The blogs I’ve written about home practice are kinda, well —
Remember this one, lovingly picked up by Ashtanga Dispatch, about how sometimes “showing up is not enough’ — even that one, while lower on the bullshit scale, is still bullshit. And of course this one from my own site about all the “helpers” you might explore like heat, and community and staying off your phone? Bullshit. Helpful, I hope– but still bullshit.
By bullshit, I mean that in these blogs I address the bells and whistles…really, they’re kinda like the blog equivalent of the handstands Sharath yells at people for showing off with in his led primary classes. Fun and invigorating, but missing the correct vinyasa. Perhaps I’m going overboard, but maybe it is helpful for some fun in making the point: I’ve written about the outside accessories — not the internal magic.
So how do you get that? What is the secret to a great home practice, if not a space heater or mist-producing humidifier? Simple–
Just do it.
You see, the lovely people who write to me asking about home practice (or perhaps it is better to say solo practice) are people who are new to it, or about to be new to it, or in the honeymoon phase (which, in this realm, is neither full of honey, nor moons, save for the new and full) or who turn to home practice rarely, when travels or snowstorms get in the way:
What are the tricks of the trade? Do you get a real practice in? Do you find yourself screwing around?
The trick of the trade is to do the trade (oh, and…yes and yes).
I’ve had a home practice for over four years now, save for weekly trips to the Mysore room– still just a drop in the bucket of yoga life, but time enough to have figured some stuff out. When I began it was an experiment of necessity: the nearest mysore room was 45 minutes away in no traffic (and in the DC area, “no traffic” is like a unicorn, or Sunday mornings before 7). In short, if I wanted Ashtanga, it was take it off the streets and into my home, or bust.
At first it felt like I was faking it. I would ask myself time and time again:
Does this count?
Until day after day, week after week, year after year, series after series it became real because I treated it as real. It counted because I made it count and I counted upon it.
What is real anyway, except what we decide is?
Of course, if you have been lovingly in the sweet sticky embrace of a Mysore room with a killer teacher, you know the magic there and yes, it seemed utterly unfathomable that I could make that magic all by myself.
If you keep at it I suspect that eventually you’ll see that like Dorothy in her red shoes, the magic was within you all along. You could probably do this with anything– in fact, you always have– like any of the of cleanses or whole 30’s or Instagram challenges, or I don’t know, the committing of hours upon hours of your days to watching Silicon Valley or scrolling through social media. I’m being cute, but really, starting out in the Mysore room probably took a few weeks to months of feeling like a faker till boom– you felt all the reals. You could start a daily practice of anything just doing it (hey- I should take my own advice).
It helps to practice Ashtanga — the choreography is a done deal and self-practice mode already dialed in. It makes sense to have a teacher — if you want to learn anything well and safely, having a teacher or mentor has been key in my life. It also helps if you practice at home regularly. It helps a lot. Quite simply, the more you practice on your own, the more you’ll have faith that you can make the magic, because you will have your own evidence of having conjured it before. Other than that, the where’s and when’s — those bells and whistles you choose to adorn practice with — are up to you. The key thing is that you do it.
I recently saw someone wonder about home practice on Insta, with the added note that she wasn’t doing home practice very often. Ah, that’s just it. My home practice counts because it has to — it’s all I have. Recently I was in Kauai for two weeks (I know, I’m jealous of me too), where there is a lovely mysore room and a wonderful authorized teacher named Eagle. Naturally, upon my return, my home practice…
Sucked. You know why?
I was out of practice with home practice. Put another way, starting a home practice is just like starting a regular ashtanga practice. The more you do, the more you do. You build your home practice the same way you build your way to marichyasana D or pincha mayurasana. Practice makes practice.
And hey, if you don’t have home or travel practice regularly in your life, then don’t sweat it you cannot feel the magic on that one Thanksgiving Day practice at the in-laws. You’re setting yourself up for your next practice and that’s pretty damn good.
So you want a kick-ass, counts AsF home practice: pick a spot, lay down your mat and just do it six days a week. And eventually you’ll create your great home practice– and let’s face it, because you’re a human, it will not always be great but even that reality is just part of having a really great regular home practice. I hope you find the joy in it, and the empowerment.*
That’s no bullshit.
*(please read these two links: fellow ashtanga yoga bloggers Anthony Grimm-Hall and Shanna Small do a wonderful job of describing the beauty of solo home practice).
PS- I’m keeping my heater and humidifier.