Group yoga vs a solo practice
Posted on: January 11, 2016
There is incredible power walking into a sacred space that’s been created for you. Group yoga classes, workshops and retreats offer profound improvements in ways you’ll never experience practicing solo.
I believe there’s a time and place for group classes, versus a solo practice. When I want to process something really big, I go to my solo practice. When I want to energize myself, it’s 50-50 whether I take my practice to my community in a group class, or take my it solo. There are benefits to both as they serve different purposes.
Group yoga classes are a great places to connect with like-minded people, learn and feel deeply supported and challenged. As a yoga teacher, my livelihood is based on people attending my classes and workshops. However, I believe that the art of yoga is only deeply and fully understood when you experience it by yourself, totally alone. Classes and retreats offer human and community connection often times leaving you in a higher than normal energized state, and yet in a world that’s overstimulated, the classroom can be just that, OVERstimulation; talking, music, scents, movements the your body isn’t asking for, volume of the music, the instructor, temperature, personalities, ect. I believe it’s much more difficult to tune into your practice in a group setting, but easier to feel energized.
Solo Practice challenges: You’re faced with your own successes and demons in your solo practice. Do you want that? Sometimes I feel ready for it because I see faster self-development by stepping into every aspect of me (both the perceived ‘good’ and ‘bad’).
I also enjoy going at my own tempo. You choose where, how and when to do your yoga. You’re alone so if you wake up naked and drop to the floor for some nude meditation, or chaturangas – it’s your yoga party, you can do whatcha want – no judgement!
Personally, in my solo practice I’m able to dive more deeply into my breath and thoughts. It offers a deepening of my mental/emotional/spiritual connection and allows me to integrate it into the asanas (positions and movements). I can’t go as deep into my spiritual realm in most public classes, or in a group settings. A solo practice is something to build up to, reaping great rewards of uninhibited movements, tapping into the ebb and flow of your body more intensely feels rewarding and inspiring!
The release of endorphins and energy I receive when I am in my solo practice is unparalleled to anything else. Sometimes this is from a blissful practice, other times it’s facing ‘demons’ of negative self talk, or thoughts that I discover I was avoiding for weeks or months. Facing this head on in a solo yoga practice always results in a quieting of the negative mind for me.
I’ve also discovered in my own practice, and having spoken with hundreds of yogis – that there’s a profound sensuality—a gentle eroticism that takes place solo. I’ve never felt this kind of freedom anywhere else, it’s like a new kind of tantric unraveling. Unleashing the sensuality of your solo yoga practice is like pandora’s box if you will, once you begin this freeing journey around movement of body, mind and spirit it’s something you crave!
I recognize that it’s not easy to muster up the motivation to practice without guidance.
Hopefully you’ve felt a twinge of inspiration to start with one pose and breathing before or after bed time. Keep in mind solo practice requires some experience and a bit of training with a yoga teacher, in private lessons, or beginner classes but once you feel comfortable with a hand full of poses – combine these asanas and observe the effects. Ask yourself, what’s opening up, or where am I feeling tightness? Continue to observe as you experiment with what feels right and what doesn’t. Yoga is intuitive, trust yourself.
When most of us first encounter a group yoga experience – it’s such an intense setting that the contract to practicing alone can feel near impossible. However, yoga in my opinion, is about quieting the space around you to tap deeper into your personal connection with your divine, diving in AND THEN if you choose to connect to external stimulation (people, nature, etc.) let that deepen your experience to your personal practice. Physical yoga is just 1 of 8 limbs of what yoga as defined by Patanjali. I see yoga as a lifestyle, it’s how we think, act and feel, so yoga to me IS a very personal practice of self-realization.
I said this when teaching a dance workshop to hundreds of students, ‘our first dance partner is ourselves, our second is the ground and our third partner is human!’ Let’s continue to practice really ‘being’ with ourselves as our first partner in this life!