Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Home Practice, Part II

Last week I began to talk about the "Home Practice". In the Traditional Ashtanga practice as a practitioner you would be practicing 6 days a week, with Saturday’s and Moon Days (Full and New Moon) off. You would be doing the full primary series from the first sun salutation all the way through headstand and the three closing postures. I will be the first to say, that’s a huge commitment and it may take years to work to that point if that is the path that calls to you.

In some variations on the Traditional Practice - let’s call them Contemporary Ashtanga - the practitioner is encouraged to practice 6 days a week, but at a minimum doing 5 surya namaskar A and 5 surya namaskar B, the three closing postures and savasana. In our modern lives with 8-6 jobs, family needs, drive times, dinner, errands and just some plain ol’ downtime that seems much more obtainable. To practice once or twice a week in a studio setting and then find time elsewhere for a 15 minute practice.

But, as I mentioned last week, even 15 minutes a day may make one feel overwhelmed. It becomes another thing to try and cram into an already busy day, rather than the comforting release it should be. Or again, perhaps your space doesn’t allow for it. I know I drool over the pictures in the yoga magazines that show these beautiful, serene, almost Buddhist like homes with an empty room just for yoga or meditation. I don’t know about you, my gentle reader, but I certainly don’t have that kind of luxurious space.

So what is a practitioner to do? You want to practice yoga at home, but it’s simply too much at this juncture in life?

Ahhh....there is more than one way to practice yoga! Let’s take a look again at the 8 Limbs of Yoga or "Ashtanga":

1) Yama (self restraints) 5 which include:
  • Ahimsa - non-violence
  • Satya - truth
  • Asteya - non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya - chastity or walking with the divine
  • Aparigraha - non-attachment

2)Niyamas (observance) 5 which include:

  • Saucha - cleanliness
  • Santosa - contentment
  • Tapas - self discipline
  • Svadhyaya - self study
  • Isvara pranidhanani - surrender to the divine

3) Asana (postures)

4) Pranyama (breath control)

5) Pratyahara (sense withdrawl)

6) Dharana (concentration)

7) Dhyana (meditative absorption)

8) Samadhi (to bring into harmony)

As westerners we tend to focus in on just the Asana (posture) practice. Hence the fascination with "Do you have a home practice?" However, there are seven other limbs one can work on at home! For example, under the Niyama’s, Svadhyaya or self-study: take some time in the evening to read about yoga - a magazine, a book, a pamphlet. Perhaps sign up for a non-asana workshop that studies the 10 Guidelines, or the Chakra system, or something else.

Or you can begin to work on the Yama’s, as this alone is lifelong journey. Start with Ahimsa, non-violence. This would include actions not only towards others, but those actions that may be harming yourself as well.

These would be the start of a home practice that you CAN incorporate into your daily life. These can be taken incrementally and at a pace that accommodates you, your family’s lifestyle and the space in which you live. And when next someone asks "Do you do a home practice?" you can smile, look them in the eye and say, "Yes."

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