When I moved from Phoenix to Tucson I left behind good friends as well as some of the amazing yoga instructors I had met since first unrolling my yoga mat.
Finally, after an especially frustrating ‘Hour Cardio Flow’ class that began with 20 full minutes of child’s pose, cat cow and gate pose it finally occurred to me that the universe might be sending me a message.
Maybe it wasn’t that there was a lack of good classes and instructors in my new town, or that there was going to be no cardio or flow that day (although the latter certainly seemed to be the case). Rather, perhaps it was that I wouldn’t find the class that I was looking for because it was time to deepen my practice by developing a practice at home.
That next day when I stepped solo on to my mat and led myself through exactly the hour and a half long practice I had been longing for. I was hooked. I flowed, inverted, arm balanced and twisted my way through inspired variations on the primary series and then settled, deeply satisfied, into a long shavasana (corpse pose).
There was plenty of opportunity to meditate when I was done, no reason to clear the room or find my car in the parking lot. It seemed to be exactly how yoga was meant to be practiced.
And that’s how my home practice started. Rolling out my Manduka, queuing up Michael Franti and moving from sun salutations A and B, holding what ever pose my body craved, for as long as I wanted. It was liberating and deeply satisfying. I felt like I had stumbled upon the asana equivalent of masturbation after a series of unsatisfying encounters. It was bliss.
It was also incredibly interesting and educational. Not since teacher training did I pay so much attention to what my psoas was doing or why my knees wanted to lean toward my little toe. Instead of focusing outwardly on an instructor’s verbal cues, I turned more deeply inward, listening to my own muscles, joints and breath. And, for the first time in my practice, competition and comparison with others had completely left the room. I was no longer using group energy to push harder and was able to explore, not just where I was in terms of mastering a pose, but where my real edge in the pose appeared to be day by day.
The next week I began to get more traditional with the ashtanga primary series and perhaps it was as a result of that order and structure that a real shift started to happen. I began to see opportunities for practicing every where at home, not just on my mat.
What was the point of a perfectly aligned triangle pose if there were bills stacked up on my desk or the dishes in the sink?
After I finished my poses I cleaned and even set out to clean a few blemishes off my credit report, for good measure. I also started suiting up for practice by taking a shower, putting on my best spandex and a little make up.
I prided myself on making that part of my practice at home. Just like when I was going to my favorite ‘see and be seen’ studio in Scottsdale. I became interested, and quite possibly obsessed, with making my self and my environment as beautiful and graceful as the poses and my transitions on the mat.
I thought I was totally getting it and I felt really smart about that. Perhaps that’s exactly why, when and where the trouble began.
Where I had been practicing for 90 minutes I became a struggle to stay on the mat for 60 minutes. Where I had been pushing myself too far past my edge in class, I began to take it a bit too easy at home. The pendulum had swung. And for a few days I didn’t do asana practice at all. I did keep my sink spotless and put on my best yoga clothes to sit around not doing yoga at home.
Sitting on the couch in my lululemons with a bowl of greek yogurt, thinking deeply about why all this was, or was not, happening, led me to some interesting insights about me and my ego. However it did little to increase my actual self discipline and get me back on the mat for those few days.
Perhaps that’s where the real work begins? And if so, what does it mean that I might need a room full of yogis holding me to my commitment and an instructor telling me what to do in order to maintain a daily practice? Or is this why the group, the sangha, is included in what is referred to as the three jewels or the three points of refuge? I let that inquiry hang in the air, practiced a sequence heavy on legs up the wall pose and decided that what ever the answer I was going to a class the next day. And possibly every day after that until I was sure I could maintain a daily practice at home.
Trisha Lotzer is a wandering yogi, author and attorney currently residing in Tucson, Arizona. Connect with with Trisha on Facebook.
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan