Ashtanga: at home self study

I mostly practice yoga at home, and I mostly learned it from videos (traditionalists will gasp in horror now). A few weeks after I started practicing ashtanga to Kino’s ‘Introduction to ashtanga’ video, I heard of a kind soul teaching on saturday mornings. I suppose I am a shy practitioner and it took me a couple more weeks to join the group.
Lo and behold it was a led ashtanga class. After a couple of weeks I moved to the full ‘primary series’ video by Kino, and even got another video by Mark Darby to experience different verbal cues.
I continued practicing with videos for a couple of months until I learned the sequence, and now I practice on my own. I like my self practice a lot, and though I enjoy the led classes on saturdays and the great people there, I think I get more out of my private practice.
I cannot, of course, reach the full expression of all the poses in the primary series. It does not faze me however, it is a practice of letting go and accepting where I am. Little by little I am gaining knowledge of at least how to activate and stretch the right muscle groups that the poses target. Over the past four months I have reached several poses that at first seemed impossible, and I am still moving toward several others.
A home practice has taught me to be responsible about my body. How far I go is entirely up to me, and what I do with my body is my responsibility. There is no teacher to allow or deny me, and I am my only help. I need to have awareness of where my body is everyday, to know how far I should reach, and where I should hold back. It is a learning process that is teaching me much about myself.
I notice that moving into a new pose requires stretching of the mind as well as the body. For example, a few days ago, I was attempting kurmasana, or turtle pose. It went like this: ok, here we go again, inhale, arm under leg, exhale, inhale other arm under the other leg, great! now, let’s try something new, maybe I can lift my heels as I exhale to get in a little bit deeper. And suddenly, I collapsed to the floor in a very tight kurmasana. I wasn’t expecting it, and I panicked a bit, since it is kind of restrictive, the arms are locked under the weight of the legs and the hips are in a deep stretch. For a moment I thought I would never be able to get out of it. My body was ready for it but my mind wasn’t, however my body is being trained to breathe in such situations and the depth of breath brought peace to my mind. I realized I had been holding my body back since I didn’t believe that I could do that pose.
There are other reasons I like a home practice, I don’t worry about how I look, and whether my shirt is lifting up and my belly is showing. I wear tiny clothes to feel skin against skin in forward bends and arm balances. I’d be too shy to do that in a class. I don’t compare myself to other yogis, there is no competition. There is no mirror, so I look at myself from the inside out, and I try to have as much awareness about my body as possible to put my body in the right alignment. It is a quiet time to myself, the rhythm of my breath tells me the state of my mind and body. Doing the practice is like coming home.
I’ve also gained awareness of where my body needs to move to in order to heal. I’ve mentioned before I’ve had back pain for over 10 years now, a displaced disk. So, some days I practice a more intuitive approach. I’m now doing ashtanga 3 to 4 times a week, I want to build up to 6 days a week, but the endurance and discipline are not there yet. So, on other days, I follow where my body wants to stretch. Squatting, gradual back bending (upper back, arms and neck openers), stretching the quadriceps, and the outer hips, I feel, are missing in the ashtanga primary. At least for my specific body, and my specific set of limitations. I would not be able to do any of that, however, if it weren’t for the space, release and strength in the lower back muscles created in the ashtanga practice.
My home practice is a research into what my body and mind need. Surely, the guidance of an experienced teacher would move the process along faster, but the things I discover on my own are knowledge I know I will keep forever. It is a learning through experience, developing muscle intelligence, learning how to fall safely, learning how to get back up, and taking responsibility for my self.

2 thoughts on “Ashtanga: at home self study

  1. Dear Luna,

    You are so brave to try such an advanced pose on your own! I’ve been trying to fit yoga into my schedule but somehow, it always doesn’t seem to fit when I want it to be — even if I was determined to try out the 30 day yoga challenge on YouTube. I ought to learn more from you. I’ve been guided to read this post by the angels, and thank heavens! I’ve got the inspiration to do what I want no matter the time now. I’ll just do what my heart desires whenever I’m free. So, I’m truly grateful for your post today! 🙂

    Hope you have an awesome & peaceful day ahead, dearest Luna!

    Looking forward for more of your updates ❤

    xx Grace xx

    • Dear Grace,
      When I started out with this plan, it also seemed very hard to find time. I commited to doing at least 10 minutes a day during 30 days. I told my friends about it, I published it on face book, I added an day-counter app on my phone. All for motivation. The time has to come from other activities, so, analyse what in your free time you could take 10 minutes from. Eg. if you have 10 minutes to read blogs you probably have 10 minutes to do yoga. I took time away from internet browsing, cooking (cook every two or three days and eat left overs in between), meeting friends (they learned I’ll be late and come after I do yoga), sleeping, etc…Something’s gotta give!
      Courage, and I hope all the best for you. Dedicating time to your well being will make you more productive and efficient in other tasks.
      Big hug,
      Luna sol

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