Learning yoga at home is a tempting proposition. After all, yoga classes can be expensive, and many people are self-conscious in a yoga studio.
But going it alone with yoga is very difficult, especially if you’re new to the practice. Studying with a teacher in a classroom setting ensures the student’s safety, and can also deepen your yoga experience remarkably.
Rooted in History
Yoga isn’t just an exercise. It has its origins in thousands of years of Indian history and culture, and many kinds of yoga still maintain a strong connection to their spiritual roots. Even though Indian society often views yoga very differently than we do in the West, there are still valuable lessons to be learned by considering traditional attitudes toward yoga.
In India, yogic practices were always taught by a teacher. There are plenty of texts about yoga, but these are intended to complement a teacher’s instruction, not replace it.
Then and now, yogis in India recognized that having a relationship with a teacher helps the student along in their practice, and also ensures the student’s safety.
You Can Learn a Lot Alone …
If you’re serious about learning yoga, you should have a home regimen that complements your classes. Practicing yoga daily is a good way to maintain strength and flexibility between classes. It’s also a perfect time to try more difficult asanas, like inversions or balancing poses, which you may have seen demonstrated at a class but which you didn’t have the time to fully master there.
There are also plenty of books and videos that offer instructions on how to do yoga at home, or which propose a series of asanas to try. These are wonderful ways to broaden your knowledge and experience of yoga. But even these don’t replace a teacher.
… But Not Everything
Yoga teachers receive many hours of training in yoga poses and human anatomy. They bring skill, experience and knowledge to students, and communicate these in classes. This communication is more vivid and useful than a book or a video — which will never really be tailored to your personal situation.
A yoga teacher knows how to pace a class. Many inexperienced yogis, learning yoga at home, may assume a series of poses too quickly or too slowly. The series may become far easier than it would be otherwise, or it may become inordinately challenging. It may lack the calm, meditative flow that many schools of yoga possess. But with a teacher, you’ll understand exactly the pace you should be attempting.
A teacher also can perform adjustments. For novices learning yoga at home, it can be difficult to have a sense of exactly where your body is … much less where it should be in a given pose. But a yoga teacher watches you assume your asanas, and brings their years of experience to help you correct your poses and reap their true benefits.
A good yoga teacher will also know when you can go deeper. Many students learning yoga at home may think they aren’t skilled enough to speed up or slow down a series, or to assume a deeper and more challenging asana. But a skilled teacher will be watching their students over time, and will be able to push them to new levels — but always within healthy limits.
Though it may seem like a good idea to learn yoga alone, it’s always better to study with a class. You’ll stay safe, and you’ll deepen and enrich your yoga practice, learning aspects of the practice you might never encounter otherwise.