Ego,  Inner Work,  Practice,  Yoga Culture

Developing a Home Practice – Thinking Way Outside the Box

Over the past few weeks I have offered two workshops to my current students about developing a home yoga practice.  In both workshops, the pivotal point – the “a-ha moment” – seemed to be when we began to breakdown ideas about how a yoga practice “should” be.All around us we are surrounded by popular media that suggests there are quick fixes and formulas for solving any problem we might face.  People and corporations make obscene amounts of money of selling these ideas and we buy them because perhaps this product, plan or service will be the easy clear – cut, fast track way out of whatever suffering such things are said to alleviate.  These things are sold as Universal Truths and without even knowing it our mind set becomes conditioned to assume that there are black and white answers to the human condition.  We are used to seeing these black and white answers come from experts who we’ve come to believe know much more about living than us. They come from celebrity endorsements and research cleverly manipulated to evidence a particular agenda and they come from flat out “malarky” couched in high tech websites and catchy jingles.

The same is true for yoga.  Each week yoga magazine’s advertise the best way to do this or practice that.  A yoga persona has been constructed in popular media of a lean, mean zen machine, ever holy and impenetrable by life’s influences.  I was tyrannized by this image for many years and spent a great deal of time weeding through conflicting opinions about how to practice and what being a yoga practitioner meant.  Over the past decade of yoga practice I have come to realize that there is no “Way” to practice, no ultimate Right or Wrong, but instead helpful or less helpful ways to respond to your life through yoga.  Here are three things to consider about when creating or re-creating a home practice:

– Question the notion that there is a way you should practice. I know there are many books out there that purport guidelines for attaining yogic perfection but keep in mind these question:  “What is perfection?”  “Who gets to decide?”  “Can perfection really exist?  Can there be light without dark?”.
–  Once you have broken down all the shoulds of practice begin to see ancient and modern teachings as inquiries meant to be held with equal value along side your own subjective expertise and wisdom.  Test the teachings empirically through your own experience – what are the effects of this particular sequence today?  How does this pose or technique bring me into a greater experience of who I am right now?  Bring external wisdom into contact with your internal wisdom, over valuing neither.
–  There is no magic sequence, location, temperatue or time for practicing yoga – don’t let your ego use these technicalities to keep you from practicing.  You can practice awareness, little movements and breath in a line up, in your car, laying in bed or in the shower.  The point is to become conscious of where you are at, over time it will feel so good to connect to yourself and move your body that you’ll find yourself being called to do it more.  Then, a more “formal” mat practice will emerge from a call from within rather than from a lashing from your inner critic!  Let the development of your practice be a meaningful process of discovery rather than another task to complete in your busy day.

Blessings on the path!