Minimalist Yoga: How to Learn the Basics and Do Yoga Independently for Free

December 7th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

Yoga is one of the most important things you can do for the balance of your body mind and soul. It’s also one of the most minimalist forms of stretching and exercise tools that exists.

This is probably why I’ve been so drawn to this particular method of strengthening myself, because it requires nothing but what you already have.

There are only two requirements for doing yoga.

1, a mat or blanket.
2, your body.

Modern corporations are trying heard to teach us that we need much more than these two things to do yoga. At a typical yoga studio you will find ropes, blocks, heated rooms, clean white towels, and other assorted gizmo-gadgets.

Have you ever picked up a yoga magazine? Stocked full of ads and stories trying to sell you more equipment.

You don’t need anything but yourself to do yoga. It doesn’t matter how skinny or fat you are, how tall, or how old you are. Anyone can do yoga, and you only need a mat.

You certainly don’t need Lululemon butt-grabber pants (though they do look quite nice) to be able to do downward facing dog properly.

All of these additional things serve to distance you from the origins of yoga, which is an incredibly simple practice.

You don’t need to buy anything else to do yoga.

If you feel like it, make a promise now to never buy anything beyond a mat for your yoga. I certainly haven’t. Some people spend thousands of dollars on yoga junk they don’t need and never manage to do any yoga. I don’t want you to be that person.

This is a guide to doing yoga by yourself without spending a dime. You won’t be asked to buy anything. There is no catch at the end asking you to give me money. My intent is only to demystify the basics of yoga enough that anyone can do it on their own for free.

A little background on my experience with yoga.

I’ve been studying yoga for around two years now. Most of my training is from Yoga to the People in Manhattan. The school promotes yoga for everyone, and is run on a donation-based payment system. I am not a certified yoga instructor, though I plan to become one when I eventually have money and time to invest in the training.

However, to offset my non-yoga-teacherness, I have an undergraduate degree in dance from New York University (I double-majored in journalism), where I studied modern dance and ballet. I’ve studied movement for over ten years, and many of the principles of yoga carry over into non-yoga forms of movement. I do feel I am qualified to instruct the fundamentals of yoga, even though I may not have the blessing of the Yoga Alliance.

Why do yoga independently?

Yoga is expensive. Individual classes can run anywhere from $12-$20 at most commercial yoga studios. To benefit the most from yoga training you need to do it regularly, and this can become expensive if you have to go to a yoga studio every time you want to take a class.

Sometimes you only need a few yoga poses or sequences to center yourself, in these cases a trip to a yoga studio isn’t practical.

By learning to do yoga on your own you will master self-discipline. You will train your body and mind to work together. A lot of people never learn how to do yoga outside of a classroom, and this is a shame, because the biggest breakthroughs in yoga can come when you’re going at you’re own pace.

The best reason to learn to do yoga independently is you will have a free way to train your body for the rest of your life. You won’t have to spend a dollar more, unless you want to.

Please be careful practicing yoga independently. Some yoga poses are incredibly difficult. Don’t force yourself into uncomfortable positions or into balances that you cannot control. The flexibility and the strength will come with time and regular practice. Forcing any stretch in yoga is counterproductive.

Yoga should never hurt you. You will feel challenged at times, but the pain of injury should be avoided at all costs. Yoga is not about torturing yourself, it is about bettering yourself.

Step 1, Find a place to do yoga.

Clear a space somewhere in the place that you live which is large enough to fit your yoga mat with at least 1 ft of space around it. I like to face a window, but that isn’t a necessity. Ideally give yourself as much space as possible, you don’t want to be worrying about knocking over a lamp or falling on your desk.

This space doesn’t need much, but it should be free of distractions and objects that you may bump in to. That is all.

Step 2, Learn a few basic yoga poses. There are hundreds of yoga posed to choose from, you probably won’t need to do them all right at this very moment. Here are five basic yoga poses that you need to know now.

Click each of these poses for pop-up images showing you the pose.

