By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
For most of us, yoga practice is the hour-and-a-half (or sometimes less) we spend in our favorite gym or studio class. But this has to be just the beginning. Yoga is not the usual workout you do listening to your iPod, watching TV, or reading a book perched on the treadmill handlebars. Yoga is about developing awareness and learning about yourself through movement and breath. It is the practice of stilling the fluctuations of the mind by aligning and uniting the body, mind and breath. The teaching of yoga in a class is the guidance you need to begin, but to extend your practice, you have to take yoga home.
Starting yoga in a classroom setting is, for most of us, necessary. Books are great, but with only a book, you do not have another pair of eyes to check your progress or alignment. Numerous videos are available, but you risk distorting your practice as you crane your neck to see the TV — or just continue to be distracted by the person on the screen. In a classroom, you are introduced to the whole practice, guided by a teacher and given personalized instruction to help you progress. But, even the voice and the presence of the teacher draws your consciousness outward, when the true practice of yoga involves traveling deeper in.
A once-a-week class is a good start, two-times-a-week even better, but we miss the beauty of yoga that appears with a daily practice. The problem is, it is hard to get started. We make excuses about too little time or not enough space. We fear ignorance or injury without a teacher watching over us. When the teacher isn’t there, we have to learn to rely on our own inner guidance.
So, how do you get started? First, remember that you do not need to carve out an hour-and-a-half of your day. Start small, with 10 to 20 minutes and one or two poses. After a class, remember something you really liked and something you really hated. The thing you hated is the thing you need, and the thing you liked will keep you coming back. Those two things can be the foundation to beginning your home practice. Then, arm yourself with a good instructional book. Different books are available for the various traditions of yoga, so ask your teacher. A good book will supplement the guidance of your teacher while at home and also help you dig deeper into the poses (not to mention, help you to learn the actual Sanskrit names).
Once you begin yoga at home, you will quickly see the benefits. Yoga will no longer be that temporary “escape” once or twice per week that is somehow separate from “real life.” The positive effects on body and mind will transfer off the mat and begin to seep into every aspect of your life. The way you move, the way you breathe, the way you carry yourself, and the way you react to different situations will all be touched by yoga. Spending the time in practice alone, away from a full class, will bring awareness of your deeper being in each pose and give you insight into a quieter and deeper consciousness. At home is where the experience of a pose becomes the microcosm corresponding to the macrocosm of experience in the outer world — offering all the tools you need to live a more fully conscious life.
Definitely do yoga in class. Find a teacher that speaks to you and gives you what you need to learn, but be aware that the classroom can be just another distraction from the reality of yoga. As we are guided, we must learn, and as we are corrected, we must remember so the information we are given in a class transfers to a deeper level when we carry it home. Each day we change, and each day we bring something new to the practice, so it is really at home where the depth of yoga is understood.
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2011, issue