owning your practice

A Rose By Any Other Name

RoseTo be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you
–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she’s more important
than all the hundreds of you other roses:
because it is she that I have watered;
because it is she that I have put under the glass globe;
because it is for her that I’ve killed the caterpillars
(except the two or three we saved to become butterflies);
because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled,
or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing.
Because she is MY rose.

– Le Petit Prince, Antoine St. Exupery

I’ve discovered the secret to yoga.

That’s right, the man who swears at Dirty Yoga, who grumbles imprecations at Tara Stiles, who still is convinced there’s a secret Yogi Path to Victory, has discovered a way to enjoy the consarned practice. And that secret is…

Do it myself.

It happened quite by accident – after a couple of weeks of doing the Stiles Full-Body yoga workout, one morning I was in a place without easy web access. But I was pretty sure I remembered the asanas…and so I gave it a try. Pose by pose, breath by breath, opener by opener, I went through it and found some pleasure in it. Without the external impetus of the video, I was feeling more present in my body, I was holding the poses until it felt right to progress, I was actually breathing more easily.

This seemed strange…so I gave it some thought.

Owning Your Practice Through Personal Touches

In just about every discipline, there comes a point at which the tools you use cease to be just “tools” and become “your tools.” The handle has a slight notch in this one place, one edge of your mat is slightly torn, that G-below-C key is a bit less white. You know the tools so well that they take on personalities, they become either friends or enemies or at least colleagues, one would hope.

That’s when you start to forget about the steps in your practice and start to really work on the form. When you no longer have to become re-acquainted with the accoutrements, when they are simply second-nature, you can move into a much more personalized level of the practice.

The thing that is neatest about that, I think, is the way it changes you, as well. I’m starting to get calluses on my left hand again from guitar playing, for example, even as the strings get duller from repeated playing. I will change the strings, but the strings are also changing me, both in gross external ways and more subtle internal ways as I become re-acquainted with my music.

I don’t think that I can keep doing yoga all by myself. Among other things, I like Jess too much to stop doing Dirty Yoga; he’s a funny guy. But I do think that sometimes the external direction, as useful as it is, can distract us from the ways that our practice becomes more and more personal. Eventually I think that is the goal: to own your practice completely, so that your progress comes from within. Once you reach that point, though, your practice becomes as precious and unique as your fingerprint and your DNA, because while everyone else may see you doing just another Downward Dog, in reality you’re doing your Downward Dog, and that is a breed apart.

And it’s worth working towards. Because at that point, a rose by any other name does not smell nearly as sweet. Because, as the Little Prince said, the rose you’ve named is yours.

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