Okay so you’re a yogi.
You have a practice that extends most days of the week and you have your mat and your bag and your fancy clothes and your yogi friends and your favorite teacher that twists you up and cradles you until you’re a puddle on the floor knocked out in savasana and feeling like all is right in the world.
Not much beats out a well taught yoga class and as a yoga teacher I know that a studio is a guaranteed way to get your yoga in. In fact I would say it’s imperative, especially as a beginner, to be guided and directed and seen through your class. Not only for safety reasons; so you don’t hyperextend your joints or develop bad habits using momentum rather than good alignment and strength but it’s important to see how a class arcs.
Going to a studio class shows you how to warm up, how to twist and balance and go upside down and get through your sun salutations and all their variations. Also it’s cool to be with other practicing yogi’s.
Even if you’re not a social butterfly there’s something sacred about sharing space with other people all breathing ujjayi in all their different bodies and personalities that makes a class special.
But then there’s the home practice. This is something I can’t advocate enough—and teaching is part of how I make money. If you have taken classes and watched dvd’s or podcasts and have come to a place in your practice where you’re comfortable with the poses then that is a cue that you are ready to practice on your own at home.
And if you’ve taken classes and watched dvd’s and are uncomfortable with poses on your own than that also is your cue to try a home practice; if you’re waiting for the right time you might just be waiting indefinitely.
Because you can. That could be reason enough but there are so many more; the most in your face reason being it’s free, private and whenever you want it to be.
You don’t have to drive to a class that is at a specific time that you have to get to. The time you set to be on your mat is whenever you do it—5 a.m.? 4 p.m.? Completely up to you.
Then there are the deeper reasons.
You truly learn about yourself in your own private home practice. You learn that maybe you don’t want music or maybe you prefer Guns & Roses, Katy Perry or (god forbid) Justin Bieber. Maybe you want to do some yoga that is all about your shoulders and hips? Then that is what you do.
You look up some poses for the parts you’re looking to focus on and those are the postures you do. Maybe your practice is laying down and breathing. Laying down and focusing on your breath is (in my world) the very core of what yoga is.
It’s taking the time to just be. It’s allowing. It’s bringing some stillness and awareness to your mind and body that balances out the day-to-day task list of work and family and stress and even the hard core power vinyasa class you prefer most days. But on your own mat where you call the shots you truly become the master of your “self.”
I swear by my home practice that lets me off the “yoga leash” that safety of being told what to do and how to do it and for how long.
When I’m at home on my mat I’m in a place that pushes me not only to be creative but to be disciplined, my tapas if you will. Even when not feeling up to it I know that I will feel better, more grounded and more settled after some breathing and the gentlest of poses.
And more often than not after five minutes of gentle “I’ll just do happy baby and maybe a downdog” I end up being coaxed into something more expansive. But if not that’s okay too.
In fact, there is something to be said about permission to not; to not beat myself up over not practicing in the challenging way I normally do. To not play that mental guilt game that somehow states that I am less of a person for not going all out for an hour as opposed to a sweet and slight 15. This is something I’m working on continuously and would argue that that in itself is yoga. That that need to push myself is differentiated from- am I just being lazy or avoiding something?
I am granting myself an opportunity to tailor a sequence according to what I need and what I want and what feels good. What I choose to practice shows me things about myself that I otherwise might not have learned had I not chosen to be at home.
For instance, there was a few months where I did the same routine over and over again. I craved the familiarity and the ease of knowing what to do and could physically feel the progress in my legs and strength in my shoulders and slow opening of my back as the at one time new and hard sequence grew easier and quicker. I learned to slow it down and just be in the pose for its own sake. I learned that I can adapt to things that didn’t feel right in the beginning and then I learned to let go. I let go of the need to have that one routine and then to come up with others. I learned that I am definitely a creature of habit and that variety has it’s own merits.
What will you learn on your mat at home possibly in your underwear?
Editor: Hayley Samuelson.