Practice, from piano to yoga: what’s it mean?

Aum symbol in red

Aum symbol in red (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’ve recently begun reading Kara-Leah Grant’s The Yoga Lunchbox, a self-directing guide for committing to your own yoga practice. I’ve only just begun, but can say that hers is an enjoyable voice, self-disclosing and up front. The book isn’t a how-to for yoga per se, but rather a worksheeted, stop-and-think, dig in your heart kind of affair, in which she assumes you’ve been to yoga classes and know what DownDog is, but want to go deeper and make it personal. She also acknowledges the familiar struggles when coming to the mat and offers her book as a tutorial for successfully navigating them and getting your feet under you, or over you, as the case may be.

 

I love reading how other yogis guide themselves through their inner thickets, and I’m constantly reflecting on the question of  “What is a practice?” You might say it’s my own personal koan.

 

My first experiences with practice were piano, tap, jazz dance and ballet – and, yes, as I recall, all at once. I think the doctors had suggested I always be involved in dance of some kind after they were finished with my little but growing legs. The piano was a prelude to guitar, and my memories of it are tactile: the finish on the piano my mother

 

English: A split leap performed during an acro...

This was NOT me. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

bought for my practice, the pleasantly solitary “tock!” of the metronome, and the less pleasant buzz of a kitchen timer. I remember a great deal of discomfort with the dance classes: I didn’t care for the stretchy leotards and no one would ever guess my name was “Grace,” if you know what I mean. Looking back, though, the classes probably provided connection and strength that allowed me to forget for so long that my legs weren’t always so workable.

 

 

So I know a little from useful discipline. And I wonder how yoga practice differs from any of these other types of practice, for someone who feels completely at home doing them. Isn’t practice just practice, after all? Isn’t it really a way of meeting yourself over and over and over again in the same place so you can befriend yourself and study yourself in your natural habitat?

Is there a difference, for instance between yoga and meditation practice, beyond the lack of gross movement in the one and the focus in the other? Does yoga also contain meditation practice with the stillness at the end, or does it become the other when you sit up after corpse pose? Or is the common denominator of “practice” what really matters?

And if the rhythm of meeting yourself in circumstances that you control on  a regular basis for the purpose of observing, befriending and perhaps refining yourself is what really matters, is reading practice any different from yoga practice? Or language practice? Or dance? Or shooting?

I think there is a difference in the type of container you’re creating. That’s my hunch anyway. But I’m also certain that having some practice is better than none. And as I work on my own book about yoga, I’m reminded of the dictum that the map is not the territory. If reading a book about having a yoga practice is a practice that gets you to practice yoga, do you already have to be committed to the idea of practice to finish the book? In which case, why don’t we all just meet on the mat?

I suppose one reason is that we can do both, and there’s joy in reading about you love. Writing about it, too. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Practice, from piano to yoga: what’s it mean?

  1. Ah practice. I’m so bad at it. Mine goes back to piano too—I never practiced—I still don’t practice- not piano, or harp—but I’ve managed to get an intermittent home yoga practice going- but it took a year of committing to practice everyday to get to an intermittent one now.

  2. Hi Marisa, I don’t play any musical instruments anymore either. But yoga… it follows me! If I don’t make space to practice in the morning, I see it everywhere. Sitting in a meeting I start watching how one guy moves his shoulder and what poses would strengthen and comfort, or how our Black Belt sits, and “Pop!” up has come a series for her, then I think, “OH! Eagle, I haven’t done that in weeks and it would feel so good….” and I’m on my mat in mind. Simpler to keep in on an actual mat 🙂 (I do keep one in my office for just such days, too:))

    Is your practice the same every time or very free form? Thanks for sharing!

  3. hey, you’ve probably seen that I have also read Kara-Leah’s 40 days of yoga, and so have spent some time thinking about what a yoga practice means to me. I do not have perfect commitment – but i still do yoga 5 or 6 days a week. I too have wondered if the conscious, daily practice of any nourishing thing could be substituted for yoga (knowing that yoga is not for everyone). I think it could, although for me there is something special about yoga, I am not sure why. It just makes me feel good, like I have come home after a hard day 🙂

  4. I was a jock most of my young life from junior high through part of college. That was a grueling practice that ended up being some of the least joyful stuff I was engaged in. Yoga and meditation are a grateful joy for me even when I have to challenge myself to get my booty on my mat or in a seat. I have not read any books challenging me and how I engage in my practice… yet.

    • Grant’s 40 days book is a good read. I’m not a fan of the “challenge” mentality, so that message doesn’t connect for me, but i think her deeper message is spot on, that resistance is rarely about practical obstacles but actually a reluctance to be present.

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