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My guide to home yoga practice? On its way.

home yoga practice book.ganesh1

I've taken on a big task, so I'm bringing in reinforcements.

Last Sunday morning before teaching, I was browsing through BKS Iyengar’s Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom
looking for a quote about my current practice obsession, the centre line.

I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I stopped in my tracks when I read this:

“I sometimes tell my pupils that the practice they do in yoga class is not, strictly speaking, yoga practice. The reason for this is that in a class, although you are undoubtedly “doing” and, hopefully, learning, you are subordinate to the teacher. The directing intelligence comes from him, and you follow to the best of your ability.

“At home, on the other hand, it is your own intelligence that is the master, and the progress that you make is yours, and will be maintained.”

Ah yes, home practice.

I’ve been meaning to write a guide to home yoga practice for more than 20 years now, prompted by my own experience of how revolutionary just one small practice, pursued daily, could be.

Without a home practice, you remain on one side of the divide, never really claiming the work as your own. Establish a practice, no matter how small, and yoga begins to transform your relationship with your body and your mind.

It’s a bit like someone who wants to play the piano, but can’t maintain a practice: they’ll never be the one playing carols at the Christmas party.

The purpose of my book would be to offer a helping hand to everyone who knows the value of a daily yoga practice, but still finds it hard to do. It wouldn’t be a practical guide, in the sense of detailed descriptions of the poses and tips on how to do them. Instead it would be a practice guide: an aid to starting, maintaining and enriching your practice.

You do indeed meet your Self on the mat, a Friend, if you like, who can be with you even when the day comes when your practice consists only of drawing one conscious breath after another.

guide to home yoga practice: pipal ganesh

Ganesh constructed from leaves of the Pipal tree

In the meantime, what do you do when your Friend stops showing up and your practice turns dry? How do you get over not knowing what to practice and how? How do you tune in to the inner voice that is supposed to guide you?

I doubt that I’m the only one among us who has a book they’d like to write. In fact, as years go by, ideas for books accumulate, and never go away.

I haven’t written this one for all the mundane reasons. I’m too busy. I start and then lose steam. I let other things come in the way. There are other obstacles, of course, pale, crawly things that live under the rock of resistance.

One of them is the voice of doubt, that asks: “Who needs it?“

The answer, of course, is me.

I write about setting up a practice precisely because it doesn’t come easily. I’m not a former gymnast, dancer, or fitness instructor. I live a normal North American life, with a family, a studio to help run, a deep love of food and cooking, a tendency to read late into the night in the grip of a good book, and, to be frank, a love of idleness and lolling around.

But there it was, Iyengar’s pronouncement on the importance of home practice. If I have plans to write a guide to home yoga practice, it seems I ought to get to it.

So I’ve set an intention: over the coming year, I will write at minimum a first draft of a book-length guide to starting and maintaining a home yoga practice.

I’ve been thinking more about this for the past several months, ever since my friend and former editor, Daphne Gray-Grant, started planning a year-long program called Write a Book With Me.

guide to home yoga practice: ganesh riding rat

Ganesh riding his rat.

I’ve written two cookbooks with Daphne’s help and encouragement, Five-Star Food in 1993, and Six O’Clock Solutions in 1995. She was also my editor for most of the food essays Whitecap published as Eating My Words in 2003. I know how useful it is to have her clarity available, and her way of turning mountains into rocks of a quite manageable size.

Prompted by Iyengar’s words, I’m going to jump in, and do the program. (Yes, I get the friend’s rate.)

I’ve already started preparing.

I cleared my desktop, and brought my three favorite Ganesh images together to face me as I write. Auspicious at the start of any new venture, always the remover of obstacles, Ganesh is one of the yogis’ favorite gods.

My Pipal-leaf Ganesh is from a temple in Goa. I bought lounging-on-a-leaf Ganesh in a shop in Pune, a few blocks away from the Iyengar Institute. And riding-on-a-rat Ganesh came from Banyan books, Vancouver’s spiritual bookstore.

Even multiplied by three, he’ll have his work cut out for him. Patanjali, the compiler of The Yoga Sutras, lists the obstacles in the way of yoga practice. They include doubt, laziness and indolence – three of my specialties.

In fact, I’m thinking of adding Saraswati for backup. She’s the goddess of wisdom, whose symbols include an inkpot with pen and books.

In the meantime, I plan to post here every two weeks. And I’ll let you know how it’s going with the book.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Judy Russell PT September 29, 2013, 10:25 am

    So glad you are back. Judy

  • tru September 28, 2013, 10:18 am

    I recently started just doing half sun salutations as part of my work to rehab my feet and ankles (I have Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis). I started with 5 a day. Then 10 a day. Then 10 two times a day. Starting today I’ve gone up to 15 two times a day and it dawned on me that I finally have a home practice after years of shoulding on myself about it.

    I look forward to your book – I’ll be queuing up to add it to my collection! Bravo on your adventure.

    • Eve September 28, 2013, 10:26 am

      Hey Tru,
      Congratulations! Funny how some things you really want can sneak up on you. Pain is a great motivator for establishing a practice, isn’t it?

      • tru October 1, 2013, 4:58 pm

        Indeed it is. I took my first day off in over two weeks yesterday and I couldn’t wait to get back to it today!

        Also, the Leaf Ganesh is speaks so deeply to me. I found a sticker in a store in Boulder several years ago and keep it tucked away in a notebook.

