioned. The spinal work compliments the ab work and together, she brings us a beautiful and tough practice in this podcast.

Lisa Richards podcasts:

  1. Hip Opening Flow #2: The hip opening podcast has been one of my favorites. I repeated this 20-min podcast on many various occasions just to feel the results on my body: For an early morning yoga session, after a hard cardio for muscle stretches,  for an evening flow of meditative calmness, and once to change my anger and frustration to a better state. Every time, I have been pleased with the amazing hip opening series.  Lisa’s voice is soothing, warm, inviting and her instructions are clear and to the point. She guides you through the right breathing, and she prepares you through series of poses for the more intense hip opening.  The hip opening poses embrace the body and the sequence is excellent and builds up beautifully in durations of 20min, 30min, 45min and 60 min. Each one is accompanied with the perfect music.  I find the 45min flow ideal length for a reasonably quick flow with excellent after-taste. The 60-min flow warms up with Sun Salutation A and B, then goes deeper into the hip muscles, with balance poses of eagle and dancer and arm balance of crow.  Each series starts and ends with similar poses. The extra time in the middle takes you into deeper hip opening. The sweetest spot for all hip opening series, the ultimate pose that I cherish in all of the podcast, is Eka Pada RajaKapotasana (see image above for one variation).  She is especially gifted in articulating the mental imagery, and guiding your mind to stillness in these deep twists and turns.  Excellent podcasts all around.
  2. Lunar Flow #1: It is not often but it does happen that I sometimes need a completely mellow yoga session. I am learning to identify when that need arises, and how to feed it. It is very hard for me to sit through very slow yoga classes, in fact, I can sit up and argue with anyone that calls yoga boring as I immediately associate it with the slow mellow flow. Nonetheless, sometimes we need to come into ourselves,  and more stillness than movement is needed. After I do Lisa’s 60min lunar flow, I feel calmer and taller. She dedicates the last 10-12min to Savasana, and shamefully, I usually rise and walk to my next task. Perhaps I will have mastery over my impatience someday. The rest of the podcast is a slow flow, with mild back bends, hip opening stretches, no Chaturanga Dandasana or up-dog, followed later with few twists, forward bends, all at a very gentle pace. There are no standing or balancing poses in the lunar flow, but the back bends provide some rejuvenation. It is best for an evening flow, ideally before bedtime for calming down the body. While it is not high on my list, it is a nicely instructed flow with Lisa’s beautiful voice.
  3. Detox Yoga #1: The 60-min detox flow is superb after a fine spring morning walk. I usually like to wait until my body is awake for any flow other than the ones specifically recommended for a morning flow. Getting up super early (4:30am) helps my body wake with the sun and natural light and still manage to get the flow in the morning hours. Lisa does an incredibly nice job with this flow, pacing it extremely well, and focusing on Inhale-Exhale for every pose. Focusing on the breath cannot be overemphasized, and when flow focuses on inhalation and exhalation, I notice that my whole body falls into the rhythm with my breathing leading the way. These poses were particularly healing for my injured back from a previous back bend earlier last week. I was amazed at the effect of this flow at the end of the session. I have also tried the 20-min podcast which is a shorter version of the longer class, and it is a quick twist-n-turn for the body. Be sure to do this one on a very empty stomach to get the full benefit of twists.

Jackie Casal podcasts:

