Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Home Practice, Part I

One of the most common questions I hear people asking each other and myself is - do you do a home practice? This is often an awkward question to answer. So what truly constitutes a home practice? Isn’t yoga all about making the practice your own? Why are people so fascinated with what someone else is doing outside of the classroom?

Granted, one of the beautiful aspects of yoga is you don’t have to do it in a studio/classroom setting. When you start to become comfortable with the poses you can begin to bring the practice to your living room. It doesn’t have to be much - perhaps 5 surya namaskar A and 3 surya namasar B and the three closing postures. Maybe you are feeling more energetic and want to do some standing and seated postures. And of course, don’t forget everyone’s favorite, savasana (corpse pose). It can be a 15 minute practice or a full hour and a half. It can be Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Hatha, or meditation.

You can even take your practice on the road. You find yourself in a hotel room after a long drive or plane ride, but no workout room in the hotel. Or maybe the weather is -20* and the wind that started in the Canadian Rockies hasn’t slowed down as it roared over the Dakotas. Not the best for an outside walk or run. What’s that? No mat? Take a couple of towels, dampen where your hands and feet hit and set them out. Again, it doesn’t have to be much - maybe just a couple sun salutations and savasana to work out the kinks of prolonged sitting and to calm the mind. Or perhaps you’ve been on a more active vacation - hiking, biking, ultra marathon - where a few end of the day/beginning of the day stretches might help with muscle recovery and limber those joints.

Still not entirely comfortable going from memory? If you have an ipod, you can now go online and download hatha or vinyasa sessions. For the Ashtanga practice there are CD’s and fold out cards you can follow.

But! But! But! I hear you cry. Kids! Pets! Small house/apartment! Work schedule(s), your house mates, significant other, dinner, breakfast, commute, laundry, errands, dishes...you know the rest. Alas, it is true, these are significant factors that may inhibit moving into a home practice. We live very busy lives and to try and "cram" another thing in in our few hours in the morning or evening is not for everyone and in fact may be counter productive. For many the studio time becomes their practice, the place where they can practice fully and truly uninterrupted.

And. That. Is Okay.

I often think this is the hardest part for students beginning on this path. It is okay - fantastic! in fact! - to do a practice once or twice a week. Perhaps that is all your schedule will permit. Great! It is okay to acknowledge that you may not have the space or conditions within your home walls to bring a practice home. I have two hunting dogs and a small house. I roll out my mat, carefully avoiding the dog pillow, overhead ceiling fan, couch and TV. It doesn’t take but two sun salutations and I have my lab laying across my mat and my setter licking my ears every time I’m in down dog. I’ve tried gating them out, but then they whine. I now accept this. My on-the-mat practice is going to be elsewhere. Do what you can, and be content to be in that spot.

But...this doesn’t mean you can’t practice yoga at home at all. (To be continued...)

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