  1. Child’s pose. This is one of the most basic poses. Return to this pose if you ever feel overwhelmed and just breathe. It’s done by sitting on your heels with your forehead on the mat. Put your arms either in front of you or by your feet. Start your practice in child’s pose, and just notice your breathing for 15 minutes.
  2. Flow. This is the fundamental sequence in Vinyasa yoga. I’m cheating a little, as this is a series of poses that you can use to ‘reset’ yourself after every harder pose. The sequence goes like this: start in plank pose, lower to ground by bending your arms, cobra, downward dog. Do a flow between any other pose that you attempt, this will reset your body between difficult poses.
  3. Mountain pose. This one is easy, you do it a lot. Stand up straight, with your legs about two-fists distance apart. Reach your arms overhead with your palms facing together. Try to relax your shoulders. Now glance at the ceiling, bend forward to touch your toes and then step back into plank and ‘flow’. Repeat this 3 times or so to get your blood flowing.
  4. Chair pose. This is like sitting in a chair. You can enter this pose from either a toe-touching position or from mountain pose. With your arms over your head, lower your butt so that you’re sitting in an imaginary chair. Your weight should be in your heels, your butt is tucked. This pose is kind of hard, so only stay in it for 30 seconds or so. Relax and touch your toes. Flow. Repeat 3 times or until you feel like you’re going to fall over.
  5. Warrior 1 + warrior 2. From a downward dog, take your right leg and put it between your hands with your foot facing forward. You will be in a lung with your left foot pointing towards the side of your mat. Reach your arms over your head. This is warrior 1. Stay here for a bit, and then reach your right arm forward and your left arm back. This is warrior 2. Stay here for a bit, then put your arms on the ground, put your right leg back. Flow. Repeat on the other side.
  6. Shoulder stand and plow. Lying on your back, roll your feet over your head, position your arms under your lower back and reach your feet towards the sky. Ideally you should stay in this for 15 minutes, but do it as long as you feel comfortable. Then move into a plow — relax your feet over your head, take your hands and claps them behind your back if possible. Don’t flow after this baby, just skip to the next pose.
  7. Corpse pose. This is the last pose you do in any yoga sequence. It is done by simply lying on your back, with your legs slightly apart and your arms a few inches from your body with palms facing up. Close your eyes and rest for 15 minutes or so. The point of this pose is to completely relax your body after a strenuous workout. It is the hardest pose of all, because you must learn to relax completely.

Remember, these are only a few basic yoga poses. There are hundreds more, and you can study them online at a number of yoga sources. If you’re feeling up to it, go take a class. A good yoga resource is B.K.S Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, check it out at your local library. Many yoga studios offer free trial classes or a week of unlimited introductory classes for a small fee.

Step 3, Do minimalist yoga.

Now that you know some basic poses, it’s time to do yoga. Find yourself a room that is free of distractions. Lay out your mat or just grab a blanket if you don’t have a mat. Begin in child’s pose, and slowly move your way through the different poses that I described above.

It will probably take you thirty minutes to go from start to finish. Go slowly. Make sure you’re breathing steadily. If at any time you feel overwhelmed, return to child’s pose — this is your safe zone.

Let me know if you have any questions or clarifications in the comments.


Simple Fitness: Buy Less, Do More

November 5th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Tammy Strobel of Rowdykittens. Follow her on Twitter. Photo by Everett Bogue (I’m driving to Seattle, so Tammy is covering today!)

Prior to my downsizing journey, I read a lot of fitness and health magazines. Most of the magazines and books advocated buying more stuff, joining an expensive gym or promoted diets that were not healthy. I walked away from those magazines feeling depressed and overwhelmed.

Discovering the simple living movement helped me reconnect to my body and start taking small steps toward my fitness goals. Unplugging my television and selling my car gave me the time to meet my goals. Within the last few years, I started swimming with a master’s team again, ran a marathon and developed many long lasting friendships.

I can’t offer one solution to fit all; but here are a few simple fitness tips and activities that have helped me get in shape without buying new stuff.

1. Pick an activity you enjoy.

Getting fit means you have to move your body. So it’s essential to pick an activity you enjoy. It could be running, walking or yoga, but you need to like it. If you don’t like the activity, odds are you won’t follow through.

Running, walking, riding a bike and yoga are all low cost activities. You probably already have a pair of walking/running shoes, a bike and maybe a yoga mat at home. If not, start checking out local shops for sales.

Micro-action: Brainstorm 4-5 activities that you love. What gives you joy?

2. Move your body.

Move your body as much as possible. This can be hard in the modern world, especially if you have a desk job. I sit in front of a computer all day, but I do sometime of physical activity before arriving at the office and either walk or ride my bike to work.

If you don’t have a lot of free time, I’d encourage you to move closer to your place of employment. Moving closer to work and walking or biking to the office are great ways to get moving and don’t cost a lot of money.

Micro-action: Find 30 minutes in your day and get active.

3. Eat fresh and real food.

Eating good, real food has become part of my simple fitness plan.

Last year, I read In Defense of Food and changed my diet dramatically. Rather than eating packaged foods, most of my produce comes from the local farmer’s market. Eating real food has increased my energy level and is actually a lot less expensive.

If you have a local farmer’s market in your city, take advantage of it. I used to think that fast food was quick and easy. But I’ve changed my perspective. Cooking food at home saves time, money and it really is healthier and simpler.

Micro-action: Does your city have a farmer’s market? If you don’t know, find out and take a trip to the market.

4. Make time.

Make time in your life for physical exercise. Everyone has at least 30 minutes a day to participate in some-type of physical activity. If you don’t have the time, consider reorganizing your priorities.

Other options include unplugging the television or selling your car. I did both and finally moved off the couch and went outside.

Micro-action: Schedule a physical activity everyday.

5. Be patient.

Reaching any type of fitness goal takes time, so be patient. Getting in shape won’t happen over night. For instance, I just started doing yoga and realized how weak my core is! I have a lot of work to do when it comes to strength training and I know it will take time.

