Tuesday, December 6, 2011

fledgeling home practice vs. shala practice

I've been back from Panama for one week now. Remember the futile plant collecting trip I thought I would have down there? It wasn't so futile. I found the species I was looking for, last collected in the country in 1979! I'm returning to Florida feeling refreshed, loved, and inspired.

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. 



Anonymous said...

What a great question. I found myself wondering this also, partially due to the cost of unlimited monthly passes and wanting to cut down a bit more. I find home practice -- at least for me -- to be harder somehow. While I don't distracted by others (and also wanting to peek at how other more veteran practitioners get into tough poses), I get less motivated also. I don't know if it's necessarily a bad thing to get attached to an adjustment from a teacher, especially for Supta K! If I don't have a teacher near me, that pose will not happen, at least not now. I do love and perhaps get attached to the energy of the shala community; it is a good feeling to be supported by others, or to know that others are going through the same journey/difficulties...

wandering mb said...

Yes, the camaraderie in the Mysore room is definitely another factor.

I had an email exchange with my teacher awhile ago about the "adjustment attachment" question. It stemmed from my frustration at trying to work Supta K alone and not having it go anywhere. I wondered what would happen to me if I didn't live in such a great Mysore town- would I hang out on this plateau forever? Would I eventually quit? One day I will move away in search of a job and I will have to get accustomed to not having the community support.

She said (paraphrasing) that there are a few gateway postures in each sequence that require regular interaction with a teacher and that it probably wasn't an "accident". It creates a balance between independence and surrender-trust to the student-teacher relationship. Her advice to me was to soak up the energy of the community here as much as I would like to, including taking advantage of the adjustments. When the time comes to leave to another town (most likely without a Ashtanga community, as they are far and few between), that she will give me specific advice for how to sustain my practice.