Stop Telling Me What To Do: Personal Yoga Practice

Posted by on Feb 27, 2011 in Yoga | No Comments
Stop Telling Me What To Do: Personal Yoga Practice

Learn the secret that yoga teachers don’t want you to know, and set your practice free.

Would you do any of the following?

  • Play your guitar only when your teacher is directing you.
  • Balance your checkbook only in math class.
  • Go jogging only with your running coach.
  • Do yoga only in a group class.

Yoga has become such a hot commodity in the West that it’s fallen into the same marketing trap as other forms of exercise, like aerobics and spinning–people think they can only do it in a group class while a teacher is directing them.

If your guitar teacher asked you to pay him every time you wanted to play your guitar, you’d think he was scamming you.

So why do people only do yoga in a group class setting? Three reasons:

  • Fear or insecurity: If you’re new to yoga, trying to learn from a video or a book can be daunting. You may also be afraid that you’re doing the poses wrong or will hurt yourself.
  • Motivation: If you actually make it to the yoga studio, it’s difficult to lie down on your mat and check your email instead of practicing. Group motivation is a powerful factor in encouraging you to practice.
  • Habit: When you started taking yoga, it was probably in a group class setting. Several years later, in your mind yoga = group class. Habits like these are difficult to break.

In some yoga traditions, the group class doesn’t exist the way we think of it. Students have personal practices that are geared toward their level, needs and restrictions. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching yoga.

For example, if you have chronic back pain, your practice will be different from that of a healthy eighteen-year-old boy. Teachers may direct many students at one time, but the students work at their own pace while the teacher walks around to make adjustments or modifications to their practice.

If you take group classes regularly, you probably enjoy the energy level and music in the room. But developing a personal yoga practice doesn’t mean you have to give up group classes. In fact, once you have your own practice, you’ll be more confident doing yoga in a group setting.

Here are some reasons for developing a personal yoga practice:

  • Health: A personal practice is designed to fit your body. If you have injuries or restrictions, a yoga teacher can modify your practice to avoid further injury and to help you work through the physical problems.
  • Growth: Personal yoga practices are carefully designed to help you progress. If you work with a yoga teacher, he or she will adjust your practice as you move forward, in the same way a guitar teacher will offer you more challenging music to play.
  • Portability: Once you have a personal practice, you can do yoga anywhere. No more excuses about not being able to find a yoga studio near your hotel when you travel.
  • Confidence: As you become more familiar with your personal practice, you will move more confidently. You’ll also have a deeper understanding of yoga, because instead of following someone else’s words, you’ll be guiding yourself.

In the next post, we’ll look at ways to start developing a personal yoga practice and take control of your yoga.

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