Originally posted on Finding Isvara on March 23rd, 2017
For almost seven years I have had a home practice. I go to workshops, retreats, and courses with my teacher at least once a year but they only last a few days or weeks. The rest of the year I practice solo.
Home practice can be difficult at times. You are your own disciplinarian. Only you know if you practiced every day, or if you really made an effort. You have to be creative about using props or the wall to make adjustments; or teach your spouse or children to assist you. Taking videos or pictures of yourself can help you monitor your progress. You need to figure out many things on your own and progress can be slow. You learn to be disciplined and work through the good and bad days, pain and injury. You learn what works best for you.
Working on my own has helped me build a greater understanding of the practice. It has impelled me to study anatomy and be more curious about yoga philosophy. The saying, “The practice is the teacher” holds a literal meaning for home practitioners.
I envy those who have the opportunity to practice at a shala every day under the watchful eye of a qualified teacher. I always wished I lived closer to my teacher or at least closer to a qualified teacher. An experienced teacher is able to guide you, assist you when needed or even offer an encouraging word. They have the anatomical knowledge to safely assist you in asana, as well as a basis in yoga philosophy to guide you when the obstacles go beyond the physical.
There is a collective energy in a room full of Ashtangis that is not present when you practice alone. The sound of the breath and focus of the practitioners is contagious. I seem to sweat more and feel more motivated practicing beside someone, plus knowing a teacher is present makes me want to work harder.
They say be careful what you wish for; you just might get it. Here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I found an authorized teacher, whose shala is walking distance from where I am. How great is that?!
However, even when practicing with the most qualified teacher, it doesn’t mean that you will get anywhere faster; you still have to do the work. Having a teacher that knows your practice will push you and allow you to go deeper into the postures and the experience. I'm excited I get to be a student and learn from an authorized teacher for the next couple of years.
When you practice for the first time in a new shala, you always practice Primary Series. It doesn’t matter what your last posture is. I really do not know the reason for this. I had been taking it slow even before our move and was only doing Primary series. Adding Intermediate postures seemed too much for me during that time. This is what happens when you are a home practitioner, you feel you can decide what to do. Yesterday the teacher asked me, “So when are you going to start Intermediate again?” I know she wasn’t really asking, it was a polite way of saying “You have to start doing Intermediate again.” So whether I think I’m ready or not, today I started adding on postures from Intermediate to get back into my full practice.