January 18, 2012

Why I Love My Practice

As I inhaled, held my legs firmly together, lifted my hips, kept my toes firmly planted on the ground and my gaze (dristi) rested on the tip of my nose I realized I'd forgotten two standing poses.  Two!  Utthita Hasta Pandangussthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana slipped away from my practice as I gazed out the window at the waving trees and the blowing snow.

This is the beauty of a personal practice.  You are your own teacher.  You are forever responsible for keeping your mind in the present moment.  There is no voice to remind you which asana comes next.  There is no teacher gently calling you back into the room.  There are no other bodies to watch and compare yourself to.  You need to be fully present and aware of each movement, each breath or you will forget asanas and possibly lose your balance and fall on your ass.

This is why I am falling in love with the traditional Ashtanga yoga method, the mysore method.  I practice a few days a week in a yoga room full of people who are in all sorts of different stages of their asana practice.  Some start at 6 am, some at 7:30.  Some are just beginning and are learning the sequence of the poses and spend time working with the teaching.  Some are working right through the primary series and have been given a pranayama practice.  The teacher walks around the room observing and assisting.  Sometimes encouraging students with physical assistance, sometimes by voice alone.  The yoga room always feels peaceful yet is never quiet.  You hear people breathing, mats squeaking, feet sticking to the wood floors.  Sometimes the room thunders when someone falls from an arm balancing pose.  It is a perfect example how silence and sound can exist in harmony.

I feel welcome whenever I walk in.  I am greeted by the teacher, whether it be a smile as they help someone twist into an asana or a pat on the back and how are you today.  Some days I get many corrections, many assists in poses.  Some days I am left completely alone except for a voice from the other side of the room telling me to lift my heart as I stretch forward.

The days that I don't get myself to the yoga studio, I practice in my living room.  This is especially useful on days when the weather is so gross out I don't want to leave the house.  The mysore method has taught me that I am able to practice yoga anywhere I can.  I have learned to remember what I was told in the studio.  I have been able to become more aware of myself.  I am able to take the peace and tranquility that I find in a led class or a mysore class and bring it right into my very own living room.  This is a gift that I would never trade for the world.  The gift of self discovery and practice.  The gift of learning how to find your own peace.  I am truly grateful to be a student of yoga and to be consistently learning and growing within my self.

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