Category: Living the Yoga Life

Break Through to Happiness: Practicing Yoga at Home

The 6 invaluable tools for yoga at home that I use daily…

Life is wonderful!  We are blessed to live in an age where we don’t have to travel to India to find that one yogi rumored to provide the breakthrough to happiness.  It is now so easy to practice yoga at home – we can throw on a podcast or try a youtube video and experiment almost endlessly.  The downside of this is that, particularly for someone just beginning their path, it’s easy to get lost among the multitude of options.

Although I’m always one to experiment and try new things, I started my journey by doing yoga at home – I was shy about going to a class where I was sure everyone would be flexible and skilled and I would be the inflexible new guy.  Now, many years on, I teach group classes and enjoy taking them occasionally, but my personal practice has returned to primarily a home practice.

You can benefit from my experience with yoga at home, because through my experimentation over the years, I’ve found a few books, audio books, and videos that are very dear to me – resources that helped me to break through to happiness – to make steps in personal growth in my life.  These are resources that I hold close, and use often.  For this article I picked my favorite two videos, two books, and two audio books – think of me as your filter, steering you to the best of the best.  I recommend for balance that you try to do a little reading, a little audio, and a little video every day.

 

Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga

advanced yoga practice video bryan kest

This is where it all started for me, and I recommend Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga to beginners and advanced yogis alike.  Talk about destiny, I originally picked this up as a random VHS purchase in a bookstore.  The VHS had only the second class in this series, the one called “Tone” and that’s the class you should start with.  I wore that original tape out, often using it to practice twice a day.  I love the way Bryan strips the dogma from the practice and makes it truly practical and accessible.  He makes it all seem so simple that it took me a few years of listening over and over before I picked up on the depth of what he was saying.  Don’t be fooled by the simplicity and the seeming “westernness” of this video by the inventor of Power Yoga – Bryan is the real deal, having practiced and studied in India back in the 1980’s before it became a popular thing to do.  Now that Bryan has become a dear friend, we can all make fun of how he dressed in these videos, which do have an early 90’s feel!  Bryan Kest is also an accomplished meditation teacher and practitioner and the owner of Santa Monica Power Yoga, the place many advanced yogis consider consider to be the hub of yoga in the western hemisphere.  Bryan also offers online classes at poweryoga.com.

 

Yin Yoga with Paul Grilley

advanced yoga practice video paul grilley dvd

I found Paul Grilley after I had been teaching a while and he was recommended as the expert when it comes to anatomy.  He has an excellent anatomy video which basically teaches that all of us have different shaped bones, therefore none of us will look the same in poses.  This forms the core of Paul’s physical practice philosophy that each of us has to find our own path within our own unique anatomy.  Having said that about his anatomy DVD, the video I am recommending here is Yin Yoga: The Foundations of a Quite Practice, which is truly a physical and mental practice for the advanced yogi.  When I was younger, I could have never imagined holding poses for five minutes at a time, so this is definitely a mature practice, but if you give it a try, I think you will love it.  I’ve gotten used to the reactions when I teach yin – especially from people who have been practicing flow classes for a while… they are often blown away by how a yin class can access new places within, both physically and mentally.  I will eventually be offering one of my yin classes on this site, but until then, I can’t recommend this video highly enough.

 

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

advanced yoga practice audio eckhart

Eckhart Tolle has been a key personal influence in the growth of my practice beyond the physical and into the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga.  I had the pleasure of studying with Eckhart at a few of his workshops, and he is truly an enlightened soul.  More than his books – this audio book, where you can hear the words directly, can have a profound impact leading to direct personal transformation.  The message is simple, but the depth of the work makes it worth going back to again and agian.

