One morning about a year ago, I pulled out my yoga mat, placed it on the floor of the room, and prepared to do a headstand. At this point in my yoga practice, which had tried to master a dozen headstands, finding each new attempt as painful as before. To seek advice from my teacher, which was broadcast I must remain present and observe the response of my body posture. Since it was not normal to practice headstand in my classes, I decided to start practicing at home.
Practicing Ashtanga Yoga at Home
When I raised myself in their position, I felt a throbbing discomfort in your neck, shoulders and lower back. I did my best to stay with the sensations of my body, but was only able to hold the pose for a couple of minutes. Then I slowly lowered my body now-pain, I rested in child pose as I focused my consciousness in the blood that flows beneath the head and the rest of my body. When I could lift it without becoming dizzy, I moved to downward dog. I felt stiff, but did not think too much about it. Instead I was in the pose, listening to my body. Finally, I finished my practice with a brief savasana and called it a day.
For the next few weeks, my morning routine models exactly the same sequence. From these sessions lasted less than ten minutes, it was pretty easy to maintain my practice. Gradually, I became more comfortable in the stop position head. Although my practice sessions focused on Sirasana salamba, I started noticing that my experience downward dog had become completely different than it was in the class.
Downward dog, also known as Adho Mukha svanasana, was one of the first yoga poses that I learned. In each yoga class I’ve taken, shown in a sequence or another. In my classes vinyasa, we practice as part of our sun salutations. Amid the vigorous sequences, my teacher would use adho svanasana mukha as pose a break. I could hear her asking me to press the base of the fingers firmly on the ground to strengthen my arms. Then she suggest lift my tailbone away from the back of my pelvis. After I did my best to follow your instructions, I diligently maintain posture until she asked the class to get out.
At home, however, there was no guide or mentor for me to successfully run the pose. I tried to remember all the different instructions from my teacher had given me for downward dog. Unfortunately, I could only remember three of them. It felt strange not having anyone to take me in my practice, as if I were not there in my own body. In an effort to feel more connected to the pose, I bent my knees and straightened them. Then I raised my fingers off the ground and brought down again. Luckily for me, this worked. Gradually I began to feel I was back in my body again. Thereafter, these movements became a ritual for me whenever I got downward dog at home.
After weeks of daily practice, something unusual happened. While in downward dog concentrate on my breathing, my left foot unexpectedly rose from the ground and stepped on it a little to the left. Then my right foot moved slightly to the right. As a result of these two adjustments, loosened my hips, groin softened, and entered my body. Every movement itself was very small, almost microscopic, but the change that occurred was dramatic. I felt more energetic and paradoxically relaxed. It had never occurred to adjust my position without the guidance of my teacher, but now that I had done, I was excited to experience more. In the following practice sessions, I continued to make changes to my downward dog. These adjustments do not always improve my posture, but occasionally did.
Over the past year, my practice at home has been in a constant state of flux. Most of the time my practice lasts thirty to forty minutes. Occasionally I spend an hour practicing asanas and I still have thirty minutes of pranayama. On some days, I have a definite about what I plan to practice, but usually I have no idea what poses will incorporate until they emerge from me on the mat. I do not know if I do downward dog better today than I did a year ago, but I have a better understanding of my practice.
Having a regular practice at home gave me the amount of space needed and the time to experience it myself. I could hear my thoughts and see how my body responded to them. My curiosity led me to experiment with asanas and explore different ways of doing them. As I continue taking classes and look forward to working with teachers, practicing at home has allowed me to take full responsibility for my own practice and make it mine. In doing so, I saw not only the richest of what yoga had to offer me, but I had to give myself.