Practice, Practice, Practice Alone

Practice Alone Do Not DisturbI just completed a month-long Personal Yoga retreat so I thought I’d share a few insights while they’re fresh in my mind. I still had my day-to-day responsibilities to attend to but I managed to raise the bar of my practice. I also did a social media fast (well, except for Pinterest – does that count as social media?)

Taking a month to withdraw gave me a much needed break. And it helped to raise my awareness of the challenges of being a modern day sadhaka. A sadhaka is a Sanskrit term for someone who follows a particular sadhana (a spiritual practice or way of life).

Practice Alone Flowers

According to B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most famous yoga teachers of all time, a sadhaka uses yoga to gain knowledge, light and liberation. It also helps to purify the body and soul. – Yogapedia

Challenge #1: Practicing at Home

Some of the obstacles of maintaining a home practice are a result of, well… being at home. Home isn’t the gym, or the studio, or any other designated place for exercise. So we have to consciously make it into one, which takes work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started my practice only to have a “to-do” flash through my mind.

“Oh I forgot to change the laundry over, put the leftovers away, etc.” 

“Darn it, I meant to turn off my cell phone.”

“Oh man, I really need to shave my legs.”

It can be tricky to navigate the transition from housework or home office work to doing our home practice. My best advice is to stay on your mat. You’ll be able to take care of all of these things afterwards.

Challenge #2: Shared living spaces.

If you have housemates or family members around you may have to work at communicating your boundaries.

“I’m going to be practicing from now until such-and-such a time. Do you need anything before I get started?”

“I’d like to practice for the next hour. Could you please use headphones if you want to watch TV or listen to the radio?”

Practice Alone Purple FlowersChallenge #3: This path can be lonely at times.

We may or may not have a community (sangha) of practitioners to support us in our journeys. It’s okay though – you’ll feel far more connected, centered and whole after you practice.

Challenge #4: Interruptions

It’s very important to choose a practice time when you won’t be interrupted. The people you live with may or may not realize what you’re doing. I’ve had people walk in and start talking to me when I was in a extraordinarily expansive meditation. It’s incredibly jarring to the nervous system to be disrupted when you’re in that state.

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “Useless Talk” is one of the 6 Destroyers of Yoga Practice.

Hopefully you’ll remember to turn your cell phone off. You can also minimize unexpected guests or workmen by telling people you work from home and can’t be disturbed.

Practice Alone MandalaIf you’re thinking about doing a personal retreat or just want to start a home practice, my very best advice is (to echo the words of the master himself) – practice, practice, practice alone. Try to practice when you won’t be disturbed. You can avoid many of these obstacles simply by making good use of your alone time.

As someone who used to dread the idea of being alone, I can tell you that practicing alone is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. And when you do your sadhana (translation – good for you) you’ll have more than enough energy to extend to others.

Practice Alone Tea Cup

Yogaerobics is for Posers

PhysicalPoser: noun

  1. A person who poses
  2. A person who likes to be seen in trendsetting clothes in fashionable bars, clubs, etc.
  3. A person who attempts to blend into a specific social group
  4. A puzzling or baffling question

I’ll start this rant with a little disclaimer:

“Everyone does not have to like everything.”  

We all have our own share of experiences which form the basis of our opinions. That said, I’m going to be honest with you… I don’t like yogaerobics classes – I think they’re really boring. I know that saying this is a faux pas in some circles but I don’t care.

Some people will argue that sometimes you just need to move, so who cares how you do it? But if that’s the case, then why – out of ALL of the things you could do, then why choose yoga?  If you just want to move then why not EXERCISE?  Like running, or gymnastics or any other physical sport?

Part of the answer stems from the numerous studies in recent years highlighting the health benefits of yoga. They’ve been very effective in steering people towards trying yoga, but it’s only one piece of the yogaerobics puzzle.

There is so much money invested in blinding people from their true potential. People are being coerced into buying into the yogaerobics trend. Magazines and newspapers present us with well-crafted ideas of what it means to be socially accepted. If celebrities do it then it HAS to be cool, right? The groupthink mentality encourages people to become part of a scene. To create a scene is to create a market. (Mental health tip: don’t watch television). 

The yogaerobics industry is designed to foster the “see and be seen” mentality. It plays upon people’s insecurities so they get wrapped up in their appearances, so they’ll buy $200 stretchy pants and brand name accessories. The overemphasis on the physical leaves little room for contemplation of the subtleties of the practice.

Even basic comprehension gets skimmed over in yogaerobics classes. I recently took a poll at a studio that specializes in vinyasa classes. I was curious to see how many people actually knew what the word ‘vinyasa’ means. Out of six classes only a few people knew that it means linking movement with breath. It was totally mind-blowing for me. I couldn’t help but wonder how did this happen? How did so many certified yoga instructors manage to create such a huge gap in the general public’s comprehension?

It’s been three years since I wrote this article and I’ve revised it to reflect my current viewpoint. The challenges I described back then are still prevalent today. I’m not sure if there’s anything to do about them (other than what I’m doing now). If you have any insights to share on this topic feel free to leave a comment in the box below.