The 12 Fears and Joys of Self-Practice

Of all the yoga styles I’ve tried, only Ashtanga has “mysore” or a practice where one does the sequence at his/her own pace. My experience with Vinyasa is that Teacher Pio always leads; most of the time, even the breathing is led. Yes, in a way we’re pampered =D

Last week, Teacher brought up to the class the idea of “group self-practice” that is, each student would do the standard sequence of poses on his/her own (e.g. surya namaskara), following his/her own pace, while the teacher does adjustments. At some point of the sequence, the non-beginners would be doing a set of poses different from that of the beginners, enabling them “move on the next level” (if there is such a thing in yoga).  One of the students was adamant with his stand: we are here to relax and if we do yoga on our own, we have to think…and thinking is what we are already doing all day…and we are here because we want a teacher….

He reminded me of myself when I was just starting out. Once Teacher asked if we know already the sequence and I readily replied “no” (oops, sorry, I lied). “Kasi pag sinabi kong oo you’ll let us practice on our own…ayoko ngang mag-isip.” (Bratty ‘no?) But as I pressed on to my journey, I discovered the fears, and then the joys, of self-practice.

Fear #1. I might forget what comes next thus interrupting the flow…and worse, I might not remember it no matter how hard I try and thus just stop the practice altogether.

Fear #2. Chances are, I would commit mistakes (e.g. skipping the other side) and that’s awful.

Fear #3. I might not do the counting right (even if it’s normally only up to 4 breaths!).

Fear #4.I might look funny…

Fear #5.…and the class would notice…

Fear #6.…while the teacher is looking.

(if done at home)

Fear #7. I might fall or injure myself or have an asthma attack and nobody’s there to help me or bring me to the hospital.

Fear #8. I might be doing it wrong and nobody would correct me.

Fear #9. I will not do as well if I were in a class…see, I am not sweating enough!

Fear #10. I don’t have space and time…and background music, proper lighting, full-body mirror…so I couldn’t do it.

Fear #11. People at home (or even my dog or a phone call) would certainly interrupt my practice.

Fear #12. I would not be able to enter into relaxation without the teacher’s instructions during savasana.


Joy #1. I could follow my own breath.

Joy #2. I could stay in a pose (and even repeat it) for as long as I want.

Joy#3. I have the luxury of time to check and correct my alignment.

Joy #4. I could give more attention to the poses and thus identify my strengths and what needs improvement.

Joy #5. I could overcome my fears of self-practice.

(if done at home)

Joy#6. I could do my friend poses.

Joy #7. I could skip my enemy poses.

Joy#8. I could explore a pose to deepen it or try out the new ones I learned from the previous sessions or from a magazine/DVD less Fears #4 to #6.

Joy #9. I could move to child’s pose (or any restorative pose) when I feel the need for it.

Joy #10. I could always move against the wall to help me do a pose right without distracting anyone.

Joy #11. Nobody (else) would pass gas.

Joy #12. From savasana, I could go straight to slumber (less the fear of being left behind in the studio).


Feel free to add to this list!



11 thoughts on “The 12 Fears and Joys of Self-Practice

  1. Although in ashtanga, led class isn’t recommended for beginners as it can be really tough, in most vinyasa-style approach, led class is a good way to introduce people to yoga. Most people want to be “led” into doing the poses… no thinking necessary… you simply follow the leader… like in an aerobics class. If one is looking for a “workout”, then I guess the led class is good for them.

    In the beginning, yes, there is a need to think and memorize the sequence, one needs to put in some effort. Though once learned, it becomes a part of you and you simply flow into it.

    People do not have the same breath capacity so the benefit of yoga may not be 100% gained in a led class.

    While traditional exercises work on the musculo-skeletal systems, yogasanas work on those systems plus the nervous system.

    While the aim of traditional exercises is to strengthen the muscular and cardio-respiratory systems, the aim of yogasanas is to use only the necessary muscles to maintain the pose and then work on the nervous system by focusing and relaxing the breath.

    If one approaches yoga from the exercise point of view, then a led class would be enough. However, if one wants to learn more and move further into the journey, a self-paced practice is necessary. It allows time for self-reflection not to mention it allows the teacher to personalize the practice according to one’s needs and capacity.

    If one is still not convinced, one has to think of a self-paced class as “group personal training”. People have their own programs and do different things in one room. The personal trainer is present to check if they’re doing it correctly or not and assist them in those heavy reps.

  2. I had all those fears too, before I found Ashtanga.

    “Fear #9. I will not do as well if I were in a class…see, I am not sweating enough!”
    I actually sweat more when I do self-practice because my breaths tend to be slower and so I hold the poses longer. Also, because I can focus more on my alignment and breathing, my vinyasa is slower. Slow, controlled movement is actually more of a workout!

    “Joy#6. I could do my friend poses.
    Joy #7. I could skip my enemy poses.”
    I’m tempted to do this, but I read somewhere that your enemy poses are actually the ones you most need.

    ..and may I add

    Joy #13. It’s mine. Something to cherish that is my very own. 🙂

    Great list, Chona! See you tomorrow!

  3. Thanks Jon and Avril! With your insights I hope more yogins will be convinced and inspired to do self-practice in or out of the studio.

    “your enemy poses are actually the ones you most need” — uhum, I’ve heard that several times over (from teacher who else! 😉 ) and that the best way to get rid of your enemy is to befriend him/her. Pero wala sa ashtanga series ang enemy poses ko, ha ha!

    If you’ll do only 8 suryas tomorrow, you’ll get to pay Php2,000 more–joke! 😉

  4. Naku, eh pano na yung katulad ko na Bikram ang foundations — lahat ng galaw at absence of galaw eh naka-program sa dialogue ng teacher. Naalala ko yung first ashtanga class ko with Manju Jois. He just called out the name of the posture. Naka-time delay ako sa poses ko kasi titignan ko muna yung mga katabi ko before I get to the pose and then I’d hold it longer after they get out of the pose kasi panonoorin ko kung ano yung next pose bago ako mag move to the pose. Haha. Buti nalang understanding ang classmates ko nun kaya wala naman nagpakita ng hostility sa kin. Pero, ayan, parang synchronized yoga ang kinalabasan ko nun! Hahaha.

    If I find myself in a mysore class, baka maging ala freestyle dancing ang labas ng practice ko nun — mag-iimbento ako ng postures! Muwahahaha.

  5. Crissy, wag kang mag-alala. Kasi sa Mysore class… mememorizin mo muna yung surya A and B bago ka tuturuan ng teacher ng next pose. Kapag madali ka magmemorize, pwedeng buong standing sequence ka kaagad on the first day… hehehe. the poses are given to you one at a time. The teacher teaches you the next move… then you repeat it 3-5 times on your own… parang dance…… ok from the top! hahaha

  6. Hmmm, parang hindi ganyan ang feeling ko…sige, master, surprise her na lang on her initiation day, mwahaha! >:->

    In response to your other comment, kahit hindi traditional yung led class, he he….

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