This morning, i made a pillow fort. I mean, it was for my yoga practice, at least that´s the label i´m using right now. I piled up the couch cushions, added any other soft furnishing until it was ridiculously high enough to simply - um, what´s the technical term for this - “flop” onto it.
So here we are. Since my first yoga class in 2001, my relationship with yoga has been ever evolving. Even in the times i couldn´t stand getting on the mat and so, well, didn´t. And look where that´s got me. Pillow forts. And i love and appreciate that very much.
And I wondered, as i flopped and rolled over said pillows, what is it that keeps me coming back to this “practice”?
I heard a(nother) yoga horror story this week. Someone was in a flow class and was really tired and needed to rest. But the teacher told them not to, barking that it wasn't “a yin class” and therefore one should “make an effort” meaning “no child's pose or resting allowed”.
I´m so haunted and damaged from hearing and experiencing so many of these forceful and rigid ideas about yoga. About whether you´re allowed to have a drink or a rest or a bathroom visit. And at times, in truth, i´m reluctant to even call my classes “yoga”. I don´t want to be associated with this negative and limited idea about what yoga is or isn´t or how you should look or behave.
I usually start my public yoga sessions by reminding people that it´s their practice. Sidenote: i definitely endorse naps/breaks/whatever you need to do.
I don´t like to tell people what their yoga is, because to me, it´s a really personal thing. I think it´s wonderful to practice in a class or workshop setting as well as alone at home rolling over a pillow fort or doing whatever it is you need to do. I value both because they are different. Just like the practice itself.
I´m often asked about how to start a home practice, and i´m (ever) frank about the difficulty i had in starting mine. It. took. me. years. But that´s because I resisted so long and got caught in the trap of labels and other people´s ideas about what my practice "should" be. I had ideas in my head that a practice had to somehow emulate a public yoga class. Or include such and such a sequence. Or be so long.
But this isn´t true. Your practice is your practice. It should reflect who you are.
If you find it taking a long walk in the rain up in the mountains, start with that. If you are more prone to parklife, go there. If staying home and dancing in the bathroom is more your mood, begin there. If it´s pausing to mindfully make a cup of tea then do that! Perhaps it´s laying on the sofa PMSing. That´s a great start too!
Some days, my practice is laying on my floor with a makeshift eye pillow (a towel or blanket works like magic!).
Other days, taking a dynamic flow whilst watching The Bachelor is how i roll.
Sometimes it´s breathwork when i´m waiting to cross a road.
Others it´s a seated meditation for 20 minutes because i´m appreciating not moving for a bit.
I (clearly) love props, especially “weird” ones, but i don´t always use them.
I love gentle restorative yoga as well as dynamic explorative flow and everything in between.
I dig static as well as fluid.
Some days chanting works, others (most) i sing along to 90s r&b.
Sidenote: i´m really into isolating hip movements whilst listening to soca whilst fantasising about Notting Hill Carnival this year and sometimes that is part of my practice too.
I love to float in the sea equally as much as walking barefoot on poop-free grass.
My point? I appreciate it all because it´s my practice. That means, in order for it to be authentic and true to me, i have to listen deep to what i need. If it´s been a hectic day and i´m cream crackered, dinner from a trough in bed then resting and/or sleeping might be best. If i´m full of beans or anxious, movement helps me to find a focus for that energy. This of course is very general but you get the gist.
You are what´s vital to a home practice. You know what you need - and if you don´t, perhaps your practice is creating the conditions to listen for and act on that. Sidenote: i often get the best stokes of inspiration whilst showering/dancing or fantasising about food…. (i´ll try not to make this week too food focussed!) or first thing in the morning - before getting caught up in the to-do´s.
I am (eventually) getting to the crux. That is:
Trust your instincts.
Don´t be afraid to question things.
Experiment and have fun with objects (doors and beds and poles and pebbles are your friends!) or not!
Your thing doesn't have to look like anyone else's.
Stay true to you.
Whether you´re in class or at home, listen to what you need and give yourself the gift of your own unique practice.
It´s your yoga.
I´m ever-rooting for you!
illustration by Polly Nor