Saturday, January 24, 2015

How Home Practice Changed My Yoga

We all love our yoga studio. There's that one teacher that always plays the right music and creates the perfect sequence. The room is dark and warm, with an unmistakable yoga ambiance. The instructor's voice is soothing, yet she challenges you to skate the edge of your capabilities. I get that. I really do. It's so easy just to lose yourself in someone else's experience created FOR us. But what if you create an experience for yourself? Wouldn't it be even better? Only you know the poses you really love and that song that gives you chills. This is your yoga. It is with you always. Make it yours.

My home practice started quite by accident. My little home based tax business took a sharp turn in another direction. I found myself in a posh new office, wearing suits in a high rise with a view. I also found myself without a way to make it to my beloved studio for my much anticipated weekday lunch classes.
Practicality led to invention. I needed my yoga like I needed food or sleep, so I had to make it work.
I'd already had a dedicated space for meditation in my room, so I moved my bed and made an even larger space, added a mat, a little mood lighting, and a favorite playlist on my tablet. I'd also already had a sequence written that I'd used while on vacation. I incorporated my favorite poses, along with some of those I knew I needed for my body.

And then I did it, and it was delicious. It was just me, being honest with who I was and what I needed in that moment. Me in my baggy pajama pants and a sports bra. Breathing and moving. Sometimes I improvised and threw in a pose. Sometimes I just followed the sequence because I was too tired to care. Either way was fine, as long a I was honest with myself and my needs were met. And were they! I'd found a depth of practice I'd never imagined.

On this journey I've noticed several very positive outcomes to a home practice instead of a led class in studio:

1) I'm not performing for the rest of the class. I choose the right pose for how it feels instead if how it looks. I was the yogi at the front of the class doing the fancy, hard stuff, so I was surprised that when I practice alone I mostly don't  feel the pull to do a forearm stand instead of a headstand. As a matter of fact, I rarely do the more "fancy" poses at all anymore. I do what my body needs, instead if what I perceived as expected.

2) I've turned more inward during my practice, since there are less distractions. There's no guy breathing hard on my neck because our mats are an inch apart, no cell phones ringing, and no teacher talking excessively during savasana. While there are still noisy moments at home, it is much easier to control or ignore behind a closed door. Creating boundaries and expectations with my family and pets gave me more quiet time. I can meditate for as long as I like after my practice without all of the chaos of a mass exodus from class.

3) I move at my own pace so I practice more on my breath, which makes the yoga increasingly more meditative. Some days you are tired and want to just do 3 sun salutations and a forward fold, and now you can. It is your practice.

4) I'm saving time and energy by not driving, looking for a parking place, or checking in. Now I just go to my sacred space and practice. This has led to a more relaxed and overall sacred view of my practice. And it's free! There is nothing like a solo practice on a rainy day with the window open.

5) I am more flexible physically. This came as a surprise. I really thought without the heat and intensity of the studio, I'd become less flexible. I thought I needed a teacher to push me in order to succeed in getting better at yoga. This was not the case for me as I've learned you build heat from the inside, not from the outside, and that there is no goal in yoga to reach. The flexibility I've created is from practice, not from the artificial heat of the room. There is no goal. Just me practicing to feel good.

While some may find home practice is not for them, I do strongly believe that it should be explored at least once as a practice in self discovery. It can be daunting if you are new to yoga and don't quite know if your alignment is correct. A video may help ease some of this apprehension until you get more comfortable with your practice. The studio is great for learning and socializing, but a home practice is YOURS.
I've since visited my studio, and enjoyed the change of pace, but felt a bit exposed, distracted and less sacred. And of course, I instantly reverted to my fancy poses. Maybe one day I won't feel the need to perform in a led class, but for now my home practice feels so much more authentic.