Completely unrelated, I had to change the name of a previous blog post. I wondered why that post, in particular, was getting so much traffic and being specifically searched for. That is, until I searched for it myself. A porn site- whoops. Those poor misdirected people must've been quite disappointed upon arrival to a yoga blog :-)
I have the good fortune to live in a college town with an amazing little Ashtanga Mysore community. They are a supportive bunch of people and I love practicing with them 5 nights each week (I do one day of home practice). Working with my teachers as often as I do, they have a good sense of my physical and mental quirks and how they fluctuate from day to day. The Panama trip was an opportunity to practice alone for two weeks, without the reinforcement of my community back home.
How does practicing alone differ? Some thoughts.
1. Discipline is much harder.
While Mysore practice may be thought of as independent practice in a room full of other people, the "other people" factor is key for being on one's best behavior. The kitchen isn't there with its inviting glass of water. The computer isn't there, so no, "I will check if so-and-so responded to my email between standing and seated" (guilty face). Attention is brought to the postures that I don't like as much and I catch myself wanting to avoid them, particularly purvottanasana, setu bandhasana… basically things falling into the backbending category. Impatience grows while up in shoulder and headstands and I catch myself rationalizing that 17 breaths equals 20 breaths as "just about long enough." It's interesting to watch the mind operate.
2. When discipline and flow click into place while alone, one can withdraw more fully.
While home practice tends to be more difficult for me (point 1), on those days where breath-mind-senses-body intersect, I can go deeper into it while practicing alone. Practicing in a room full of other people also provides its own distractions- wanting to peek at how someone stands up from drop backs, for example, or positioning so as not to crash into anyone.
3. Adjustment attachment.
There are some postures which are very formidable for people, and progress is difficult without a teacher to help you through. Supta K and drop backs are two such gateway postures in the primary series. I am unable to put myself in Supta K on my own and require wrestling with my teacher to get any sort of leg-behind-head thing going on. When I leave town, I feel that posture slipping away from me without those adjustments and become frustrated. Is it okay to be so dependent on adjustments for progress? I don't know.