photo by gary barnes
When I was first starting out practicing yoga, an hour and a half of practicing yoga seemed like a really long time (truth be told, it still does. I still gravitate toward shorter classes, even 75 minute classes). I was that student sneaking out early. Sometimes it would be legitimate—I had to get back for a commitment. But more times than not, I was probably just feeling insecure in my practice, tired, and/or bored. BORED. And yet there were these incredible yogis twisting and bending in insane ways next to me. They were loving it. They were soaking it up.
The thing I realize now, after practicing yoga for about 10 years and training/teaching for about 2, is that I don’t need to twist and bend in insane ways to get the most out of a yoga class—though I could if I wanted to. (And, if I absolutely have to leave a yoga class early for a legitimate reason, I let the instructor know. Otherwise, if I’m not feeling the practice, I take it easy, do my own thing, or just spend more time in child’s pose or corpse pose). The point is, the poses don’t matter. The students next to me don’t matter. The instructor kind of matters (you want to appreciate who you’re listening to for 1-1.5 hours), but still, the instructor isn’t the practice. It is inside of me, and it is inside of you.
Yoga can either be a vacation from the chaos around me, or it can be an excruciating time where I am only with my thoughts (and my tight, stressed body). It really just depends on what I’m focusing on.
Things to focus on:
My breath, focusing on the inhale and exhale, perhaps even thinking the words “in” and “out” with each inhale and exhale.
The tightness in my body, but not in a judgy way, just in a recognizing way. Where is that tightness? How does it react if I consciously relax that part of my body? Or if I relax this other part of my body? What if I focus my breath into that area? Can I go a little deeper?
Lingering. What if I take my time in this transition?
Movement. What if I move my body in a different way in this pose? What if I sway, soften, loosen? How does that change the experience? How does that deepen my practice?
And now my question to you: What do you focus on when you’re practicing yoga (or running, or doing any other solo physical activity)? Tell me in the comments!