 

The End of Your World by Adyashanti

advanced yoga practice audio adyashanti

I think of this audiobook by Adyashanti as a sort of companion to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now audiobook.  They both speak from person experience, but where Eckhart’s awakening was direct, deep, immediate, and lasting, Adyashanti’s was more gradual.  Because of this Adyashanti’s experience is, perhaps for some, more accessible.  Another thing I love about this audiobook, he goes into great depth about what it is like to live in an awakened state.  He covers the gradual transform process into presence – the experience of tasting it, then dropping back into the real world; how it can feel lonely and scary to leave behind friends and lifestyles that no longer work for you; how awakening is not a state of pure bliss and how to aproach what you find along the path in a balanced way.  This audiobook is an invaluable tool for self inquiry.

 

I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

advanced yoga practice book i am that

I found Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj fairly early in my practice, before I started a physical practice, and before I even started called what I was doing yoga.  I was wandering around desperately searching for answers – something that would release the deep unease and inner pain I was feeling.  I was reading a lot of philosophy at the time, and I cam across this book I AM THAT, by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.  Do you think it helped?  I read the first 10 pages or so and it made no sense to me!  Fast forward about 10 years – 10 years of physical and mental practice, plus an awakening experience, and when I found the book in my library and took a look at it again, it was like meeting an old friend who knew exactly what I was experiencing and could speak deeply about what life was like for me.  So I can’t say that this book will resonate for you, especially since I had to get to a certain stage in my personal growth before I could appreciate it.  But it is definitely worth a try.

 

Courage by Osho

advanced yoga practice book osho courage

Courage, The Joy of Living Dangerously, by Osho is an incredibly inspiring book. Osho was an amazing figure – brash, controvercial, challenging – hated by many in his native India while alive – he is now cherished as a philosopher and teacher of enlightenment.  Courage is challenging, inspiring, comforting, and at its core, full of love.  The book reads like a manifesto, constantly pushing you to towards your fears, encouraging you to embrace them, love them, and ultimately find ways to move beyond them.  I found the book a joy to read the first time, and I go back to it often.  My copy has more words underlined, starred and highlighted than there are words left alone!

 

Conclusion

So that’s it,  the 6 books, audio books, and videos I for doing yoga at home on a daily basis.  I hope this helps you cut through the flood of information out there so, instead of spending all of your time distractedly searching for stuff, you can get these and spend the time truly moving your practice to a deeper, more fulfilling, and rewarding space.

 

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Beginner Yoga: 7 Essential Tools for Guys – Hint,…

Straight to the Beginner Yoga Guy:

The 7 tools I wish I had as a guy starting out.

I’ve noticed a lot of advice out there for the yoga beginner.  Maybe it’s the type of yoga I teach, but I feel the standard recommendations are not very good.  I had very little money when I was starting out, and I spent some of my precious money on tools that I barely used.  I wound up with things I didn’t need or that wore out quickly, missing out on other stuff that would have been helpful.  So the following is a combination of what I found helpful for beginner yoga, plus what I wish I had:

 

Prana Revolution Yoga Mat or Manduka Yoga Mat

prana revolution yoga mat
Prana Revolution Yoga Mat
Manduka PRO Yoga Mat
Manduka PRO Yoga Mat

 

 

 

 

 

I know the Prana Revolution Yoga Mat and the Manduka PRO Yoga Mat are more expensive than a lot of the other mats out there, but I wound up spending a lot trying out different mats before settling on these.  If I had just bought one of these up front, I would have saved a lot of money in the end.   I’m a bigger guy (6’3″) and I was always hanging off of the standard sized mats, often with my back foot sliding off the mat and onto the floor behind me.  There are many great things about these mats.  My Manduka PRO is 12 years old and still going strong, a thorough cleaning and it still seems like new!  I never realized I was placing my hands a little too close for comfort until I got the Prana Revolution.  The Revolution makes me feel like I have plenty of space to practice exactly the way I want to.  Because of the size of the Prana Revolution and the fact that I haven’t found a bag for it, I tend to use it as the mat for my home practice.  Since the Manduka Pro fits in my yoga bag, I tend to use this mat as my teaching mat or for taking classes.Prana Revolution Pros:  Wider, longer, and more durable than just about any other mat out there.