  1. Heart Opening Flow: Jackie has a sweet melodic voice with clear and well-paced instructions. The heart opening series has not been one of my favorites so I tend to do it less. Yet every time I do it, I feel a sense of openness in my chest with perhaps even an bubble burst of happiness.  This is another excellent flow as a morning flow to wake up the body as she incorporates several back bends. The series of poses are deep in the longer versions of these podcasts and she guides you well through each stage, including all the binds that you may choose to take.  She also does the Humble Warrior pose which I find is rarely done in yoga classes – and it is a great pose to boot. She talks about the benefits of the poses, and your mind is motivated to go into the pose even more so than before.  The sequences string beautifully and each longer podcast takes you into more opening twists, deeper back bends, giving you a straighter spine and happier heart.  I particularly remember doing the 60-min heart-opening flow on a chilly spring afternoon in my patio, with the hustle and bustle of the birds, and the rustling of leaves from the wind.  It was a rough day as I had been suffering from severe aches and pains in my arms, my neck and shoulders, and my feet. I completely surrendered to the flow – one of my lesser favorites no less – and I focused with patience, and even if I lose interest, or became chilly, I moved through the series, not stopping til the end – and my aches and pains had vanished with the wind and left me with a calmness when the practice neared the end. It is a marvel what our yoga practice can do for us, and a lifetime of gratitude I feel for the relief from pain.
  2. Gentle Hatha Yoga #2: The 20-min Hatha flow is ideal for days when I need gentleness with the movements. Sometimes I wonder why my aches and pains are better in a yoga pose, even if they do not heal with the pose. One particular morning, I went for n early spring morning walk, and still suffering from a neck pain and shoulder pain that refuses to leave my body, I did the Gentle Hatha flow 20-min podcast with Jackie. On days when I am in pain, I prefer the Hatha style to flow style. My body needs to go from pose to pose to release the pain in my joints and muscles, and a vinyasa flow requires more power and agility than I can afford. The series of poses in this podcast puts no pressure on the neck but engages the neck in stretches. She also brings you out of Savasana at the end. I have noticed in many podcasts with YogaDownload, they finish with Savasana without closing the practice.

Dave Farmar podcasts:

  1. Episode 27a with Yogadownload.com: You must get Dave’s 20 minute Sun Salutation in Baptiste Flow style from iTunes podcasts of Yogadownload.com archives. I cannot find it on their website. Despite its brevity, what a delightful flow! In my sun-kissed piano room one morning in April, with my mind awake with my body still waking up, I found this 20-min flow to be extremely well-done. I had done a longer podcast by Dave Farmar before and his conversational tone and humor had turned me off initially, and I lost my focus with some difficulty to follow him to the end of that class. He came through on his second chance no doubt.  The mellow start relaxes and prepares you for the 20min flow. I gave it my all and focused on nothing else but my flow and the echo of Dave’s instructions in my ears.  I felt rejuvenated and happy afterward. I plan to pursue his podcasts in iTunes and try his full hour+ sessions, and you can bet I will be writing about those as well.
  2. Baron Baptise Power Vinyasa Yoga: On the first day of July, I decided to do Dave’s power yoga class in Baron Baptiste style on my balcony in a temperature of around 95 degree. My only intention was to complete the 90-minute intermediate podcast without letting distractions, discomfort, or laziness dissuade me. The session is extremely similar to his 20-min podcast. The sun was hot, the breeze was darling, and the 90-minute podcast was brilliant. Dave has an intriguing monologue, even though sometimes it gets a tad bit annoying, I have now a love-dislike relationship with him. The flow is challenging, and you must focus on your breathing patterns. He guides you through every in and out breath, and after a while, you feel rhythmic and light. His instructions are super clear. I was not once lost. He uses the English and the Sanskrit names and even takes you into the pose. He modifies a great deal for beginners, and goes through a beautiful series, covering balance poses, strength, a very intense flow, followed by backbends and hip openers. There was something about his voice and his approach to teaching, and while it does not yet rank as my most favorite podcast, I think it is one that my body needs and would benefit greatly. It was great discipline for my mind to keep myself focused for the entire 90-minutes. After the practice, I felt mellow, open, happy, and relaxed all evening long. Perhaps, the benefits have gone beyond my muscles or my hips and reached my heart too. Thank you Dave. I will be back in my balcony to do yoga with you again soon.

These beautiful podcasts, updated regularly with new, vibrant additions on Yogadownload.com website, give you the most comprehensive, private and practical home yoga practice you could ever ask for. Do your practice and Namaste!

Grab the home practice routine that I created for you here: 10 Minute Invigorator Program.