Further thoughts on home practice

We talk about “home practice” as if it has one definition. But, of course, our home practices are wildly different. I’m not talking only about asanas, sequences, methods, or levels. I’m talking about the logistics and the logic of one’s home practice.

LOGISTICS

I currently do my home practice at a community center in my neighborhood. While it’s not a private space, interruptions and passersby are few in the early morning. I prefer to practice there rather than at home: There, I am alone. At home, I am not alone.

To me, a major component of home practice is solitude. Sure, I’m barefoot and on the floor in public, but any social dynamics are just background noise. It’s akin to walking along a bustling sidewalk or writing at a cafe. I’m among people, but they’re strangers and I’m essentially alone. I love such shared yet solitary settings. I can feel the energy buzzing around me, while my mind is far, far away.IMG_0066

At home, people are not strangers. Unless I’m hidden from view, I’m not alone. While I don’t mind practicing in the living room while others are home, I consider that “extra.” The other, solitary time is my real practice. If you’re struggling to find a yoga space at home, go elsewhere (I recommend gyms), or find a secluded corner at your office.

Indeed, it helps if your family (or whoever shares your household) respects your practice. In a Zen meditation course taught by Reb Anderson of Green Gulch Farm, he said that you can establish a meditation practice only if your family gives you the freedom to do so. If not, you will either lack the time and energy or feel guilty for neglecting domestic duties. Who among us hasn’t felt self-indulgent practicing yoga instead of spending more time with loved ones?  You must feel that your practice is supported, not resented.

LOGIC

Under “logic,” I’m trying to pinpoint the meaning of one’s personal practice to oneself. In other words, why do it? At the physical level, it’s clear that practice will boost one’s asana skills (not to mention one’s overall flexibility, strength, and body awareness). Only regular practice (beyond class attendance) can elongate tight hamstrings or the infamous iliopsoas. Trying challenging poses at home also lets one experiment without an audience or limited time (I relish the chance to repeat poses multiple times, to set that muscle memory!).

But, to me, home practice is all about the solitude discussed earlier. Sometimes I hear about couples or close friends who attend class together, practice together, go on retreats together. Togetherness might be fine occasionally, but too much is a hindrance. Yoga is a personal practice. Even if both partners are yoga devotees, they must explore it primarily on their own. Any form of self-inquiry (an aside: I can’t stand the term “self-help”) is fundamentally a solo project.

I look at solitary yoga not as a separation from family, friends, or society, but rather as a space better to understand myself (and human nature). Ultimately, being by myself should improve my relationships with others. Or so I hope! All I know is that I need that alone time, regularly if not daily.

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