Thursday, December 13, 2012

Practicing Yoga Pradipika Style: The Place The Space

12. The Yogi should practice Hatha Yoga in a small room, situated in a solitary place, being 4 cubits square, and free from stones, fire, water, disturbances of all kinds, and in a country where justice is properly administered, where good people live, and food can be obtained easily and plentifully.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika
by Svatmarama, 15th century CE,

So it's probably fair to say that 15th century India was probably a little different from 21st century New York City. Except maybe the small rooms portion. And the easily attainable and plentiful food, as any New Yorker that finds themselves hungry at 2am craving shawarma and warm pita knows dearly!

But how similar can a 21st century yoga practice be?

Any yoga teacher will tell you that it is important to have a home practice. So maybe it wont be as vigorous as your classroom regiment, or maybe it will be a time to work on those effortless jump backs, but that can only evolve once we have the place. Sometimes finding the place can be a yoga practice in itself.

My space is a room in my apartment that is slightly larger than a closet but too small to be much of anything else. Fortunately my yoga mat fits perfectly. A friend of mine uses the corner of her living room, while another practices in his hallway, because that is the only place in his tiny apartment where he has enough space to open his mat all the way. 

Originally the room was cluttered with storage- boxes, sports equipment, coats, and what not. This is when I learned that yoga is sometimes practiced by cleaning up your life- literally. Over time (because some things should take time) I went through things, throwing away some things while reorganizing others. Also finding important things that get lost over time! Soon fitting a mat became possible, but I still had trouble committing. I started out with just 5 minutes at a time at least twice a week. I would play meditation music to help me relax or sometimes just read something inspirational to keep me focused. I also would draw or write in my journal. I even would just practice the same pose over and over just to better understand it.

Overtime it became more accessible.  I actually yearned for my private space. It became my refuge to help put my pieces together after a long day or prepare myself before I left in the morning. I even setup a little alter. Right now there are just a few picture and quotes I feel connected to along with my mala beads. This helps it to feel more special and sacred even though it's just a few floor boards in New York. It has become my little piece of bliss on my own private mountain.

I leave my mat out all the time because I never know when I'm going to have a moment. Sometimes I have a short asana practice (I seem to have a 20 minute attention span when not in class) or maybe I will just sit quietly on a pillow. What my spirit needs from day to day changes so I try to stay receptive to that. There have been days that I just stay in Savasana the entire time and that was exactly what I needed!

The Pradipika recommends a room, but I think any where that is personal, and private for you can be your solitary place. It is recommended in the morning because the air is "clean and cool", but it is important to find the time and place that is best for you so that is actually happens! Just roll out your mat and the rest will happen!

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