I started with home practice, picked up a book from the library and just got on with teaching myself at home on a bath towel, going to a class wasn't something I even considered. The library book just happened to be Ashtanga, it might just as easily been something else but perhaps Ashtanga suited my temperament. By the time I moved on from books to videos I was quite settled in my home practice with no desire to practise any other way. But there are many reasons practitioners come to home practice. Some move house, to an area where there are no classes, no teachers, in other cases it's the teacher who moves away leaving the students behind and of course teachers themselves more often than not seem to end up having to practice alone at home when they set up their own shalas, Sharath Jois is now of course practicing home alone.
Setting up Home practice
Routine is the mother of discipline and we want to set up a routine early on when still in that first flush of enthusiasm. It seems to help to practise in the same place and if possible at the same time. Ideally we would keep the space just for our practice or at least try and choose somewhere separate from the rest of the house or at least an out of the way corner where we are less likely to be disturbed. Kids of course make a mockery of all that but parents often survive on routines, treat your yoga practice like the laundry, do it where and when you can.
Building our practice up gradually helps as does practicing several times a week, again to help build the routine. Three days a week is a good start then perhaps add an extra day so we end up practicing two days in a row, work towards two day on, a day off perhaps then two more days practicing. After time we might like to give up the day off between practice days and end up with five days in a row. Traditionally Ashtanga vinyasa has tended to be six mornings a week with a day off at the weekend but I've always practiced seven days a week. If for some reason I've been unable to practice in the morning I've made it up in the evening.
Maintaining Home practice
Ideally we want to try and stick to the routine of stepping on the mat at the same time and in the same place each morning even if only for a couple of sun salutations. More often than not those couple of sun salutations will turn into all of the standing sequence and then we often feel we might as well do half primary series at least which more than likely turns into a full practice.
One of the benefits of a sequence is that helps support the routine, one posture leads to the next and then the next and so on.
I mentioned that Ashtanga suited my temperament, the practice can be challenging in and of itself, it's quite long and we keep adding on those postures, always another posture to keep motivated.
And then there are the extra challenges at the level of individual asana. All the asana can be challenging in different ways but some especially so. Rather than working intensively on all the different asana in each and every practice it can help to pick two or three to give extra attention to for a week or two before moving on to another two or three. Give working on jumping back a degree of attention for a few weeks and then leave it alone and work on your marichiyasana's say or your kurmasana, come back to the jump back again a few weeks down the line and see how it's been coming along on it's own.
As well as the the routine we've built up, support can also come from the sangha, the community. We may practice on our own at home but we are not necessarily alone, there are many home practitioners out there, some with blogs, perhaps youtube videos showing their progress, these can give encouragement to our own practice and then there are the teachers who post tutorials which can be helpful and the beautifully shot videos of fancy postures or regular practice in beautiful locations, these can be inspirational for some, a turn off for others.
Questioning Home practice
At some point we may find ourselves questioning the practice. We started off soaking up all the information we could, taking on board the myths and dogma surrounding the practice, we've read the blogs and opinions about what is and isn't correct practice and flip flopped back and forth between the extremes and finding ourselves perhaps in a Foucauldian panopticon of fear and guilt that the Ashtanga police might know how we practiced that morning.
Most of it is nonsense of course, and the practice stands up beautifully by itself without any of it, question all the myths and dogma and see to what degree any of it is consistent with itself, how logical it is, put it all to the test of your own experience of the practice. Question, every opinion you've heard repeated or held, question every teacher from the top down and the bottom up, we are all most likely deluded to lesser and greater degrees. And yet this practice is beautiful in it's simplicity, it works, again trust to common sense and our actual experience.
You may wish to 'tweak' your practice, I recommend not tweaking the whole practice in one go, the integrity of the practice can collapse and there can be a loss of routine, practice descends into chaos. It seems to work best when we only adapt change in one or two areas of the practice at one time. Add a couple of extra postures here, take a couple away there but try to maintain the overall structure of the practice, it's our support. And if we become so disillusioned that we want to give up the practice altogether and practice Zumba instead I highly recommend keeping hold of half primary at least, perhaps on a Friday. You might not think so now but more likely than not you'll come back the practice after your first or eighth period of disillusionment has past, it WAS a nice practice wasn't it.
