I only began studying yoga about 20 months ago. While I fell in love with the benefits immediately, I wasn’t sure how I could bring that experience into my own home practice. The classes were so very neatly ordered and teachers rarely slipped up in their well thought out and rehearsed classes.
I didn’t know how I could possibly run myself through the complicated sequencing I was walked through in class. I am not a natural born yogi and was a bit intimidated by the complexity of it all. Anytime I got on my mat at home I would remember the first few poses we did in class, perform them and then become lost.
What next? How do I build my practice? What are the rules? How will I ever remember all of these positions? And when I do, what order do I do them in? And the names! Padagustasa what??
I always felt like I was doing something wrong. Usually I gave up and threw on a Youtube video, which gave me the instruction I seemed to need to feel like I was doing yoga.
I got to India and realized that these perfectly coordinated classes were only a version of yoga. I have practiced with some high caliber teachers here and for the most part have experienced a very basic, accessible practice. The ego of yoga practice is just not there, at all.
These teachers, in their 30s, 40s and 50s, who have been practicing not since they were 21, but rather since they were 6, sit on the floor and spend the first half an hour sitting and doing stretches you would do with your team mates before a soccer game as a child. We stretch out our necks, reach high for the sky, touch our toes, make tight fists and stretch out our fingers. We even take time to open our eyes as wide as we can and then shut them tightly, and move our eyeballs looking around in biiiiig wiiiide circles.
We get warm, we move our big muscles and our little muscles, it is not fancy and it doesn’t have to be.
Then nearly every class we come to a standing position and spend the next 10-20 minutes going through sun salutations. This is a very basic traditional sequence anyone can learn in a few days.
It is only at this time, nearly half way through class, that we begin to pick our way through some asanas. Usually beginning again very simply with Tree Pose (standing on one leg) or Tadhasana (standing on tippy toes with hands above the head). Usually afterwards we move into some sort of side bend, back bend, forward bend, twist, and another balancing posture or two. Then we go to a seated position to go through some more forward/back bends and some twists. Then to a laying position for 5 minutes or so of simple abdominal work, bringing us to a final set of twists. At this point the energy of the room is slowed down and we are walked through a calming Savasana.
There are excellent tips along the way, a lot of attention to detail, and incredible lessons in anatomy and philosophy. That is what makes the classes unique and worth attending, not some fancy flowing sequences.
So how has this effected my home practice? The format has not changed at all! Rather, the change has been in confidence, and confidence is everything. In the beginning, I was doing it right, I just didn’t know it. I was hopping on the mat and stretching it out, breathing my way to a better day. This is what separates yoga from other exercise. This is what soothes the mind. Moving the sacred body in sync with the sacred breath. Get on, mat or no mat, and move your body with your breath.
Yoga is not sexy pants and fancy postures. Yoga should not be scary for anyone. Self practice should never feel incorrect. Yoga is loving yourself, by simply taking care of yourself. Yoga should have no walls to climb, no clubs to access, no uniform. We should all be welcomed to be within ourselves, to practice being, in class or at home, with no expectations.
Written by Jordan Ross Dore