My LOVE/HATE Relationship with Self-Practice.

Other than a few months of learning select Primary poses with FY in the summer of 2010, when I began practicing Ashtanga seriously I was in a traditional Mysore setting – four days a week plus two days of Led Primary.  I loved that environment and found it very supportive as I began my Ashtanga journey.

The self-led nature of Mysore-style practice is so essential to really “getting” the series in your body and psyche.  I liked the camaraderie of practicing side-by-side with others under the sheltering guidance of a teacher.  Being surrounded by fellow practitioners of all levels pushed me to try harder with my own personal practice.  I was voracious when I began…..I couldn’t start Second soon enough!  I’m not saying that Mysore practice is competitive, but rather, that it has this real dynamic propulsion to it that made me work on my asanas with a little more fire at my backside.

But in April 2012 we stopped practicing at the local shala.  This was saddening for us, but we knew that it was the right decision, plus David Garrigues really encouraged FY to self-practice during this time.  For the most part I have felt totally liberated by this change!  FY says he enjoys his practice more at home than he ever did at the shala, and oftentimes I can say the same for me.

I really do love self-practice.  I love that I don’t have to walk out the door or put on shoes before I step on my mat.  I love that it allows me the freedom to repeat poses that might need some extra work (30 breath Baddha Konasana? yes, please!).  I love that I can add some other preps or stretches into my practice without feeling like I might be bastardizing the practice in front of my teacher.  For example, I love to lie back in Triang Mukha for five breaths to get a little extra quad stretch after the “official” pose.  I love that I don’t feel like I have to explain to anyone why I’m skipping a pose or doing a modification.  I love that I don’t have to wait to get a teacher’s attention to help me with a pose like Kapo or Supta K.  I love that I don’t feel pressure to push in those poses on days when I would prefer not to be adjusted.  And I love practicing right next to FY.  I love helping him with Supta Vajrasana (mostly because I get a kiss on the last time he comes up…that can’t happen in a shala!).  I appreciate all this so much about home practice.

Because I’ve been modifying around both a bum knee and some bad shoulder inflammation these past few months, home-practice has been really beneficial.  I have blocks and blankets here to help me adjust certain things when necessary.  I also have a super fuzzy warm sheepskin that I place against the wall for Viparita Karani, making it a really dreamy way to end my practice.  I’ve been grateful for the freedom of practicing at home. It makes it so that I can take the necessary time for my healing process and not feel overly pushed to get adjusted, advance through poses or go deeper in a way that might harm my recovering joints.

All this I love, but simultaneously, many of these reasons have also made self-practice a bit limiting for my growth in Ashtanga.  Truth is, I can be kind of lazy.  Some days I just don’t do dropbacks or Second Series, not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to.  I don’t want the pain, I don’t want to work that hard.  I really just want to take a shower, eat some granola and chill out.  Some days I want to practice, but it feels too cold in the house, or it’s just too easy for me to make an excuse and shorten my practice because I know there are things waiting for me in the other room.

Occasionally I ask FY for some assistance with dropbacks or certain poses, but not all the time.  This past week I’ve really been missing getting squished in poses like Baddha Konasana.  Sadly, that has been one of the most painful poses for me during my knee injury (only yesterday did I feel safe enough with my knee to ask for an adjustment).  My hips have tightened up significantly since I knocked my knee out of place at the end of March.  Kurmasana doesn’t seem to bother it, luckily for my tight outer hips.   But for a few months there, all the Janus, Marichis and BK had to be totally modified and doing this, although beneficial in my healing, resulted in decreased flexibility in my hips.

Anyways, long story short, today was a day when I really missed practicing in a shala.  I only did an hour and 15 minutes of yoga – just standing series, modified seated (with some pigeon and random stuff thrown in because I was feeling blah and I didn’t want to do lots of pickups/jumpbacks) and then a longer closing sequence.  Today I really wanted to hear DG say, “NOOO Frances!!!” or at least have someone standing nearby with a watchful eye.

This morning I cheated myself of my practice and that’s kind of a bummer.  Because I know today was definitely not the first day that happened.

Today was one of those days when I just woke up already kind of bummed out, not sure why, but I did.  I know everyone is normally super happy and positive all the time in the blogosphere, but to be honest, some days are lame and there’s no reason I should hide that from you.  Everyone has bad days.  Part of it is that this past week I’ve been a little too indulgent on the dairy and sugar front and I haven’t been getting as much exercise so I woke up today feeling fat, squishy and uninspired.

