October 2019: On Practice

Today, 7am, on 02 October 2019

On Practice

I had such a wonderful time at Kia’s workshop in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. It is always beautiful to welcome my teacher in my home studio. She resets my practice and my love for it. Her pranayama session, and the philosophy she shared with us has particularly stayed with me. She said that progress in yoga practice is not measured by what happens on the mat but in our relationships.

After this, I began thinking about practice, about what is it that we do, and how careful and tender we need to be with it. Whatever we practice on the mat, we will get more of. Practice with stress, with haste, and we will get stress and haste. Practice competing with others, we will get competitiveness. Exercise compassion and you will be more compassionate.  The postures are not the goal; they are just the tools by which we transform ourselves.

Kia is coming back to Glasgow in March. You should come to practice with her. Get in touch with me if you are interested!

Laura x

What I have been thinking

What is practice? Many of you know that, before yoga, I danced (I still do!). Martha Graham, in her autobiography Blood Memory attempts a definition of practice: ‘To practice means to perform, in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.’ B.K.S. Iyengar defines it as a ‘dedicated, unswerving, constant, and vigilant search into a chosen subject, pursued against all odds in the face of repeated failures, for indefinitely long periods of time’. Of course, he is quoting Patanjali’s definition in the Yoga Sutras. For Patanjali, a practice is something involving effort, followed uninterruptedly for a long time with firm resolve, application, attention and devotion. Do you have all of these in your practice?

What I have been practicing

I teach in various places and it is not uncommon for me to practice next to my students at times, as I invite them to the Arlington, my home shala. I don’t see this as a problem.

My students have seen me practice when I was focused and aligned and they have seen me not to be able to finish my practice, they have seen me in pain (that pesky elbow last week), they have seen me laugh in practice (often) and sometimes also cry … They have seen me exhausted from teaching the night before, or practice gently and heart broken after bad news. They have seen Rosina give me a posture and getting it understood in one week, they are still seeing me struggle with a headstand. This is what practicing yoga (especially Ashtanga) is. All they see is a woman who comes to practice and does it as well as possible, as per capacity (yatha shakti), listening to what is going on and trying to do what is appropriate. And sometimes, not succeeding. They see a teacher who is a student. Someone who shows up and wants to go deeper, just like them.

I sometimes think social media is very problematic when it comes to yoga. While it helps us access teachings that were not available before, it shows too much achieving, impeccable photographs of impossible postures that have all the answers, bodily, mentally and spiritually. This is yoga on a pedestal, untouchable, out of reach, and difficult to sustain. This is not how it is. We all have limitations, bad days, crises, darkness, and by showing only one side, we are de-humanising and de-sensitising this all-encompassing practice. It is not honest. We are doing a disservice to many students. You know what I am talking about. People tell me they are not flexible enough to come to yoga class. We don’t need to be anything. We just need to turn up and practice.

I really love to share the practice from the mat next to my students. And when the ego attacks (as it does), when that demanding voice screams ‘students should not see this! you should be able to get this pose’, this is my work.

What I have been reading

I am loving the wisdom that comes from Mysore House Madrid’s Instagram (trust me, definitely not perfect poses, and all roses), especially this nugget on Pattabhi Jois’s famous saying ‘Practice and all is coming’:

Yes, I deeply believe that. But practice…. what? Just asana? Cause that’s what many people seem to interpret and I don’t believe that is the meaning and of that famous sentence.

Practice everything: no violence, honesty and authenticity, practice not taking anything you didn’t earn by your own effort, learn to manage wisely your energy, understand happiness is not outside and is not getting more….

Practice also niyamas, cleaning body and intentions, learn to value and honour everything you have, have discipline (based on common sense, not on rigidity) in your life, study to become wiser and go deeper and study yourself for the same reasons, and if you can’t surrender to the divine, see how you change if you try to practice the beautiful art of serving others, of putting others, sometimes, before you.

Practice all this and some postures too, whatever is appropriate for you at this moment, day by day…. Have all this in mind, do what you can day by day trying to have this yogic attitude present on every action you take and check what happens when you are aligned with them. That’s what practice means. Not just poses, that only opens the door. Just poses won’t transform yourself, only your body.

Precisely what Kia was telling us. More asana is just more asana, not better yoga …

And to that, I would add: you need to be ready for what the practice brings, because when you practice, ALL is coming: the good and the not so good. The challenges will clear but, before that, they have to appear first.


Monday Mornings  07.45 – 9.30
Tuesdays Evenings 18.25 – 20.30
Thursdays Mornings 07.45 – 9.30

Tuesday 29 October 17.00 – 18.15
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