I’m Allowed…! Or, How You Practice Informs What You Practice, Part III

Practicing Yoga by yourself is a very different experience than practicing in a group.  Whether you make the financial investment to work privately with a teacher to develop a personalized practice or you confidently launch into one you craft yourself, recognize that you are doing something special and something that’s different than what occurs in a led group class.

Practitioners’ Responsibilities: In a personal practice, many of the responsibilities that fall to the group class teacher become the practitioner’s concern to:

  • select an intention for the practice,
  • develop a strategy for realizing it,
  • choose the elements for the practice (among and including body practices, breathing practices, attention practices) that will support that strategy,
  • create the sequencing of those elements,
  • make decisions re: the sensual environment for the practice (eg, music or not, lighting or not, incense or not, etc.),
  • keep track of the time,
  • keep track of her/his attention,
  • practice those techniques, and
  • remain open to surprises, broken expectations, new directions and unintended learning/teaching opportunities.

One of the great benefits – and one of the bigger challenges – that comes from creating a personalized practice is that you get to shape your expectations of ‘what’ a Yoga practice ought to be.

It doesn’t have to be 60, 75 or 90 minutes long just because that’s the typical length of a group class.

It doesn’t have to follow the structure of a group class. You could work on one posture, you could work on 50. You could do pranayama practices the whole time. Or chant. Or meditate, then write, then move, then write, then chant, then write. It could look exactly like what your best friend, mentor and favorite Yoga teacher prescribes. Or it could look nothing like it – and not at all reflect poorly on your relationship with your best friend, mentor and favorite Yoga teacher

Sequencing can be taught. Techniques can be taught. Perspectives regarding the use of music or incense or where in the house one might practice, etc. are easily debated.

The biggest leap a practitioner often needs to make is the one we might caption “I’m allowed” and that’s a barrier that must be overcome internally.

3 responses

  1. My home yoga practice on one evening was just seated pranayama (breathing techniques) and chanting (totalling 10 minutes)… on another evening, it was nearly 2 hours long … and I’d even had a half-dozen “home-like” self-practices that I undertook at a studio that had tried out freeform (unguided and no one each doing the same or similar, thing) yoga sessions of 30 to 40 minutes each, capped by a lengthy mindfulness meditation session afterwards …

      • Is this close to home for you, geographically speaking? Such classes don’t seem to exist much around here (and, alas, that class is no longer is offered); brains of the yogi and online access being competition for studio self-practice (nominally considered a “donation” class, but the money envelope was “eyed” at times …). This studio in New York City, Living Yoga. Otherwise, pretty much a desirable, “middle path” place where they don’t push you in a regular class.

        And if I’m wrong as of this writing, then I’ve no compunction at possibly shaming them (by default, ha ha!), because I think every studio worth its salt should be! And I could name a “middle path” wannabe or two, including one world-class place, but I choose not. That is one question I do ask of a prospective studio, and I think that question scares them …”Are you middle path?”

        That said, shortly before that class became defunct, I’d taken my very last studio yoga class to date, at Genesis Tree of Life (not middle path, but generally a mild practice).

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