‘I don’t bring yesterday’s poses to today’s practice. I know yesterday’s poses, but when I practice today I become a beginner. I don’t want yesterday’s experience. I want to see what new understanding may come in addition to what I felt up to now.’
― B.K.S. Iyengar
We’ve made a few changes at The Centre this year, aimed towards encouraging our students to take their practice beyond General classes and start to learn how to do their own practice. A big part of this has been the introduction of our Open Practices to the timetable. These times are opportunities for our students to use the space and our equipment and work at their own pace.
This friends of Marrickville, we spoke to a few of the regulars at the Open practices to find out what they like about it and what they practice when they come in.
Open practice is an important part of my Yoga practice. Each time I prepare for practice I consider my intention for the practice which helps me to decide about the sequence I will follow. This helps build and develop my experience and knowledge base.
The Yoga room during open practice has a different energy to classes or workshops. Without the teachers voice to help me focus I rely on my own discipline to work through the sequence. I like the confident feeling this brings. It’s a great opportunity to lengthen my timings and go that little bit further. It’s all about extention.
I often watch other Yogi’s to learn and enjoy the times when I work with other Yogi’s or help someone in some way. It’s a pleasure to create and learn in a constructive environment. Open practice also provide the flexibility I need to practice for health reasons. I like to use all the large props and use the time to practice asanas that we haven’t done in class.
I think about my practice and try to be clear about my intention before I go into the room. Sometimes I write down a sequence or I use the resources available in the Centre. My practice usually includes a long hang in the ropes (10-15 minutes), standing poses against the wall or at the trestle (to help contain energy, focus and improve rotation of my upper body), backbends using a chair, one complex asana such as a sitting twist, and parsva dhanurasana, towards the end something with legs up the wall (either supported shoulder stand or viparita karani) finishing with a long Savasana.
What I like about the Open Practice is that it’s a different sort of learning where you rely on your own self, just like in life. It’s awkward at first, feeling lost on what you should
be doing exactly. I still don’t know what I’m doing sometimes but you kind of stumble your way to progress. And once you enter and do an urdhva mukha, it flows. It’s inspiring being surrounded by others doing grunt-work on their handstands, dropbacks, etc. Also, you can take it slow and focus on opening certain areas like I often do with hips and groin. It’s a great way to start a Sunday, no one will judge you if you don’t brush your teeth and you can head to the markets or coffee after feeling satisfied with yourself.
As I stay for Robyn’s class on a Sunday I tend not to do any inversions or any really demanding poses. I stick to a lot of seated poses and twists, etc. I find that I’m generally not the most supple person and so I get great benefit out of doing the poses for the hips and the knees, and the ankles. With the sitting poses, I tend to stick to the poses that we do during forward bend week which includes swastikasana, paschimottanasana and also Marichyasana 3.
I started coming to Open Practice partly because I couldn’t get to Sunday classes during the football season. I found that it was a really great way to start my Sunday, and also a great way to warm up for the day’s game. It has also helped me to build some confidence in my yoga practice. I like having the time to work on (the many!) poses that I find challenging, or to try something that we may have done in class that week that was new to me. And I appreciate the advice from teachers and other students about how to improve or achieve something I’m working on. I also love the quiet “busyness” of the studio on a Sunday morning – it’s very calming but also inspiring.
What do you practice when you come in for the Open Practice?
I try to work through sequences from class, but also to work on building some strength (like leg raises, and up and down with the ropes). I also try to do the poses that I find hard, or ones where something has just clicked about how I should be practising, so that I can understand it a bit better. And of course I keep working on being able to do a handstand….one day…..!
What would you say to someone who was thinking about coming to an Open Practice?
If I can come to Open Practice anyone can! It’s easy to think as a beginner yoga student with so much to work on that Open Practice is only for the most experienced students, but it has really helped me to understand that we are all at our different levels of experience working on improving our practice.
At the moment I am working on building my strength through standing poses and inversions after giving birth to my daughter. I clearly remember doing my 1st handstand at home (approx 8wks after giving birth) and not being able to kick up and and for a moment I was disappointed.
I had to remind myself that I need to stay with the practice and accept where I am now. Only from this was I able to move forward.
I also enjoy using most of the props as this is something you don’t always get to do in class. I focus on restorative poses when needed as well.
It’s an excellent opportunity to take what you have learnt from classes and put it into your own practice.
Be open to learn more about yourself and to work with a quieter mind and direct each pose as it comes.