Do I Have Enough Self-discipline?
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am somewhat new to yoga. I practice regularly in classes, but my home practice still has a long way to go. I think it’s easier for many of us to be pushed by a teacher, to feel ourselves held accountable by someone else, and to try not only for ourselves but for that other person as well. I am at a point in my practice where I feel that the next great leap is to practice by myself and push myself for me alone, rather than with half an eye on my teacher.
Practicing alone at home is hard for me because I come up with a million and one excuses of why I don’t have time to do yoga, why I’m too tired and why I’ll have time in the future. When I go to class, I am making space for my practice and going to a place where it is expected that I will practice yoga, whereas at home I feel like I don’t have the mental space to focus solely on the poses. When I attempt my practice at home, my mind wanders to all the little grievances I carry with me—the grudges and anxieties and tasks I know I should be doing.
However, practicing at home is something I really want to embark on, so I have been timidly dipping my toes into the dark, shiny, scary lake of Ashtanga home practice!
I recently went away to my boyfriend’s family’s house on Cape Cod for Thanksgiving and I made it my goal to attempt a home practice for the days we were away. I felt that being away from home would give me the time and mental space to do it. Our trip felt like vacation because I had a few days off from work. I was excited to do my practice, kick back and relax, and enjoy the holiday!
I woke up the first morning we were on the Cape and immediately made plans with my boyfriend’s sister to go and do a whole string of activities. Guiltily, I pushed yoga to the back of my mind and told myself I would do it in the afternoon. The day passed, the sun sank pink and fiery beyond the bay and I found myself in the car going to a family dinner. I realized I had been kidding myself in thinking I would get on my mat that day.
The second day I woke up early and decided I would do my practice right away. It was early in the morning and I literally just stumbled out of bed and onto my mat so I was stiff and half asleep. My practice was a struggle. I was frustrated with myself because I was stiff from being asleep and berated myself for not going for a run first to warm up, while also trying to remind myself that yoga isn’t always smooth sailing and as long as I am on my mat trying to do something, I am making progress. Perhaps because I was a dancer, I equate flexibility with the “real” me. When I am stiff I don’t feel like myself. During the first sun salutations I often fight with myself and feel ridiculously panicked, like I won’t ever be flexible again. When I loosen up I feel relief and I feel that I am myself once again. So, my practice that morning was rough, to say the least.
The third morning, Thanksgiving morning, I woke up, puttered around the house for a bit and got on my mat around 10. I felt much more loose and warm because I had moved around a bit and my practice felt better than the day before. I was not so angry with myself because my body loosened up quickly and I was able to go deeper into the poses.
It’s a strange juxtaposition: yoga and anger. There is this perception that yoga is peaceful and that those who practice it are content, calm individuals. Sometimes I feel calm and content, but often I feel frustrated because I remember the one time I did my best in the pose and not the thousand other times that I struggled. I think that it should always feel easy and like the one best time, rather than the reality of the thousand other times.
In the weeks going forward I will be working on self-motivation in my home practice. I am pretty good about putting in as much effort as I can when my teacher is standing over me, but on my own I slack off in poses that are more challenging. I hope that as I develop a routine practice at home I will stop craving the accountability a teacher brings.