I don't often speak about yoga on this blog, or about my own practice and experience of it. Nonetheless, yoga has had an immense influence on me since I was 18 years old. Amazingly, that means I've been practicing - with various levels of commitment - for more than half my life. You may know that I'm an Iyengar-certified instructor, who taught for a number of years. While I've studied a variety of styles (ashtanga, hybrid methods), the Iyengar system is the one I carry around with me. I do everything with its philosophy in mind. The methodology is about alignment and focus, above all. You can see why that might appeal to me. I've written about this before, btw...
Yoga, in my twenties, occupied the passion that sewing appears to, in my forties. Don't misunderstand: It continues to be the backbone (sorry for the pun) of my mental health and mind-body awareness. It's the first art form that taught me about the human body, about symmetry, about turning the two-dimensional into the three-dimensional.
Physical and mental alchemy - the outcome of one's yoga - are amongst the most profound experiences I've encountered. Yoga taught me that everything is the same thing, which - of course - can be a charm or a chain.
I remember when my former teacher, a woman who was in her 50s when I was in my early 20s, would speak about how one's practice develops over the decades. How refinement - not perfection - is the watchword of one's daily routine. She, of course, was a perfectionist, as many Iyengar devotees happen to be.
(I've never been one to shun perfection, or its pursuit. I search it out like the holy grail, and it eludes me, as it must. But that's the subject of another post I've been mulling over...)
I've done yoga as a teenager (with suppleness, but naivete), as a young woman (it kept me sane), as a mother-to-be (now that was interesting), as a new mother (it didn't keep me sane, I was beyond sanity at that point), as a careerist in pursuit of balance (my current role, I suppose). I've watched my body change innumerable times. I've seen my strength ebb and flow. I've worked my ass off, polishing the gem of self-awareness and ability, only to see it cloud up again. But I start over.
Wow, how utterly self-involved this post has become! Really, I just want to let you know about a good Yoga Journal home practice resource in mag stores now. I've been tinkering with its contents (note: the bias of this issue is Iyengar - which is v. intelligent, IMO, given the opportunities for self-injury in any yoga practice, especially those done without the guidance that a class environment provides) and the sequences are enjoyable, well-constructed and malleable for different experience levels.
I don't encourage anyone to begin yoga without a teacher. Whatever you learn, chances are you'll do it better with an informed guide. However, for the continuing student, a home practice is the next step - and the best step. Once you've got your own thing going, you can take it anywhere. The practice ceases to be something you do only in the context of others, of instruction, and becomes your own art, uniquely tailored to you at any moment. Yes, there are numerous snags on the path, but no time like the present, yes?
So, let's talk yoga. Have you seen the issue? Do you have a home practice? Do you practice in a studio setting? Do you loathe yoga - I know you folks are out there! (I frequently loathe yoga while I'm trapped in the moment :-)) Do share.