How to Start a Home Yoga Practice
If there can be said to be a ‘goal’ of the group yoga practice it might be the development of your own home practice…
I know that sort of cuts the legs out of a lot of studios, but it’s true.
Any real teacher has a single objective for you as a student – your eventual ‘graduation’. In the posture yoga practice I think it’s fair to call that the development of a real and lasting, rewarding, authentic and intuitive home practice – or, better still, meditation practice – is in that aim.
The only reason any yoga teacher seems to know your body better than you do is because, a) they know their own body really well, and certain common inferences translate nearly universally…ex. one of your sides is most definitely tighter than the other…if I, as a teacher, watch your face closely from one side to the other or – just watch you walk in for that matter – then it’s easy to determine which one.
Almost like being a movement mentalist, if you will…
(Though honestly the word ‘mentalist’ has always rubbed me the wrong way…like it’s somehow derogatory.)
The teacher also knows your body better than you because, b) you don’t know yours very well…yet.
It takes a lot of time and a lot of scrutiny to ‘know thyself’ as Socrates once suggested – whether that self be the spirit within, or the body without…if you didn’t take several minutes – or, hell, several seconds – today to examine your lunge, or to scrutinize your mountain pose then it would seem like magic when someone else – even a moderately trained movement teacher – makes seemingly deep, insightful determinations based on several seconds of seeing you with the fullness of their presence.
The body doesn’t lie.
There’s a similar saying in basketball, “the ball doesn’t lie.” If it doesn’t go through the hoop, then you hadn’t practiced enough…pretty simple, really.
Well the body is constantly giving similar gross-level indicators.
Pain. Discomfort. Tightness and tension. Breakthrough pain. Imbalance. Limps.
You could go on and on – the body is literally a conduit for transmitting information from the outside world to your inside world…and a treasure trove of information at that.
Starting from the the skin in, your mind is making constant, real-time calculations.
The only reason you aren’t as aware of the tension you carry in your traps because you don’t see them for a single second from the perspective of the yoga teacher. You haven’t taken the time to consider that particular set of information…
In this sense a teacher is a convenient reflection, a shortcut to self-mastery in this discipline or another.
Once your awareness grows sufficiently you won’t need a teacher for the simple fact that no one can ever possibly know your body better than you – if given enough time for self-inspection that is…
Once you know your body better than anybody you won’t want a teacher for a similar reason – a movement teacher will only get in the way by making suggestions that are doomed to fall short of 100% relevancy to your unique anatomy.
When that time comes then going to a physical yoga class is just about seeing your friends, sweating under better studio heat than you have at home, and having F…U…N.
Yup, gasp, the ultimate aim of the yoga practice is that you one day – after many long grueling hours bending and flexing, and posing and farting, tearing and crying, and comparing and judging – is that you have fun.
(You’re, of course, welcome to just skip to that point – in fact, it is said there are two paths to enlightenment…grueling hard work, and sudden and spontaneous awakening…)
Of course there are still many philosophical reasons you may want to seek out a teacher, but on that matter another day…
Now, if you’re a yoga teacher – or, one aspiring to be – it is doubly imperative that you develop a home practice…for the reasons mentioned above, and also to stay rooted in the practice.
“Know more than you’ll need” is an important maxim to maintain as a teacher of any sort…this can be done by graduating into more intricate offerings such as workshops or teacher trainings. What you teach keeps you sharp as a student and vice a versa – if you’re sharp as a student, you’ll ipso facto be more sharp as a teacher.
It can also be achieved by simply staying mindfully curious about your own body on your own mat…daily. Regular discipline is required precisely because the information coming in from the body changes so readily in relation to the environment.
So there you go – not a bad 1,000 word advertisement for www.outlawyogaclub.com
But seriously, until you’re there, get your ass on over there and check out the 100 or so recorded classes housed there. Get your ass on the matt with a great teacher, or collection of them. Until you know your body better, follow along with those who try to…
Here’s a few other tips that might serve you:
- Pick a time of day least likely to be trampled on (usually early morning, unfortunately) and stick with it. Rise. Pee. Practice. Follow this maxim if it serves you…
- Purchase your own mat and props – you’ll need ’em for post-COVID classes anyways. And besides, I paint more frequently and more better when I have the proper materials on hand.
- Start small and be consistent – 10 mins a day for 5 out of 7 days is better than overwhelming yourself out the gate by demanding a full hour a day and thinking you’re going to do that 5 out of 7 days.
- Do a simple Sun A, then feel into the body to ask what else it needs that day. Some stretches, maybe some extra push-ups…invite the body to surprise you and it will…
Good luck, yogis
Justin “Jud” Kaliszewski is the best-selling yoga teacher and renowned creator of Outlaw Yoga. Author. Artist. Adventurer. Though his studio is currently closed per state order, you can still take his class NOW at outlawyogaclub.com and www.youtube.com/outlawyoga. Find his writing and art at www.justinkaliszewski.com and his presence all over the internet – for an outlaw, he’s shockingly easy to get ahold of.