Starting out is the easy point, but sticking with your fitness goals is the hard part.

Micro-action: Connect to a support network or find a workout buddy to keep you focused.

Closing Thoughts…

Above all, do what you love and brings you joy. Your body will thank you.

Observations on Yoga as a Basis for Existence.

October 16th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Portland has some amazing yoga centers, and at the time of writing this I’m three days deep unto a two week (for $20 dollars!) unlimited trial at Yoga Pearl, downtown. I’ve been falling in love with Power Vinyasa practice, with the room heated to 95F, which has the effect of warming muscle tissue to the point where tightness is an afterthought.

I’ve been doing Yoga daily since I arrived in Portland, almost to the point of having my practice be the focus of my day, and it’s had some interesting effects:

1, My practice has accelerated.
I’m starting to feel like my practice has begun to develop. I’m getting deeper into poses, and with that comes a sense of effortlessness, which is really important.

2, I’m becoming more relaxed.
There’s a lot going on in my life right now: I’m freelancing full-time, which has its challenges, I just moved to a new city, I’m separated from my awesome girlfriend, ultimately I have no idea what I’m doing (like the rest of us, I suppose.) By practicing Yoga daily I’ve found that I can maintain peace and calm amidst the chaos.

3: I’m concentrated in the moment.
A lot of people practice yoga like it’s a race. They’re racing to the end of each pose, and eventually each class, and then they race out of class to the shower. I’m coming to realize (more so than I have in the past) just how important it is to move through every moment, in yoga and in life, as if it’s the only moment. Yoga is about the journey, not how fast you can get to the end of the pose.

The most powerful changes come in the in-between moments. If you’re not paying attention you’ll miss them.

The Meditation Effect: How Yoga Daily Can Change Everything

October 9th, 2009 § Comments Off on The Meditation Effect: How Yoga Daily Can Change Everything § permalink

Post written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

One of the habits that I’ve adopted since moving to Portland, nearly three long weeks ago, has been the daily practice of Yoga. I was doing a lot of Yoga in New York, at the amazing donation based center Yoga To The People, and occasionally at home. It’s a lot easier to practice in the silence of my quaint Portland neighborhood, than it ever was in the noise of New York.

I’m a relative beginner at practicing yoga, I have to admit that. I’ve been moving actively since forever, but the regular practice of Asana’s and meditation is something I’ve been doing for just over a year. I studied dance in Chicago and for three years at NYU, so a lot of the principles of working with the body are the same, but the intention is much different.

In dance the focus is the performance (which admittedly I was always least interested in.) where as Yoga is about working with yourself to bring your mind, body, spirit, and the world all into sync with each other. That’s a giant difference in approach, but everything is related. The internal focus of Yoga really thrills me.

Why am I sharing this? Because I think Yoga is something everyone should try. And now that Far Beyond The Stars has 100+ readers(!), I figured I’d share.

Yoga will make your photos better, because it will make your life better.

Ways that I’ve observed my life improving since practicing yoga daily:

1, My concentration has improved.
I spend less time staring at walls wondering what I was supposed to do with my life, and more time focusing on the things that matter. Like this blog. Or cooking dinner for myself out of vegetables from the farmer’s co-op.

2, Improved flexibility.
I gradually begun to be able stretch and touch parts of my body that I never could before. I’m especially interested in asanas that involve binds, so I end up doing a lot of stretches with my arms behind my back and such. These really open my chest, my triceps, my back. Amazing!

3, I spend less time questioning myself.
I’ve found that regular meditation leads to answers to many of the questions that I’d previously spent questioning for ages while not meditating. These are not easy to discuss in a blog form, but I’ll give an example. Why am I in Portland? Answers to that question come to me in pigeon pose.

Well, that’s a few things. The more time I spend doing yoga, the more I realize how endless the discoveries are from the practice. I could go on listing them forever, but I have coffee to drink.

I think the most important thing I can communicate to you, the readers of this tiny blog in the big universe, is that Yoga is for everyone. The last line of Yoga To The People‘s creed is “All Bodies Rise”. Because their whole goal is to open Yoga to everyone, so everyone can benefit from it.

Here’s a copy of Yoga To The People’s creed, as it’s an important basis for my practice and my approach to Yoga in general:

There will be no correct clothes
There will be no proper payment
There will be no right answers
No glorified teachers
No ego no script no pedestals
No you’re not good enough or rich enough
This yoga is for everyone
This sweating this breathing this becoming
This knowing glowing feeling
Is for the big small weak and strong
Able and crazy
Brothers sisters grandmothers
The mighty and the meek
Bones that creek
Those who seek
This power is for everyone
Yoga to the people
All bodies rise


Hey folks, if you liked this post, subscribe to the RSS feed so you know when I post again! Drop me an email if you have suggestions. And tell your friends! Oh, and go to Yoga to the People if you’re in New York, Berkeley or San Francisco.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the yoga category at Far Beyond The Stars: The Archives.