Preface: Why a Home Yoga Practice?
Home Yoga Practice is Authentic, Practical, Versatile & Yours.
Current yoga culture has been influenced by commerce and fitness regimes, which has had some very positive results. The democratization and independence allowed by purchasing classes have taken some of the “guru knows best” mystique out of yoga and allowed modern Westerners to sample different styles, teachers and approaches to yoga and meditation. Innovation has resulted from some of the commercial pressures and we now have styles that the writers of ancient yogic texts couldn’t have imagined. Once esoteric knowledge reserved for the “initiated” is now accessible to even the newest yoga student who reads and listens.
The fitness industry has embraced yoga and influenced how we access the teachings, resulting in “core” classes, “hip opening” and “heart opening” themes as well as “yoga for golfers, cyclists, runners, back pain…” and nearly any category of activity or condition you can imagine. This application oriented practicality has been the basis of tremendously productive collaborations with anatomists, massage therapists and other body work professionals, psychological counsellors and experts as well as conventional medicine.
But the marketing and packaging angle has taken yoga out of the realm of a practice and made it into classes and workshops (like the one you’re taking: irony recognized. The difference is we’re taking our practice back!) What makes a series of yoga poses, breathing techniques, readings and meditation a practice instead of a class? A class has objectives, agenda and plans that come from outside your heart and are often made general to apply to many people at once. A practice is tailored to you, arises from your own intent and listening and serves your unfolding needs, desires and goals.
Obviously there is a reciprocal relationship between classes and practice: you can’t have a practice if you never learned anything, and classes are a great way to learn poses, breathing techniques, meditation and just generally take great care of yourself. What we usually miss is the other direction: without practice, classes aren’t all they could be.
How do you think the yogis of old practiced? Sure, they had teachers, but they travelled long ways and spent lengthy periods of time in personal practice. When you go to a class, you're learning your teacher's practice.That's valuable – you get their voice in your head and deepen your understanding of their instruction.
But how about your practice? What happens when you express your inner Warrior? What do you feel when you can stay as long as you want and don't need to follow instruction? You'll be surprised how cultivating a home practice will develop your intuition and understanding of the poses.
If you want to practice first thing in the morning, after your tea, before you interact with people, you might not have as many options as you'd like for teacher led practices. Sometimes finance might limit how often you can go to class. Sometimes when you most need your practice, you least feel like leaving the house. Sometimes things come up when you're on the mat in a way you'd prefer not to share with a class, so if you're in class you pack those feelings away. If you have a home practice, you can come home and create as much softness and safety as you'd like for those feelings to arise and for you to move through them and let your body release the tensions associated with holding them for you. Sometimes it's just easier and nicer to have your own space to retreat to.
When you practice at home you're best able to incorporate your favorite people – children, pets, significant others and friends. Sometimes you just need to play by yourself. Sometimes you need to experiment with getting into poses in ways you're embarrassed to in class. Just make sure you're safe: clear the space around you in a radius as tall as you are plus one foot if you're experimenting with inversions. Have pillows. Collect bolsters, blankets and eye pillows. Keep your journal nearby.
Remember that part about class being your teacher's practice? How do you think your teacher comes up with that practice? She plays at home. You begin to own your poses, your breath, your meditation and your practice when you follow your body's signals for what comes next, learn to listen to what your body needs and respond with breath, intent and presence.