Our popular contributor Kara-Leah continues her home yoga practice series, looking at how our concepts of a home yoga practice can get in the way of us actually practicing.
by Kara-Leah Grant, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice.
Wanting a home yoga practice can be a bit like wanting to write a book.
Often, what we really want is the results of the experience, not the experience itself.
Someone might want to be interviewed, make a swag of money, end up on Oprah, and have millions of people reading their work. They don’t actually want to sit at the computer day after day and write, sweating blood and tears until they’ve produced something great.
It can be the same with a home yoga practice.
Sometimes we can really want to be thin, flexible, calm, and peaceful. But when it comes to getting on the mat every day and actually being with the sometimes horrible experience of tour practice: that part we don’t want.
Our focus is on wanting the outcome, not experiencing the process. But yoga, like life, is all process. Outcomes are incidental.
So ask yourself, are you motivated to practice yoga at home because you want to experience the results? Or is it because you want the actual experience of practicing yoga every day?
Either answer is ok – there is no right or wrong. Honesty is crucial so we can respond to our true motivation – and that’s a big part of Forty Days of Yoga. I help you hone on on what’s actually motivating you so you can be conscious about how you use this motivation.
After all, yoga is about making the unconscious conscious, so this is our Yoga, right here right now, figuring out what’s driving us – really driving us to practice yoga at home.
Your reasons for wanting a home practice could be range from anything like losing weight, gaining flexibility, cultivating calmness or exploring yoga deeper.
It might be that, like me when I first started my home practice, you have no choice but to practice at home because you don’t live close to classes but really want to practice yoga.
Whatever it is, the reasons why you want a home yoga practice will inform both what you do in your practice and how likely you are to stick to that practice.
Understanding this is why the Forty Day process works so well.
It’s not just about deciding that you want to practice and then trying to turn up to the mat every day. It goes deeper than that – far deeper. There will be some days when you just don’t want to practice – you’re busy, you’re tired, you’re grumpy, you can’t be bothered, you just don’t care.
When those thoughts and feelings start to surface – well before you even get on your yoga mat – this is when your actual yoga starts.
First you pay attention to those thoughts and feelings. You see them, and feel them while staying aware. By doing that, you create a gap between you and your experience and that gap gives you the ability to make a choice.
You can acknowledge that yes, you are tired. But you still want to practice yoga. So what would be appropriate to practice given that you’re tired?
It’s a very different train of thought from the one that starts with, I’m tired therefore I don’t want to practice yoga. So I won’t.
See the difference?
In the first train of thought you’re firmly established in your motivation and awareness. You know that no matter what is going on for you, you want to practice yoga. When the thought of tiredness arises, you see it, acknowledge it, and respond to it.
In the second train of thought, you’re not firmly established in your motivation or in your awareness. The thought I’m tired leads to an automatic thought of therefore I don’t want to practice.
One is a process of yoga – awareness, holding to the centre, staying true.
The other is an unconscious process dependent on whims and pre-programmed ideas (I don’t practice yoga when I feel tired).
Most of us still have this idea that yoga is about physical postures on the yoga mat. But it’s not.
Yoga is mastery of our internal selves, It’s bringing awareness to every moment – to all our thoughts and feelings – so there is a gap we can step into and make a conscious choice on how we’re going to respond to those thoughts and feelings.
Committing to a daily yoga practice means more than practicing asana on a mat – it means consciously working with the internal thoughts and feelings that arise about our practice. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to take our yoga off the mat and into our daily life.
And that is gold.
Kara-Leah is a writer and yoga teacher who has always been infinitely curious about the make-up of the human psyche and body. Regular yoga helped her heal and recover from chronic back issues, including a spinal fusion at age 16, and two episodes of psychosis at age 29.
Her daily home yoga practice began in earnest when people kept asking her to teach them yoga. She’s since trained as a teacher with Shiva Rea, and immersed herself in practicing, teaching yoga and writing about yoga. Kara-Leah lives just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand with her son Samuel.
She’s the publisher of The Yoga Lunchbox and has just published her first book, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice. She’s also a regular contributor to the Elephant Journal.