For a lot of us our first initiation or experience of yoga was through a one hour class held face to face. However, face to face classes are a distant memory and online classes are good but a pale imitation of being in the room with a teacher.
In class, we gradually learned to let go of external factors, leave the outside world outside the yoga room, go inside and follow the sequence being taught. If you go regularly you notice improvements physically and mentally almost daily. This was certainly my experience.
Even after I qualified as a yoga teacher the majority of my practice was in class, so it was breaking with what I was comfortable with to go to online classes and then gradually, practising yoga alone.
Self-practise was a whole new challenge for me. First finding the internal discipline to get on the mat when the only commitment was to me, which should be a no-brainer but often isn’t. I found it easier to practice twice daily when I had to be at the yoga studio than at home. Once on the mat making an intention and staying focussed isn’t the only challenge, as I have to decide what poses to work with, making balanced choices to not just include poses I like, or am finding easier. Initially my self practice was the same sequence every day, after a while I started to vary the poses on instinct.
One of the biggest challenges is staying connected with myself and not getting bogged down with details or distracted, which is difficult with two Bengal cats trying to take part in my yoga. Also going slowly and mindfully, not rushing the flows or poses is hard. Holding for five breaths or ten breaths is very different when alone and not in the company of a teacher and class. I often have my old teachers voice in my head telling me to do it slowly. I also enjoy practising in silence, no music is often less distracting allowing a deeper practice.
Every yoga practice ends in shavasana (corpse pose), yet it’s so difficult to lie in this pose for the minimum of 5 minutes recommended when I’m the only one doing it. I’m fortunate that I can make the time so there’s no pressing limit as to how long I spend on the mat, so I can include a good meditation and pranayama (breathing practice), often resulting in a satisfying hour and a half session. Yet the inclination to cut shavasana short is something I battle with every time.
The positives of having my own practice is the lengthy session. I tend to average about an hour and a half on the mat. I like the freedom to work on sequences I want to improve in private, and finding this new depth of determination, commitment to myself and skill to put myself first.
Just like when I first started going to yoga class, I have evolved from doing one self practice session a day to two sessions a day. Unlike classes I can practice everyday without the weekend off. After the initial resistance of practising alone I now look forward to the time with myself and yoga. It has become an essential part of taking care of myself like showering. I do teach occasionally, usually those on my bubble when they choose to join me.
Self-practice also results in renewed enthusiasm to find out more about yoga and learn new flows and techniques. It really was the next step in my yoga journey.