During my “day of rest” in the 8-week series designed by Rodney Yee yesterday I not only took the opportunity to do a home practice that I really wanted to do, I also looked over my blog entries from the first week of the series. What was painfully obvious is that I don’t want to be doing this practice.
A home practice is not about self-punishment, it should feel really good. It should be about commitment, dedication and making choices that reflect a very personal and intimate evaluation about state of mind, breath and body. I really enjoy my home practice, but doing the series as designed by Rodney Yee felt a little bit like punishment—–I was really forcing myself, albeit unsucessfully, to do his program even when I didn’t feel like it.
This is precisely what makes a home practice different from a group practice. If I go to a group class and the instructor has us do six tree poses, then I am going to do those six tree poses to the best of my ability and depending on how I feel, the energy of the instructor and the energy of the group on the class, I’m either going to feel like I enjoyed the class or not or that I learned something new or not, but you can’t choose your own adventure when you go to a group class. When I practice at home, I always start out with some warm-up poses and seated grounding poses and then I organically move in a way that supports exactly where I am. Tight in the hips, I throw in pigeon pose. Tense through my spine? I’ll start with some twists. Basically, I start with a few poses that allow me to self-diagnose and then I do what feels best after that. It just doesn’t feel right to be by myself, all alone, doing what doesn’t feel right.
This is not, in any way, a judgement on the book or the series or sequences as designed by Rodney Yee. As a matter of fact, I think that, for someone who is relatively new to yoga and who wants to explore what it means to have a home practice, this is still a truly valuable reference. But, for someone who has been doing yoga for almost 20-years and already has an established home practice, this series feels like I am being asked to deny the wisdom of my practice, a practice that has served me well for quite some time now.
So, my 8-weeks of yoga with Rodney Yee ended after a week. In the end, I have learned many valuable things from this experience of just one week:
- Moving Toward Balance: 8 Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee is an excellent reference book for yogis of all levels (including teachers) who want to learn how to sequence a yoga practice, to explore alignment and desire very clear written instructions that are complemented by instructive photographs. Regardless of whether you do the sequences as described, there is a lot of valuable information in this reference.
- A home practice should never feel forced or like a punishment. While you shouldn’t shy away from poses or only do the same exact poses, yoga isn’t poses and pose practice isn’t yoga. If you take group classes regularly and want to try to do yoga at home, make sure that your home practice is something you look forward to. Even if you just roll out the mat and enjoy an extended savasana, that is just as valid of a home practice as anything else. Love it, enjoy it, benefit from it—–may your home practice be peace.
- My current advice to students who want to start a home practice is actually the most helpful thing I can offer (I’m patting myself on the back here……). I suggest that you roll out your mat. Sit on your mat and breathe and see what happens. If you feel inspired to practice a particular asana or move in a particular way, then do that. If not, then do 5-10 cat/cow movements and see if you feel inspired. If no inspiration comes to you, move into child’s pose and do a few sun salutations. As you move through sun salutations, see what you feel inspired to—-perhaps a warrior pose or two, or maybe an eagle pose or maybe a tree pose or half-moon pose or…..you get the idea. Not inspired, come on down and do a bridge pose and then wind relieving posture and hug your knees into your chest. End with a 10-minute savasana. Whatever you do, end in a 10-minute savasana. I repeated that twice on purpose. Even if you just sit, breathe and then end with savasana, that’s a lovely practice. It might just be all you needed to start your day in peace or energize yourself in the middle of the day or close the day for a great night’s sleep. Whatever it is, it’s yours and yours alone.
I’ll keep writing my blog and practicing and hope you’ll keep reading. And, we’ll all sleep better tonight knowing that I’m no longer forcing myself to practice in a way that doesn’t bring peace to my life. Oh home practice, I missed you last week! Welcome back! Welcome home!