People often recommend particular online classes or youtube videos to me — well-meaning suggestions for my home practice. Although I know these sorts of resources are very popular I’ve never used them. How is it even possible to practice while watching a screen? Anyway I find the value of home practice is in having to guide oneself and create one’s own framework from nothing. Videos not required.
But that said I’ve been aware of some small difficulty just recently with my home practice. The looming teacher training and various other yoga-related commitments have distracted me a little from my own practice needs. Home practice has more often been with some particular purpose in mind to fulfil some commitment and this takes me away from open-ended exploration which is more normally how I frame my home practice. Most often I deliberately have no particular intention when I come to the mat, I just find some focus along the way by listening in and being curious about what’s going on for me. It always works, it’s always fascinating, and it’s never what I thought practice might be on any particular day. All I have to do is start and the rest follows, be it 10 minutes in which I discover I’m far too tired for asana and need something more meditative or more restorative, or 90 minutes where I lose myself wholly in movement and the ensuing stillness.
So this week I’ve looked for a bit of external guidance to provide some discipline to my rather fragmented attention and energies. Today I played a podcast recording of a Jivamukti style class and that was my home practice in itself. Not a teacher I know personally, but the framework of the practice was familiar — I do a class like this once a week — so I hoped it would be accessible to me without any visuals.
What I liked and disliked:
It started with chanting the guru mantra which felt a nice way of connecting to a new style of learning — a meeting of tradition and innovation! She was a good teacher and I learned a lot. I had to listen carefully to follow the instructions — for me, much better than following a video where I would have to strain to watch while moving through postures. There were no distractions of other bodies around me, and the crisp pace meant no time for my brain to wander too far off-topic. There were some really interesting cues offered in familiar poses which created some different physical experiences and provided some intriguing suggestions for how I might choose to teach a pose… one day…. The variety and sequencing of poses was different to that of my own teacher, so reflecting on similarities and differences in the shower afterwards raised some interesting questions for me.
In class one of things I like (and simultaneously hate!) is relinquishing control to the teacher — just committing to follow what they instruct as well as I can. With a recording the temptation to pause (or even fast forward!) when things got difficult was quite touch-and-go! I felt the inclination building. I didn’t in the end, not even when I needed to take rest. I let the class continue and I accepted with humility when the poses offered were too advanced for me. From this I realised how motivating the energy of fellow students is and how reassuring the presence of the teacher is and the isolation from what was originally (at time of recording) a group experience was a bit alienating. The idea that I’m not as self-sufficient as I’d like to be was unwelcome. I also disliked the realisation from this experience that I can be quite unadventurous in my own practice, both in the variety of poses I habitually practise and in the level of effort I put in. I realise I hold back. I wonder how bad I think that is or how much I might want to reconsider it? The ‘sweatiness factor’ after all isn’t just about physical endeavour — it often has a surprising effect on mind and soul. That’s why I do it after all.
So overall it was an interesting experiment. One that I could well run again in future if I feel the need for some external discipline. But I kind of hope I don’t. I like my own way of practising, precisely because it requires a great sensitivity to my own requirements each time. I have to bring my own creativity to the mat and keep myself interested, disciplined, honest, and nourished. That’s really the heart of my home practice.