10 plus years after my first yoga class, I’ve started a solo practice. It happened sort of organically (okay, with a small tech fail assist). One morning my Wi-Fi gave out just as I was queuing up YouTube. I really wanted to practice, and so I did. Alone. Free form.
My Wi-Fi is now back up, but I haven’t gone back to YouTube. I’ve stayed with my new solo gig. And as grateful as I am to all the wonderful instructors I’ve had over the years—those inimitable humans who held space and yoga blocks and legs cranked aloft in scorpion pose—I can say that I’ve learned more over the past few weeks than in those thousands of hours in class.
I don’t show up in any gear. I don’t even use my mat. I wear my rumpled pajamas and I spread out over the expanse of living room that faces my small deck, the willows beyond that dip into the water running through my apartment complex.
I make it up as I go along, and God how my body moves.
How to describe this movement? It is imperfect and it is also without flaw. Like arriving somewhere new, but with the same old poses. And for the first time in the history of my yoga journey, it is not performance based whatsoever.
I do not gauge my pigeon poses for their depth. My side planks are not assessed for their duration or strength and my wild thing is probably pretty tame. If I go up for a headstand, and if I manage to hold it for micro seconds before sinking back to the carpet, the unfolding upwards is itself a revelation. I am rooting my head into the earth as my core shakes with a seismic y e s. Yes, there is nowhere to go. Yes, there is nowhere to get to. These are the sloppiest headstands I have ever attempted, and there is no judgment.
This is love that teaches as it moves.
Maybe the biggest lesson in this deeply personal new practice has come in the form of anticipation. Without an instructor guiding my flow, I have become the guide and my mind is only too happy to jump in and take on this role. With each pose I can feel the next pose arising, dance-like, and suddenly there is my eager puppy mind that will do anything to run for the stick, even if I haven’t thrown it yet. At first this drives me crazy.
Stay here! I tell puppy mind. BE PRESENT.
Whoopee! it barks back. WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO NEXT??
This is the real opportunity in my solo yoga practice, the gift. Without a class or instructor to perform for, I am stripped to myself and my practice and the wandering, scampering flit of my mind. Where will I put my awareness? On the puppy going for the next pose? Or on this pose and its shape, my breath going in and out?
After days of this kind of questioning, the answer that comes is as surprising as my new solo adventure.
I will give my active, energized, delighted-to-please puppy mind a job that fits it beautifully. I will let it bring me back to me, and this is where I focus.
As puppy mind dashes away from my camel pose toward an upcoming child’s pose, I let it go and I tell it to bring me the stick. The stick is my sense of returning to myself, again and again from then to now. That delicious liminal space is absolute magic because it shows me how free I am of time. I am the running, the movement. The space between the poses, and the pauses between the bottom and top of the breath.
I keep pointing myself toward this returning rather than toward the next moment or this moment (which has already passed, if you think about it). Again and again the puppy runs as I watch it bring me the stick. Joyfully. Lovingly. And just like love, I could do this all day.