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A Home Practice July 30, 2008

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Two weeks and my neck injury continues to offer new insights about myself and my practice. I went to a couple yoga classes after my teacher convinced me to get back on the mat, but I felt restricted as to what I could do. I pushed myself a little too hard because I was in a class setting where I was use to moving through the asanas with strength and vigor.

I spend a lot of time telling my students to be gentle with their body…honoring wherever they’re at…allowing the breath to take them deeper. I tell them yoga isn’t a performance-based practice. It’s not about being perfect or competitive. It’s not about pushing beyond the edge. It’s about compassion, understanding, and honoring the body.

I hear myself telling my students this yet here I am in class trying to push myself farther than I need to go. I’m just so use to working my body hard that sometimes I forget what first pulled me to yoga and the benefits I’ve seen from moving slower and more consciously. Yoga provides so many more benefits than most exercise regimens because it incorporates all the major muscle groups providing strength and balance for the body in a way other workouts can’t provide. I, like so many other people, are conditioned to think we need to sweat and be out of breath before our bodies get a workout, but that is not the case. I’ve actually seen my body transform more through yoga than any other workout I’ve ever done…kickboxing, taekwondo, aerobics, running…you name it.

I practice here and there on my own and it always feels good, but never like it does going to a class. I know it’s because I don’t give it a chance. I never treat it like a real class. I just sit and stretch without tuning in to my body and allowing my intuition to move me through a full practice. I’ve been telling myself for months to roll out the mat, but for some reason I was resisting. I fell in to a habit of going to classes taught by other teachers because I felt like I couldn’t get the same experience at home. I wanted a work out and if I didn’t get a work out then I wasn’t going to do it. Right? Have you ever told yourself the very same thing? That’s the ego and how silly. I knew better than that yet I still couldn’t get myself on the mat so the Universe gave me a little push.

I went to sub a class for a friend of mine and ironically nobody showed up so there I was in this big open room sitting on my yoga mat with nothing to do, but practice yoga. That’s what I call cosmic humor! Since I had  to be there the entire time, I decided to treat it like a real class. I moved slowly…mindfully…in a place of silence…just me, my breath, and my body moving rhythmically from one pose to the next. I practiced for over an hour and it felt amazing. I left feeling high and I realized something very beautiful. The yoga high we get from practicing yoga doesn’t come from the teacher…it comes from the place of stillness that rests just beneath the busy mind. It comes from being fully present in the body and being mindful of the breath.   

Attending class is great, but there needs to be a home practice to fully appreciate the teacher within. It’s about balance and bringing both in to your life. You are the one who comes to the mat…whether the mat is at home, in a studio, or out in nature somewhere. You need to be able to intuitively know what your body needs and move from a place of knowing instead of a place of doing. Honor yourself by getting on the mat and listening to the place within you. A good teacher knows her body and what her body needs so delve in and listen to the greatest master of all…you!

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