Beyond that, I’ve been feeling rather aimless today.  I’m not doing the work I need to do and there’s nothing pressing me to do it – my self-discipline is in an extreme deficit right now.  I even had one passing moment about this blog feeling like I might just quit it, wondering what’s the point of another blog out there floating rather invisibly in the sea of prettier, more interesting and informative sites.  I feel right now like our move to Denver cannot come soon enough.  I can’t wait to rejoin an Ashtanga community of daily practitioners.  I can’t wait for the chance to start anew with fervor in work, yoga and life in general.

I know I just have to push through this.  Luckily this coming week I have a treat waiting for me practice-wise.  We are heading up to DC to do workshops with Kino MacGregor on Saturday and Sunday and we will practice one morning with Faith S.  I’m very grateful for these little respites in the midst of these months of solitary practice.  I’m already dreaming up an August visit up to NYC to see Eddie.  To hope, to dream…..




11 thoughts on “My LOVE/HATE Relationship with Self-Practice.

  1. Love Love Love to you sister. Bad days are inevitable. I’m glad you shared yours with me. Makes me feel closer when people share the dark to compliment the light. I decided that even if my blog only touches a handful of people that’s enough. Especially because it touches a part of me. And your blog touches a part of me. Is it feeding you? Shanti, shanti, shanti.

    • Thank you Marian. Yes, it is feeding me even on those bum days, because I feel so much better after writing. I know my numbers aren’t large but I get little reminders every so often that someone benefits from reading my little offerings and that touches my heart. Thank you for the love and support.

      • By the way Marian…I’m totally smitten by all the wildflower and farm pictures on your blog…I think I have to swing through Paonia next summer…it looks so dreamy right now…

  2. As cheesy as it sounds, I think bad days help as appriciate good days more. I self practice, too, and I had some pretty lazy, bad or whatever days this week with my practice…but today I really had such a great practice and I think because of the bad days I feel really happy. So don’t worry about bad days, they actually help us 🙂
    And I wouldn’t worry about modifing or shortening the practice sometimes..sure, the ultimate goal is to practice the same sequence every day and work hard on it, but I think you should also listen to your body and mind. That’s what yoga teaches us and you shouldn’t feel bad for sometimes skipping poses, etc. Just enjoy your practice 🙂

    • I agree that the bad days make the good ones so much better….unfortunately the inverse is true too! But I think that’s one of the powerful things about practicing a set sequence – one day it feels fabulous, the next day your body is stiff and achy – but what one must try to do is find equanimity of mind and peace of spirit in order to be non-reactive so that you can practice with diligence and patience (tall order indeed, but hey, nobody ever said that yoga is easy and if they do, I don’t believe ’em!). I’m with you that a modified practice is better than no practice at all… every little bit counts.
      Thanks for your comment and support.

  3. Hey Frances,
    thanks for sharing you honest feelings about practice. I practice mostly at home too. What keeps me going is this strong feeling I have that my practice gives me the energy and equanimity needed to stay present and keep moving in the world. I feel that obstacles (injuries, feelings of blahness, etc.) are actually good things to have, because without them, we would have nothing to work on. Imagine how boring life would be if every practice were just so perfect that we could just breeze through it without even thinking about it?

    I don’t think we need to be super happy and positive all the time in the blogosphere, especially when we are going through hard times in life: That would be fake. But I do feel the need to consider what my words would have on myself and others when I blog: For example, I don’t just bitch about this or that person being an A-hole yesterday, or about how I think somebody’s clothes really don’t match at work today, etc. Because if blogging were just about “honest bitching”, then why bother to blog? I don’t know how to say what I’m trying to say concisely, but I guess the idea is to be real, but be real in such a way as to be of service to oneself and others. So in a way, blogging is also a kind of practice. At any rate, this is my opinion; others may disagree.

    It’s so great that you guys are going to study with Kino. I’m seriously considering making one of her workshops this summer, since I’m not going to Mysore. Can you please tell Kino I said hi, if you have the chance? Have fun at the workshop 🙂

    • Hi Nobel,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m always impressed by reading about your self-practice – especially your backbends! I’m too wimpy to push myself in my backbends without a teacher present.
      I appreciate the struggles that my practice offers me…it gives me stuff to work with and to ponder…just as you say – what would be the point if it was always a breeze.
      I think you are totally right that we in the blogosphere should be honest (without being whiny or self-indulgent) about ourselves and our practice. I think most AY blogs lean in this direction, but most other yoga and lifestyle blogs that I frequent seem to always project a super-sunny, everything’s-perfect-and meant-to-be-this-way kind of attitude. Inspiring and empowering to some? Maybe….but a bit dishonest in my opinion. Plus that can be a bit deceiving because obviously everyone has low points.
      I am very excited for this coming weekend since this will be my first workshop with Kino. I really look forward to practicing with such a strong and gifted female teacher – I think I need a little bit of that sort of energy in my practice right now. I will pass along your regards.

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