The best 20 minutes alone in a room you’ll ever have.
What is it that makes us feel so good after a yoga class? While each person’s practice is a unique expereince, there are some benefits shared by the daily practitioner as well as the weekend warrior: Yoga gets us to slow down, move and breath in our postures, so we can focus on one thing at a time. It gets us out of our head and into what's meaningful in our lives.
The space we actually practice in can affect the quality of our experience. There are many so many options, including public classes at studios and gyms and online classes and DVDs. I teach in all of these, and each one contributes to healing and wellness. Choosing whether to practice yoga alone or in a group class of 5, 10 or 60, or even as part of a festival event of 1,000 can also affect your experience.
Many of us come to know yoga through the studio setting. There are some valuable lessons here in addition to learning about yoga. In the beginning it can be intimidating walking into a room full of people who speak and respond to a language that's unfamiliar. This can take us way out of our comfort zone. Yoga confronts us to look at our patterns of familiarity and encourages us to break free of habituation, so we stay open and receptive to change. My classes are often mat-to-mat which can be unpleasant for some students. There are the issues of sweat dripping from another person and cramped space in which to move your body. However we can reframe it as an opportunity to learn to be flexible not only in our hamstrings, but in our ability to adapt to challenging situations. If we persevere and tune out the voice inside us that edits others, it's a real opportunity to tune into the frequency of listening to our intuition.
Practicing yoga in the company of others creates a container to build community. We all want to connect on a fundamental level, especially with like-minded people.Teaching and practicing at large festivals is a powerful experience. To move in a sea of people with the intention to raise consciousness and elevate our vibration can create a perspective shift. We may not know the person on the mat next to us, but when we move and breathe in union with others, it unifies us in a common purpose. We are all in this together. Yes it can bring up our shadow side like judgment, self-doubt, the inner critic, but what a fabulous way to see it, own it, and take responsibility to choose another path. That's why we call it a practice.
Practicing solo at home also has its merits. A DVD or online class is a helpful way to slow things down to your own pace. If you are self-conscious around other people or going through a difficult life transition, practicing alone gives you space to process, cry, even break down if you need to. Yoga opens us up to feel emotions that can be confronting and being in the safety of our own home can be comforting.
Of course there is the issue of time. As a busy yoga teacher, I frequently home practice. I've learned to adjust my practice around what my body, mind, and energy needs that day. When I'm practicing alone, there are no distractions and I can drop in deep. Moving to my own rhythm allows me space to be creative in my practice and explore different ways of moving through poses. It doesn't matter if it's 20 minutes or two hours, I'm making a commitment to my wellbeing.
Ultimately yoga reveals how we relate to ourselves. Practicing with others adds a unique texture that can enhance our experience. Going solo can free us up to trust our inner needs and bring a different perspective to our lives. The key is to get on our mats and allow the practice to unfold breath by breath.