The new year is upon us and withthe new year comes new students eager to make a fresh start and give yoga a try. I love the energy of students who are new to yoga or new to the Iyengar method. After only one class of an eight week session, one of my new students asked me how will they ever remember all the instructions for the poses so they can practice at home. Well, he’s right. It is a tall order to try to remember all the details that are given in an Iyengar class. I liken learning Iyengar yoga to learning a new language or instrument. It takes considerable time and practice to learn a new discipline. I suggest not being concerned with remembering all the details, but when new, simply to practice the general shape of the pose and remember any special modifications I have given for their body, such as how to use a prop for a particular pose. Another suggestion is to remember two poses from each class, one that you like and one that you don’t and practice them each day until the next class. Do the same each week with two different poses, adding onto the previous week. By the end of an eight week session of classes, you will begin to build the foundation for a home practice. Repetition builds understanding and proficiency. I also refer students to my Resources page on my website where I have several home practices for level one and level two students. These practice sheets can be a helpful tool to see the shape of the pose and to have guidance in putting poses together in a sequence. I offer a free lending library at my studio with books, videos and magazines to support students learning.
To practice at home, one needs to call upon tapas. Tapas is one of the niyamas, which is one of the eight limbs in the philosophy of yoga. Tapas means discipline, fire, zeal, burning enthusiasm. Here’s what Fred Rogers says about the challenges of inner discipline, in his book The World According to Mr. Rogers,”I like to swim, but there are some days I just don’t feel much like doing it-but I do it anyway! I know it’s good for me and I promised myself I’d do it everyday, and I like to keep my promises. That’s one of my disciplines. And it’s a good feeling after you’ve tried and done something well. Inside you think, I’ve kept at this and I’ve really learned it-not by magic,but by my own work.”
There are many obstacles to a home yoga practice and reasons the mind will give you to not practice. One of mine lately is that it is mid-January. It’s cold outside and I just don’t feel much like moving! Most of the time, because I have a habit of practicing, whether I feel like it or not, I am able to make it to my mat. On some occasions, I must admit, I don’t make it to my mat. The remedy is simply waiting for the opportunity to practice the next day and applying a bit more tapas and making it to the mat. I am always glad I did and assure you, you will too!