The Efficient Practice

It is a challenge to get good mat time these days. I pine for the days when I would have back-to-back teaching/practices or when I could look at studio schedules and think, “Well, if I miss the 4:30 I can always just hit up the 6:15. No big deal..”

Time is a precious commodity, managed and coordinated in ways I never thought I would have to manage and coordinate. When my baby is awake, I am chasing after her. When she is asleep, I have a long list of things that I need to do for my home, work and family. I also have to balance time for my husband – time for us to be together and give him space.

When I do throw my mat down in the house, I am often interrupted by either the baby waking up, the dog wanting my attention or the cat knocking something off the kitchen counter. Somewhere on these lists of priorities, there can be the briefest moments that are truly to myself that don’t include working on teaching/festival/writing or cleaning/cooking. (Cooking, ha! that’s funny!) Those moments are like gold.

I have become incredibly efficient with my home practice.

One of the best things I learned as a classical musician was how to practice. I was taught how to practice efficiently with consistency – that it was not about how many hours I spent in the practice room but how I used the hours spent in the practice room. Sometimes, the most effective practice technique was to simply sit in front of the piece of music, internalize/visualize, sing it and then pick up the horn to play.

I have brought this practice into yoga. I think about sequencing and poses all the time. For example, whenever my baby gets a bottle, I am usually thinking through a sequence (how could I open the body up to get to this pose? What happens on the way to the pose?) while kissing her sweet little head. Sometimes, while she is crawling around, I take a moment to explore a pose with a long hold to target a specific area.

When I have my asana practice, I am usually figuring out how a series I envision is going to really feel on the body and working out the kinks I feel from carrying around a little 15 pound wiggle worm. A lot of times I am practicing with YogaGlo. (Thank god for YogaGlo!)

Right now, the magic number is 45 minutes. More often than not, when I plan it just right and allow myself to really explore the possibility of movement and opening in asana, my efficient practice brings more opening than I used to get in longer, open-ended practices.

Seal Pose - Nicholas Wray Photography

“Planning it just right” doesn’t mean that each moment is clearly planned. It is the opposite of restrictive. With a destination in mind, I explore different ways to arrive. If something comes up on the way to the pose that seems interesting, I follow it. I prepare my body for what comes next and stay open to the question: what comes next? Knowing I don’t have time for a lot of repetition that defines some vinyasa styles, I play with the balance of long holds and movement.

I play. I create. I feel great.

Then I show up four times a week and share, knowing full well that time is a precious commodity to the people who have come to class. They have likely had to manage and coordinate time in ways they never thought they would have to manage and coordinate.  Time to themselves that does not involved cleaning, cooking, working or putting someone else first is like gold. I understand this and am constantly humbled and inspired by people who are able to come to a studio class.

Yes, I wish I could go to class every day and have unlimited time to play. For now, that is not my reality. From this, I have found a gift. I am grateful for all I am learning from the efficient practice.

2 thoughts on “The Efficient Practice

  1. Lovely post Emily–it fully speaks to me, as I was struggling with my own judgement: I don’t practice enough, I am not on my mat enough, I don’t meditate enough, I’m not enlightened enough… Noticing these thought makes me smile. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be. As imperfect or efficient as you are.

    Would love to come take your class one of these days. Miss your peaceful, loving energy! ❤

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