Caterpillars are very hungry and see very little; only light and dark patterns very nearby. They have sensors on their “mouths” - the maxillae under their mandibles - that tell them to eat when it’s ok and not to eat when it’s harmful. One day, after shedding many skins, their juvenile hormone drops low enough that it triggers the instinct to create its own chrysalis and it becomes a wholly new and very vulnerable being, a pupae. The chrysalis will become its eyes and wings, and the butterfly will have more complex eyes and smell receptors, senses of touch and taste, some of its larval cells feeding its metamorphasis.
Your Home Yoga Practice is a chrysalis: it’s a transition during which you process all you ingest as a hungry, hungry yogi attending practices led by your favorite teachers. Like the caterpillar, you may have been ravenous when you first found yoga classes: the bliss after Savasana, the thrill of balancing in that pose the first time or your first inversion, finding a bandha or feeling like you finally “get” ujayyi breathing.
And like a chrysalis, a Home Yoga Practice becomes part of you, even while its changing you in ways you couldn’t have forseen while you were ravenously trying out new classes and teachers, maybe even styles.
But unlike butterflies and caterpillars, who each have different goals and very limited time to accomplish them - weeks or maybe months, we are going between nourishment, integration and transformation throughout our days and lives.
The arc of a yoga practice is similar to that of a life, or a day, a story or a year: a universally recognized rhythm of tentative beginning, connecting to basic processes, moving more and more confidently, more and more upright, then adventuring into more complex and arduous shapes, even turning up side down before returning to earth, slowing, becoming more contemplative and finally resting and returning to oneness. All this before being reborn, which is why you’re asked to turn to one side and take a few breaths before rising from Final Resting Pose, or Savasana; this is the mudra, seal or gesture, of the embryo, being born into a new day.
Having a Home Yoga Practice is a way of nurturing your transformation between near-sighted, consumption focused caterpillar and complex, creative and soaring butterfly. This level of empowerment is possible only when we take the breath techniques, yoga poses and meditations we are lead through in yoga classes and allow them to pour from our very tissues in the solitude of practice.
One of the scary things about Home Yoga Practice, the kind that’s a chrysalis for your empowerment, is that you may not know what you’re going to do or discover when you roll out your mat. The commitment is to roll it out and be there in solitude, without distraction, for some time, on the regular. When you create this container, the practice that pours out of you will likely be less choreographed than your yoga classes with your favorite teacher - and infinitely more surprising and revealing. The poses and breathwork, the connection to your own experience will become your teacher and the container you make will carry through your day.
There are some ways of easing this anxiety, just as we learn ways of coping with adulthood, the anxiety of the new and unknown. Having a familiar sequence to begin often is all you need to remember a pose that made your heart sing last week or a sequence that opened your eyes to the possibilities of your core.
Yoga is union, but the reason anyone ever gets on a mat is that it helps us show up in our lives. Perhaps it makes us stronger and more flexible, more able to sit in meeting or drivers seat, more able to pick up the kids or groceries. And then it makes us less likely to close the gap in front of us when another driver is trying to get in a line last minute and happier for the space. And then it gives us that extra split second to wonder what happened to the person who is dumping on us to make them suffer so.
This is empowerment: the ability to choose, to space to make the choice, the sight to see the options. When we practice meeting ourselves in this way - in addition to classes, by ourselves, we can feel the poses and breaths in a way that deepens even the classes we still take. We learn how backbends make us feel - not the general rule that they are mood and energy lifting, but specific ways they affect our embodied experience. As a result, we’re able to choose the poses that we need on a given day.
This is empowerment: the ability to stay. Have you ever felt rushed in class, even with your favorite teacher? “I just wanted to stay in that pose forever!” But then the class was on to a counterpose and doing something else you wanted to explore. In your Home Yoga Practice, you can stay, deepen, feel and be that pose. You can release and come back as many times as you like.
This is empowerment: having a sequence you found through meeting yourself on the mat that you return to day after day. It becomes like a favorite hike: that stretch of forest or desert you know so well that seeing the season’s revolution there feels like a conversation with a friend.
This is empowerment: learning what soothes you, relieves your strains and having the time and space to experience it without the gaze of the other.
Home Yoga Practice, usually, isn’t the only practice, but it is the practice where you create the container, you tend the arc. This allows you to bring so much of your mat-self, your chrysalis, into the rest of your caterpillar day, until you recognize yourself as the butterfly you’ve always been.