Progressing and deepening Home practice
One of the things I noticed when I began practicing Advanced series was how perfect the standing sequence that I had for so long taken for granted prepared me for those advance postures, as it happens this actually led to my losing interest in advanced postures altogether and returning to the supposedly basic postures and exploring ever more subtle approaches to them.
Likewise exploring pranayama feeds into the practice as does a pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and meditation practice. It's said that the practice incorporates a hint of pranayama in the focus on the breath and that pratyahara is included in our use of drishti, that the practice is essentially meditative. That may be true but only up to a point. Put it to the test of your own experience, sit and practice pranayama, just six rounds focusing on just the breath and nothing else and see if it's the same. Take the same approach with pratyahara, with meditation, sit on a cushion for twenty, thirty, forty minutes and see if for you it is any different from your experience of the practice. I suspect that it will be but don't take my word for it.
When should you practice pranayama, when meditation? Whenever you feel ready and or inclined to, ignore the dogma, the nonsense that has sprung up. Assuming you don't have any medical condition to prohibit it, explore a simply, gentle, pranyama practice....begin to sit. I was taught to practice pranayama, pratyahara and meditation after my asana practice but some practice before asana, before their yoga towel gets too soggy.
If time is an issue, rather than speed up your asana consider practising half a series to leave more time for the other limbs, practice the second half the following day.
Surrendering Home practice
At some point we may feel inclined to surrender our home practice altogether, this could be as a result of injury whether related or not in which case we can perhaps modify our practice. The Ashtanga practice is linking the breath to the movements it's not the sequence of specific asana, the sequence was most likely a pedagogic accident rather than derived from some ancient text or teaching. Practice non attachment and just let it go, practice just as much or as little as is beneficial.
Some practice through pregnancy, others modify their practice other give it up altogether, it's your body, your choice, listen to the arguments but trust you instincts guilt free. Likewise as we get older, in fact Pattabhi Jois in his book Yoga Mala, gives us Carte blanche to adapt our practice pretty much as we see fit once we reach fifty.
Or perhaps our pranayma practice and/or even just sitting will grow in importance to us such that we want to give more time to our sit, a few simple movements, the odd round of breathing practice may be enough preparation for approaching our cushion and more likely than not in line with the most ancient of teachings.
We may however also feel that we wish to support a fledgling or struggling local practice room by surrendering our home practice one or more days a weeks and just turning up to support the room.
There is a kindle version on Amazon, the app version is ok but I don't feel it works as well on the actual kindle as the device doesn't allow you to zoom in, the way that you can on the ipad kindle app, plus I have limited control over pricing - Lulu also offer a paypal option.).
The nice people at Lulu.com put my book through some of their fancy software recently which should sharpen up the images and type, thank you to Jessica for going to all the trouble.
|Available from LULU.com|
My Vinyasa Home Practice Book is flawed, it was intended as a companion to my teacher Srivatsa Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga (highly recommended) by employing an easier to visualise layout of the different subroutines and sequences that Ramaswami describes. As such, rather than descriptions of the asana it is made up of notes; tips, hints... cautions for the actual practice of those asana, how to work towards them, to actually get into some of the more advanced vinyasas... hopefully more safely. There are however links to free youtube videos in the book for all the asana, subroutines and sequences. For the print edition use the link list on the book support page http://vinyasakramayoga.blogspot.jp/
I should probably revise the whole thing but have a soft spot for the book and how closely linked to practice it was, the notes written within half hour of practicing the asanas.
It's a large book approx 450 A4 pages, thus the cost of the print edition. The ebook is a big file and downloads better to a Mac/PC than directly to the Ipad, better to transfer it to your devise via the likes of ibooks.
I highly recommend Lulu.com if you are considering self-publishing, they make the whole process pretty painless, give you control a lot of over pricing by allowing you to offer large discounts and take care of all the logistics, delivery etc.