  • Barbara September 24, 2013, 7:32 pm

    Thanks for this. I will keep re-reading it over and over to keep me on track. But first, of course I have to GET on track. Clearing my desks (I live in two places which makes it all the more challenging) and buying my own Ganesh and Saraswati will be a beginning, and getting myself on to my mat every day just to be with me. Making the time, not finding the time is the key for me! I love your Ganesh – I spent 4 years in Goa (back in the day). Good luck. I will check in every now and then…

  • June September 24, 2013, 3:03 pm

    Hi Eve,
    Here is a weird question. Would you consider making your home practice guide in the form of a game as well?
    I know you have mentioned books by Kelly McGonigal on your blog (Willpower). I just learned last week that she has a twin sister, Jane McGonigal. I watched Jane’s TED talk long ago, but only realized last week the sisterly connection. (Jane and Kelly together here explaining the Thank you game http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlQl_NNN3Ek)

    My first question will make more sense if you watch Jane’s TED talk

    Jane, a video game designer, in response to dealing with a severe concussion, created a game “Superbetter”. You are the superhero and you set for yourself a goal, “an epic win”. My goal was a daily yoga practice. My playing of the game kind of fizzled for me because I did not do all the steps including inviting actual people to be your allies-just like your suggestions in your previous posts to enlist practice buddies. In the game there are Quests (one of mine is to do a 5 minute yoga practice), Power-ups, Bad Guys. You do these small steps in real life and keep track of it in your game. There are Power Packs like “Rest Easy” for those battling insomnia. You can also write your own Quests, Power-Ups and Bad Guys.
    Perhaps you could write a Power Pack for a home practice.
    I was too shy to ask anyone to be my ally before, but I will try again. I am still working on my home practice. It is getting easier. It is a work in progress and I suppose it will always be.

    Thank you for your blog! I have used many ideas myself and with my class. I am glad to know that I am not alone in finding the home practice to be a challenge. Thank you for commitment,time and effort it takes to write informative and thoughtful blog entries and all with a friendly tone.

    Good luck with the book!

  • Loura September 22, 2013, 9:11 am

    Hi Eve,
    I miss your blog and I am so glad that you are back writing again. Your words are a great inspiration for students and fellow teachers alike. Home practice is a commitment and discipline, it can be challenging to keep. I am looking forward to your book and pre-ordering it….

  • Joanne Laverman September 21, 2013, 9:50 pm

    Hi Eve,

    So happy you are back on the blog and also very excited about the book you are going to write. Going to the yoga class is the easy task but doing and staying with a home yoga practice is so hard. So needless to say I can not wait for your book and your updates.

    Take care,


    • Eve September 21, 2013, 10:47 pm

      Great to hear from you. And thanks for the encouraging words.

  • Donna September 21, 2013, 10:43 am

    Hello Eve,
    Nice to see you there. Here is a link to hum along with as you write.
    Sending lots of love and Inspiration your way


    • Eve September 21, 2013, 6:18 pm

      Hey Donna,
      Good to hear from you, and thanks for the link. I think I need that on a loop, playing softly in the background. . . . . Love to you too.

  • Anne September 21, 2013, 10:37 am

    Mr.Iyengar’s quote hit home for me too. I have been going to yoga class once a week for almost ten years, but have never been able to maintain a home practice! No space, no time, no energy, etc. Funny enough, the same obstacles block by path to a regular drawing/painting practice. Maybe the one will encourage the other…

    I will look forward to your bi-weekly postings!

    • Eve September 21, 2013, 6:19 pm

      Hi Anne,
      Thanks for your comment. I think you’re right: the obstacles that prevent a home yoga practice are the same ones that block almost every practice. And I do think that one feeds the other.

  • Vicki Robichaud September 21, 2013, 7:30 am

    So glad you are back. I have missed your weekly “five minute yoga”. I look forward to your book.

    • Eve September 21, 2013, 6:19 pm

      Thanks Vicki – and thanks for letting me know you missed the blog.

  • Liz September 21, 2013, 5:16 am

    Thanks Eve for a very interesting and truthful post. I use to be very disciplined in my practice. However the past few years its like, just so challenging to do as I come home exhausted, too busy, whatever?? You are an inspiration to refocus and challenge myself!! I’m with you all the way………. Thanks

    • Eve September 21, 2013, 6:23 pm

      Hey Liz,
      Good to have you along on the journey.
      We do seem to go in and out of phases of finding it easier or more difficult to practice. A writer friend of mine says he never thinks about finishing, but keeps looking for the next time he can start again. Not exactly the same as yoga practice, since there’s no “finishing” involved, but I do think the idea of being alert for the moment we can start again is a good one.

  • Mary September 21, 2013, 4:56 am

    “Who needs it?” you ask? Well, I know I’ll be eagerly waiting for your book… and thousands of others, I’m sure!

    • Eve September 21, 2013, 6:23 pm

      Hey thanks, Mary.
      That’s wonderful encouragement.

  • Barb Doran September 20, 2013, 8:59 pm

    Looking forward to reading your book.

    • Eve September 20, 2013, 10:53 pm

      Me too, Barb. One of the scariest things is that I don’t quite know yet what it says. Thanks for your support.

      • Barb Doran September 22, 2013, 8:12 am

        Just write from the heart. The words will come.

  • Wendy Tang September 20, 2013, 8:26 pm

    Your writing is so connected to me. Love you. Am doing home practice now. Count me in to your waiting list of your year- long program book. Thank you.

    • Eve September 20, 2013, 10:54 pm

      How sweet of you. I’ll read your words again when I need encouragement.

  • Terra September 20, 2013, 6:07 pm

    Talk about setting an intention!
    You are an inspiration.

    I will be cheering you on as I read your blogs telling us of the unfolding.

    • Eve September 20, 2013, 10:55 pm

      Thanks Terra. I’m feeling a bit nervous about it all. . . .Good to have you on my side.