Since last Thursday, when I announced my holiday break, I’ve learned that some readers thought it was time off from yoga in general.
Oh dear, no!
I’m only taking time away from teaching.
We all go on practicing, don’t we?
Perhaps we’re a little less diligent when the parties and holiday errands come on full force. But practice is what makes me feel good, physically and emotionally, so stopping completely isn’t an option.
Here’s a secret weapon for keeping your practice alive in a break: practice buddies.
Let me introduce the woman with the unmistakable yoga glow in the photo above, Baya Hammoudi.
Baya and I are in the same Jr. I assessment in Vancouver in January, so we have, of late, been coming together on Friday mornings, sometimes by ourselves, usually with others, to practice and prepare.
(Baya has her own studio, at 2275 West 10th Avenue in Vancouver, and teaches four classes a week. On Tuesday nights at 5:30, she teaches a level one class in French. Get in touch with her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I also practice, whenever I can, with Gerie Primeran0, who is going for assessment in February. We work through a practice that includes all of the poses on the Jr. I syllabus in its gnarly two hours.
Why secret weapon?
On a gray winter day, when it seems as though the rain will never stop and the days will never start getting longer again, a practice buddy gets you on your mat and keeps you going.
At that point near the end of the practice when all that looks appealing is Savasana, a somewhat magical effect kicks in.
Two equally tired people, who, on our own, might easily give in to fatigue, will joke, complain, groan and sigh, but we keep going. And when it’s all over, our bodies are profoundly glad we did.
A few thoughts on practice buddies:
• The best practice buddy is a friend you go to class with, because you’re both familiar with the style and the poses you’re studying. But any willing practice buddy is better than none.
• Decide what you want to practice ahead of time. Save yourself last-minute indecision. You can find a good beginning practice on the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria website.
If you can cope with Sanskrit names, check out the practice sequences in my Sadhana blog posts from last July. There’s one for forward bends, backbends, twists and restorative.
• One of the joys of a practice, as opposed to a class, is that you can hold the pose for as long as you like, or do your difficult side twice in a two-sided pose. So have a structure, but let yourself modify it.
• If you see something you think you might correct in your buddy’s pose, resist the urge, unless you have an explicit invitation. Practice is a time for looking inward. Take any urge you might feel to offer corrections as a sign that you’re not fully involved in your own work.
• Try to set a regular time and place. It’s just easier to say “Tuesdays at 7:30” than to negotiate a new time every week. But if all you can manage for now is a session or two over the break, rejoice anyway. A practice buddy is a precious jewel.
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Today’s Bite-Sized Random Acts of Yoga fell onto the table like a little gift from heaven. Each one of these poses has one straight leg, which means you can link the actions of the straight leg all the way through.
In Janu Sirsasana, I particularly like the action of pulling the quadriceps of the straight leg thigh toward the hip crease because it brings stability to the pelvis. Pulling the head of the thighbone on the straight leg deeper into the hip socket works too, and those actions also support the pose in Utthita Parsva Hasta Padangusthasana II and Virabhadrasana III.
Of course buttocks drawing away from the back waist, side chest lifting and shoulder blades moving down are all, as usual, there in all three poses.