Space and boundaries: where I practice my yoga

I’ve been thinking a little about space recently, or maybe that should be spaces in the plural, since I don’t mean the intergalactic variety but more on the smaller personal environment scale.

I’m still thinking through the class vs. home practice thing I’ve been wondering about recently. An aspect of this is the different physical space for each and how that influences my practice. There’s something luxurious almost about practicing yoga in a designated (not to say designed) space that’s meant for that one activity alone. I certainly find it easier to leave work and domestic concerns outside the studio, because there’s no blurring of boundaries between workplace and yoga space. By contrast when I practice at home there are of course multiple distractions because all I’m doing is temporarily carving out a place for my mat within a space that ordinarily contains any number of other activities and is the stage-set for all sorts of life dramas — even if these other activities are temporarily suspended while I’m on the mat (barring things I can’t control like unexpected phone calls, early incoming Hubby and so on). So I think there’s pleasure and value in both these practice places: the dedicated studio that presents no obstacles as well as the discipline needed at home to carve out a small slice of space in a busy domestic context.

taped matPeople often comment on the portability of yoga practice, that you need nothing more than your mat — and arguably not even that. Personally I can’t quite imagine practising without my mat. Maybe I should give it a go and see if it offers some unexpected freedom? For the moment I feel my mat is very much a positive container of my practice: it helps put me in the right mental space for devoting my attention to my yoga and it keeps my body aligned within its physical parameters. I even have a taped centre line to help with this! The mat itself in a very basic way signals to me and anyone around me that I’m in my yoga place — and to his credit the incoming Hubby is very respectful of my need for space if he interrupts me on my mat and he usually backs away quietly until I’m on the other side of savasana. Did I once bite him for getting too close, I wonder? 🙂

The notion of designated spaces and containers of activities came to my attention in a professional context today more than in terms of yoga (although coincidentally ‘finding space’ was the theme of class this evening!). But, yes, sometimes I do real work — it’s not all yoga for me!

centerparcsSo for work today my goofy grin and I went to give a presentation at Centerparcs. If you’re not British and/or not familiar with the concept, Centerparcs is to my mind a kind of cross between Jurassic Park and Butlins holiday camps. It’s an area of woodland filled with log cabins for holiday makers to cycle about it and use the pool and on-site restaurants and facilities. And (no offence to Centerparcs because it’s clearly popular) it’s something close to my idea of hell. I decided what I most dislike about it is the fact of it being a designed space in which people are permitted to experience carefully controlled outdoor activities and woodland living. There’s an artificiality about it that I can’t reconcile with my own childhood experiences of growing up in the natural boundless countryside with all its inconvenient stinging nettles and thistles, mud and horsesh*t, lack of amenities, and the need for a certain self-sufficiency in finding entertainment. There’s something peculiar about artificially creating a natural experience.

So reflecting this back to my yoga I realise that there’s a balance (of course — isn’t yoga all about the union of opposites?) between special places and the mundane. The specialness of the yoga studio only exists in opposition to the mundanity of fitting a mat into my domestic space, the boundedness of the mat exists only when I perceive that using a mat is in fact itself a choice. If I never practiced at home I’d never confront the difficulty of squeezing yoga in, in time and space. Yoga would always be something practised elsewhere, when the conditions were right. And I think my yoga would be less rich for that.

Final thought: it’s ironic (but ok) that a post about demarcated space should have meandered like this, following my thoughts rather than a planned argument or structured narrative. There is no architecture to this post! I feel a tension between my professional training that requires me to publish only carefully thought-through conclusions and the permanently inchoate nature of my yoga practice (including the writing of yoga/the yoga of writing) that prompts me and ultimately gives me permission to share my work in progress in all its messiness.

So thank you for your patience, lovely readers and fellow bloggers!

And maybe you can approach the various spaces in your life today with a bit of enquiry about how they help or hinder the activities you’re engaged in. Maybe like me you’ll experiment with some asana practice without a mat and see how it feels.

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