why i practice privately

I am a class person.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t regularly engaged in group class, firstly as a dancer, then in yoga.  Yoga class was my first experience of spiritual connection within a group of strangers, and that communal joy of finding strength and movement together was something I never intended on leaving.  But when I joined my second teacher training in 2011, I found myself with a teacher and a practice made personally for me, which I was encouraged to do everyday, on my own. 

While the appearance of this new form of practice was unexpected, it was also perfectly timed.  A month into my training I found myself with a shoulder injury that made lifting my arms past my chest impossible.  I seemingly woke up with this injury out of nowhere.  I spent six months doing practices made for my injury, cutting back my normal, highly physical routine to mantras, visualization, breathing, and simple arm movements.

While my practice brought relief and helped me regain mobility, the experience of the injury was still hard to predict.  Over time, I realized my pain was connected to more than just muscles and tendons.  Pain would come and go, without reason.   What changed this was the moment when I fully embraced practicing privately.

Even though I was practicing on my own, I was still in the mindset of a group class, looking to my teacher as the leader.  I was practicing because I was instructed to do it, and because I thought that doing it would make something happen.  My mind was focused on figuring out the secret to healing that my teacher must know that I didn’t, somewhere hidden in my practice.  I was missing that this process was really about me, that I was responsible for it and capable of driving it.  The more encouragement I felt from my teacher, the more I felt that I could take care of myself. 
My teacher had laid down a path for me, and I was meant to walk it.  Practicing on my own, I could no longer wait for instruction from something outside of me, from a teacher talking me sweetly into savasana everyday.  I had to look into my own experience to find that inspiration, and to find direction.  And I am so thankful for that.

Sometimes, I like to think of this passage from Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.  To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed but lack of faith.  Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches.  Patience and faith.  One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach-waiting for a gift from the sea.

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photo by Larissa Kyzer