Self Practice is HARD

It’s been exactly one week since I started my at-home practice. That’s right. I’m taking a break from the Mysore room at CITYOGA, which has sustained me and my practice for almost three years.

The reason why doesn’t really matter. Or maybe it does. Either way, I don’t want to talk about it. Not yet. Maybe not at all. But I do want to talk about my experience of transitioning into a home practitioner.

A week ago today, I did my first at-home full practice. I cleaned up my office and turned it into a practice space, complete with a little Shiva shrine and incense.

I shuffled to the top of my mat and began the opening chant. Suddenly, I realized that I could chant out loud. In the Mysore room, I had to chant quietly to myself so I didn’t disturb the person Marichyasan-ing next to me. In the comfort of my own home, I can “vande gurunam” at the top of my lungs if I want to. So I did.

After the first few Surya Namaskar, I fell into that magical space that tristhana method creates. Breath, posture, drishti…all working together along with the vinyasa count. I practiced deep and hard that day, and even though I missed having a teacher there to put me into Supta K, it was one of the most successful practices I’ve ever had.

Good thing, too, because the next day turned out to be Ladies’ Holiday. The memory of that good practice had to sustain me through until I could try again on Sunday.

I’m used to doing a Led Primary on Sunday, so I found a YouTube video of Alexandra Santos providing the audio for a full primary.

Home practitioners, take note. This is a solid count. I’ll be using it again next week.

Then Monday happened. Mondays have always been difficult practice days for me, and this past Monday was no different. I was stiff, I was tired, my left hip (which has been bugging me for about a month) was sore, I couldn’t find my breath.

So I said “fuck it” after standing series, closed it out, and got on with my day.

Luckily, the next two days of self-practice went well, at least within the boundaries of the ninety minutes I allow for asana. Outside of those boundaries, though, I’ve been a mess. I’m not sleeping well, I’m crying, I’m restless. I didn’t even enjoy my fajitas last night. I usually love fajita night.

It’s weird. I had no idea that I would be affected so deeply.

Driving downtown to the Mysore room was part of my routine. So was sticking around afterwards and chatting with the teacher and other lingering students, usually for so long that I’d waste most of my morning sitting in the lobby in sweaty yoga clothes. My friends are in that Mysore room, and I’d gotten used to seeing them every day. Now, I only have my dogs and cats to talk to after closing series. It’s lonely.

My worst fear about self practice was not having the energy to do it.

The real downfall of self practice is the loss of a routine I held dear. I didn’t realize how important it was.

Now that I do, I’m working to turn that loss into an asset. I’m reframing this as an opportunity to let go of attachment.

Right now, you may be saying to yourself, “Why the hell doesn’t she just go back to the Mysore room?” (Who am I kidding? You’re probably not saying anything to yourself. You’re probably not even reading this. My own mother admitted that she doesn’t read my blog.) Either way, it’s a good question.

Here’s my best answer. Taylor Hunt mentioned “finding the teacher within yourself” when I interviewed him last week. That resonated with me. I don’t interpret this as I don’t need a teacher, because I desperately do. I interpret it as finding the strength to keep doing this practice no matter what.

In my 12-step life, I tell my sponsees that they need to work the steps. Meetings won’t keep them sober. Their sponsor, whether it’s me or someone else, can’t keep them sober. Doing the work, doing the steps, will keep them sober and let them continue on this better life they’ve started.

This is a lesson I can apply to my asana practice. The Mysore room won’t keep me going. The teacher won’t keep me going. Doing the work–the breath, the vinyasa, the posture, the drishti–is the only thing that will really allow me to keep transforming through this practice. Breath by breath, vinyasa by vinyasa, I can continue.

When I return to a Mysore room, and I’m sure that I will, it will be with the knowledge that this practice alone can sustain me. I don’t always need a teacher in the room with me, and I don’t need other students.

I just need my breath.

5 thoughts on “Self Practice is HARD

  1. I read your blogs. Not sure I’ve missed one yet. This one also rings true with me, not so much ashtanga based of course, never lived close enough to make that going to the studio part of my routine, but I have found that I struggle with trying to keep a daily practice. I have at least added (and stuck to) a daily, sometimes even twice daily, meditation routine. It has helped.

    Keep writing Emma. You inspire me! :) <3 <3

      • It’s added a layer of calm and contentment to my life that I never had before. I feel truly happy, even on bad days. If that makes any sense! :o) Miss you Lady! Have a lovely day and weekend!

  2. I’m reading too. From the other en of the world. Keep writing, you are among my favourite yoga bloggers. And make more interwievs with secret teachers.
    I think it someone have put it this way: It’s important to have a teacher. And it’s important to not have a teacher. Home practice is timesaving, cheap and challenging.

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