Last year I went to my first yoga retreat. When we introduced ourselves on the first day, I mentioned how I began my yoga practice: I had gathered information and tried it out alone, in my bedroom. I never thought I could get odd looks because of this. I always thought that whatever means people find to get to yoga, the important part is to get there. I was very wrong.
I did get odd looks though, and the next day, during a lecture, the yoga teacher that runs that school implied how starting a yoga practice on one's own was wrong and how you can only learn from a teacher. After hearing this I realized two things: the first was that that was probably the last time I was attending one of that school's events; the second was that I disagreed with that idea. I don't want to be misunderstood: I have the utmost respect for yoga teachers. I am very grateful for everything they taught me and will teach me in the future and I feel very blessed that I found amazing and supportive teachers in my yoga journey. But deep down, I believe we are our best teachers.
When I started practicing yoga I didn't start by kicking my legs up against a wall to do a handstand, nor did I attempt more crazy poses like wild thing. I sat and tried to do poses that seemed within my reach. Then I went for something more fun like backbends and twists. I loved it. I practiced yoga almost everyday during my college years. Alone. And I developed my practice, little by little. When I finally went to my first yoga class I didn't have the common fears first time yogis have. I already knew I loved yoga. I knew my strengths, my balance and my flexibility. I already knew how far I could go. So is it really so bad to start practicing yoga alone? For fun or out of curiosity? Besides, if it's so wrong to practice yoga on our own, then why do so many teachers encourage us to develop a home practice?
I believe there is nothing wrong with practicing yoga this way. After all, a yoga practice is very personal. It is supposed to teach us about ourselves, about our limits, yes, but most importantly, about our possibility to expand. And be great. I developed my physical strength and self-confidence during the first years of my practice. And when I finally met my first yoga teacher I acknowledged two very important things: that I had to return to the basics of some poses and that I could go a little deeper on others -- I ended up doing my very first headstand with this teacher. Yoga taught me to recognize my limits. Yes, I could do camel pose, resting my hands on my heels, but I knew I wasn't going to try to balance myself on my head -- you see, I had no idea the force should be in my arms!
I love going to classes, be with my colleagues, enjoy some challenges and learning new poses. But laying down my yoga mat at home and just do whatever I want to has a very sweet taste to me. There are obvious dangers to this such as getting too comfortable with some poses and ignoring others. That's why I think that balance is key: yoga classes for guidance and assistance and home practice to be with ourselves and do whatever feels good.
I don't regret a single thing about my yoga journey. I love that I started practicing yoga alone. I feel it taught me so much about myself and my body. It showed me I was very willing to treat my body and spirit nicely and that felt really good. I wish yoga was more easily available to anyone wanting to try it and not be so limited to yoga studios. We should be practicing yoga everywhere! Sometimes I think how awesome it would be to start doing yoga poses in the middle of the street. That would definitely make people frown, smile, or even laugh! And that's already worth it. That's yoga.