I’ve heard people describe their yoga mat as a flying carpet, alluding presumably to the places it transports them in their practice. Having been on the road with my mat for a month in Greece I’m just back at home for a day before I head back to Heathrow for another trip. So I also am feeling that my mat is a bit of a flying carpet — but in a much more prosaic sense. It’s simply got a lot of miles on its clock now!
I’m sure if I were a better yogini there’d be no difference between home practice and hotel practice. I wouldn’t get distracted by the unusual sounds or the often awkward space. Instead I’d execute an elegant and effortless practice in my room every time, transforming myself miraculously into a stumpier, more British version of Tara Stiles (with her hotel yoga thing).
But I’m not! And I am therefore very pleased to have managed to get in one home practice while I am briefly chez moi. ‘Home practice’ being a literal description for once. It was, well, like coming home: my favourite (non-travel friendly) mat, some familiar music to aid my focus, my usual spot in the lounge-room where I love the way the light looks (feels, almost) on the wooden floor. No laborious rug-rolling and furniture rearranging. Just me, in my own home with the way things are meant to be. It was great!
There’s something lovely and comforting about the familiar — but this is often right before it gets stale and same-y, and you contrive various ways of making it novel again! The interplay of novelty and familiar is writ large for me at the moment by physically being away from home so much, but I can also see aspects of it in the way I used to practice at the studio — the desire to hold a familiar place in the room, go to a familiar class, approach poses in a familiar way. I didn’t think then that I’d been practicing long enough for anything to require novelty: I used to have to force myself to take different places in the room and was nervous of anything unexpected in sequences.
But on reflection I wonder if my striving mentality is actually also a manifestation of trying to control the experience of a familiar practice and make it feel obviously different (never mind wanting it to look different). But surely tuning in with more focus could bring novelty to any pose however familiar. I don’t have to push myself into a more extreme position each time to feel the pose. After all when I sit to meditate I certainly don’t try to breathe differently just so that my mind has something more interesting to focus on. The opposite in fact. I prefer to keep everything I can the same (e.g. same cushion, same asana) to present the least novelty to distract my wandering mind. Ah, but here’s another difference: when I sit to meditate I consciously approach the practice without any expectation of what it’s going to be like. I simply patiently observe (or try to — you know how it is). With asana practice I bring bucketloads of expectations to each and every practice. So many wants, aims, and ambitions. So much progress to strive for.
So how would it be if I could let go of the expectations and desires and just do asana practice and see what happens?
I have no idea!