Inside Yoga 314 (2/2021)
We can wish for the perfect conditions in order to practice our yoga: silence, being alone in a room, and soft lighting, but it is not always possible to have an ideal set-up, and while most of practice our yoga at home during these lockdowns, we know it is unrealistic. But yoga carries on, because it can. We can adapt to our conditions, as I have seen over the past 10 months teaching people in their homes via the internet, yoga is possible in all kinds of spaces! And with the whole family under our feet (figuratively! Most of the time!).
We might say, “I can only practice if XYZ is in place…” but most of the time this is not going to happen, so drop the idea of perfection and ideal conditions. The answer is to reduce our expectations and work with what we have. And this view is not just for yoga, because I would go further, with regards the pandemic: drop all expectations and then disappoint in the future is less likely.
Practising yoga in challenging conditions offers us an importance lesson: it shows us how we can adapt and carry on, how we can brush off the difficulties and distractions and get the best out of what we are doing, whether it is yoga or other activities. Yoga trains us how to respond to daily life situations.
During past 10 months of lockdowns (all of them), trying to practice yoga at home has been a challenge for some of us. I have been impressed how the people I teach have adapted, adjusted and carried on with the lessons even when faced by the distractions of children, pets, other adults in their home, and the dreaded break in internet connection. And many with a smile!
Some have worked out how to squeeze their mat into the small rooms and practice surrounded by household objects – some call it clutter! I have watched people change room during practice to allow for the others in their home, carrying their device and yoga mat to another room. Looking for a quiet room! I have watched some practice in their hallway, carrying on as family members come and go. Stillness surrounded by movement!
There can be numerous distractions when at home, like the dreaded disconnection of internet service. Most get back quickly, some have finished off their practice if the break came at the end… either way, the practice carries on. There is also the delivery! Doors have to be answered and yoga practice resumed afterwards. It is all part of home life under lockdown!
And then there are our children! Bless them! I have seen how my yoga students have calmly stopped their practice to give attention to their child – from toddlers to teenagers they all seem to want something! From needing to play (this is the toddlers I am speaking of!), to asking for help with their phones or tablets, there have been countless times when I have seen a device thrust in front of a parent’s face, some tapping, a smile, child departs clearly with something sorted, and parent goes back to practice.
The younger children like to use the screen as a chance to pull faces or show me their toys. And in some cases they join in with the yoga: I encourage this as it is fun for the child and perhaps sows seeds for their future yoga practice! Most don’t stay for the whole class, but at least they get a taste.
Plus, some of us have pets! Some dogs want to be part of the yoga practice, and why not? There are the Downward/Upward Faced Dog postures, so who can blame them! Some dogs see nothing wrong with sitting down on the yoga mat, licking their owner’s face while they hold a posture, walking under or leaping onto them! One of my students has a large dog who thinks the yoga mat is hers and like clockwork joins her for class, lying sprawled across yoga mat, or licking her face and simply looking for attention! And she has carried on with a smile throughout.
Cats like to walk in front of the camera, as I have seen so many furry creatures block the screen for periods, as they wonder around their home. Of course, according to cats this is their territory not their owners! I have seen a kitten somehow tap the keys of a laptop and disconnect the owner from the class! Again, the owner returns and carries on with practice.
All this takes place as if part of a silent movie, because while teaching the sound is muted for all except for mine; so most of the time, I am the only one who sees all this, because everyone else has carried on with their yoga practice unaware of the distractions or interruptions another participant might have been experiencing! And that is how practice should be.
One of the most important lessons in yoga and Buddhism is that we train ourselves to respond to every rising phenomena or situation with equanimity, in other words, we seek to remain calm as we respond to whatever we are presented with, and if we happened to have been annoyed or unsettled, we return to calmness as soon as possible.
And this is why I am writing about all of the above observations, because our yoga practice during lockdown surrounded by family and pets might feel like a challenge, plus tested by technology, but why not see it is an opportunity to integrate yoga into home life.
Forget the perfect conditions, just practice. It will be worth it.
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