Prana Revolution Cons:  Not much cushioning, won’t fit a standard yoga bag (I use a mat carrying strap for mine).

Manduka Mat Pros: The perfect amount of cushion, super durable, and plenty long even for tall guys.

Manduka Mat Cons: I wish it were a tiny bit wider, as my natural hand placement leaves about half of each hand off the side of the mat.

Mat Bag

manduka practice bag

 

 

 

A mat bat is a mat bag, and pretty much any one will do, but it definitely is worth purchasing to make it easy to carry your mat to and from class.  Also, If your mat and towel gets sweaty like mine do, it’s nice to have a place to put them that provides a little protection.  That why i like the Manduka Practice Tote, it holds a bit more that your mat and towel without being huge, and it has holes on the sides so it is breathable to air out the sweaty suff.

Yogitoes Skiddless Premium Towel and/or Manduka Equa Towel

yogitoes big skiddless
Yogitoes Skidless Premium
Manduka Equa 72"
Manduka Equa 72″

Did I mention that I am not only a big guy, but that I’m a big, sweaty guy?  A lot of the money I wasted as a beginner yoga guy was spent trying to find a “sticky” mat that I wouldn’t slip on during my practice.  Well, it seems obvious to me now, but it took me a lot of time and a lot of money before I realized what I should have done was buy a Yogitoes Skiddless Premium towel and a Manduka Equa towel right at the very beginning.  In fact, if purchasing one of the mats I recommend would mean that you can’t afford one of these towels, I recommend going for a cheaper mat and definitely getting a towel or two.  I love both of these towels and I have a couple of each.

Beginner Travel Tip

When I’m making a trip somewhere for just two or three days, I often skip bringing a yoga mat and just bring a  towel.  These towels are light and don’t take up much space in your suitcase.  You can use one directly on the carpet in your hotel room, or if you go to a yoga studio, you can rent or borrow one of their mats and put your towel on top (downside to this  – sometimes you wind up at a studio where their mats are so smelly and nasty that it is an extra challenge to your yoga to remain focused!)

Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga Video

advanced yoga practice video bryan kest

 

 

 

 

 

Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga hits the perfect balance of accessibilty and challenge for the beginner yoga student.  This is the very first video I bought when I first started a physical practice, and since I didn’t know anything about yoga, I used it every day for about six months until I got up the courage to go to a class.  Bryan has since become a dear friend and this video still resonates after all these years.   It is remains my go to practice if I want to get in something strenuous and mind clearing at home in less than an hour.  When you think about how much you can spend going to classes, this video definitely pays for itself if you use it on a regular basis.  I recommend you use the second video in the series called “Tone”.

 

Prana Men’s Stretch Zion Shorts

Prana Men's Stretch Zion Short
Prana Men’s Stretch Zion Short

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though I originally got these shorts for rock climbing, I find them to be PERFECT for yoga.  The Prana Men’s Stretch Zion Short has a vented, gusseted inseam, which means they’ve sewn in extra material in the groin to make the shorts more flexible, plus the material itself is stretchy.  I also like that they look like a normal pair of shorts that you can wear out on the town, or for going to and from yoga class.

Water Bottle

No special recommendations here, other than it’s good for the environment if you don’t buy a new plastic bottle for each class.  I didn’t even think too much about that until I did my first yoga teacher training in Mexico, and every time we went swimming in the beautiful blue ocean there, we were swimming among thousands of plastic bottles and bags.   I’d prefer glass bottles, but I’m afraid of breaking them in class, so I usually use metal.

Your Favorite Comfortable T-Shirt

Comfort is the name of the game when you are doing a physical practice, so wear some thing you like on top.  Simple.

Conclusion

I hope this advice helps you guys just getting stared, I know I wish I had found an article like this for my beginner yoga practice.  Keep at it, I find yoga to have infinite possibilities for finding health, happiness, and personal transformation and I hope you do to!

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