Practicing yoga alone is an amazing adventure. There are aspects of home yoga practice which are so delightful. A controlled environment that you can choose yourself, whatever temperature, music, incense, lighting, tempo, sequence, pace, theme and style your little heart desires. And then there are some aspects of practicing solo that are arduous, roadblocks, speed bumps, detours and distractions on your path to Bliss. They too are a part of practice and prove to be fascinating obstacles and edges to work with as well.
Before I begin my yoga practice, I take inventory and scan myself internally. I feel two tensions: one is the tension of procrastination tugging, a Tamasic state of inertia begging to stay inert, “let’s just check the phone one more time” or “how about another tea first?” The other tension is one of distracted excitement, a bubbling up of energy that has yet to be directed. It rattles and bangs against my nerves feeling trapped by lack of expression and erratically pulsing with pure Rajasic restlessness. And let’s be honest, perhaps there’s a little too much morning green tea or coffee percolating through my human form? There are stories of thoughts forming and whirling, I observe myself engaging in a dramatic mental dilemma as to whether or not I’ll be able to overcome my laziness and/or find the ability to center, focus and calm down. This is all in my mind.
Neither of these two energies feels like a friend, an ally, a tool, or a supportive sense of assistance in my effort to get on the mat and do my thing. It feels like a struggle, and even a fight to get to the mat. If I examine this more closely, I recognize the underlying element of fear. Fear comes up, the fear that initiates the biochemical fight or flight response in my glands, blood, bones, heart, nervous system. All of this resistance starts just because I began thinking about getting on the yoga mat. Just the idea of a little discipline, effort, delving into my yoga practice is met with so much resistance. The hilarious cosmic joke is that I absolutely love, adore, and cannot imagine living without yoga! I am not sure any of this makes sense, and that is okay because yoga has taught me to live with paradoxes.
I make the tea. I drink the tea. I wash dishes. I wash my face. I apply coconut oil to my skin to wake it up and give warmth with gentle massage to my arms, chest, face and if there’s plenty of time to my spine, legs and feet as well. Maybe I turn on music. Maybe I film my yoga session just so I can replay it later and re-witness/remember the practice from an outside perspective. Chant a few prayers, and/or take a moment to dedicate the merits of my practice somehow, maybe just a couple conscious, sacred breaths to begin.
And it is time. I sit on the mat. I breathe. I arrive. I center. I notice. Wow. Okay, here we go, one breath at a time. Within minutes I become absorbed with sensations of stretching, “Ah yes, this is right. This feels so good. I love yoga.” Next come the runaway thought trains. I observe the process of my mind getting on runaway thought trains, followed by getting caught on tracks to the past and/or future. “Oh no, where did you go? This is hopeless. I can’t. Just go get a latte.” Finally, a deeper layer of tension disperses and the ease of a tender, forgiving, spacious, loving awareness is available in the present moment. You are here. Good job coming back, to be here – now. Why not stay? Here, in the now?
It is so lovely in the present, back to breath, back to arriving, and actually, directly experiencing feeling more centered. Now I’m watching thoughts go by like leaves in a stream. I am in the flow. I am the flow. The sensations of stretching in the body are feeling easier, sweeter, hypnotic and expansive as I continue to meld mind, body and breath. It’s not that I won’t go through more rounds of distracting thoughts, but I won’t grasp or push at them (so much). Their power to hook me will fade, meanwhile every other sense in my being becomes more awakened, enlivened and charged with prana. A state of equanimity is being cultivated with the practice of acceptance. This creates the right environment for body, mind and soul to combine forces as yoga instruments where incredible, mystical union can, and does occur.
Now I am dropping deep into savasana. It feels like a return home. It is the place I can clearly remember the beauty and special gift of this precious life, the blessings of this incarnation. I realize to have a life is such a privilege and an honor. I have been on a yoga adventure and now I remember what it is like to have calmness pervade the space between my cells. Stillness. My mind is clear, my body’s energy has been tempered, balanced with both stimulation and relaxation and it’s time to watch myself resting and not doing. Aaaaaahhhhh. Ommmmmmm.
Waking up from savasana, is always like, “Dang, it worked again!” I feel the genuine and authentic gratitude and joy for yoga, for my life, for everything, for every little thing. It’s a magical feeling. It is always there, but it gets covered up, blurred and even lost in the shuffle of all the other things in life that are also real and true, and the amount of information/stimulation that our senses are subject to on a daily basis. This state of harmony and knowing contentment is Sattvic. There are no tricks, nor lasting shortcuts to this state. Yoga practice takes you there as a simple result of practice. It is clarity, and a state of non-attachment that allows us to be with things as they are, without attraction or repulsion, and including the paradoxes. We feel connected, and a part of rather than the pain of separation. Even the ability to accept that the harmonious Sattvic state will not last permanently is a deeper layer of non-attachment. That way we do not cause suffering by clinging to the sweet feeling. Impermanence also applies to the Tamasic and Rajasic states, in fact all three of the Gunas are constantly, dynamically in play with one another from the gross to the subtle. Our goal as yogis is to be able to simply observe the Gunas, acting on the Gunas.
If the Gunas are unknown or new to you, or you have never quite understood their meaning, it is highly recommended to spend a little time researching and delving into the study of the Gunas. Two great resources for insights and wisdom are:
-Richard Freeman’s book, The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind
-Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita
And in the spirit of staying true to your yoga practice, whether you practice by yourself, or with others, I will happily share the best advice for yoga success that Richard Freeman would give us students at the end of just about every class or offering. He would say, with a big smile, “Practice every day. Practice all day.”
Good Luck Yogis and Yoginis and Practice On!
Aimee Joy Nitzberg has been an avid lover of yoga since her first classes back in Boulder, CO in 2000. She knew she had a problem when she was skipping out of work to go to yoga class. She decided to plunge in, quit her job and set off on an incredible adventure which has included daily practice and working full-time in the yoga field for almost 20 years. This opened up great opportunities to study with extraordinary, masterful teachers and to travel around the world. She loves sharing yoga as a way of serving and honoring the grace of all the gifts that she has received, and as one of her favorite ways to connect and share with others. Currently, she resides in South Lake Tahoe with her mountain man and spends as much time outdoors as possible with their yogi doggie.