Today I apprenticed in a therapeutic yoga class run by a master teacher from Chicago. He comes out to our studio in the suburbs to direct a somewhat organized chaos of twenty or so students with various ailments and injuries, from scoliosis to bad knees to MS, and some twenty-five or thirty apprentices.
It is usually wall-to-wall mats. And because it is an Iyengar therapeutics workshop, there are many blocks and bolsters and belts and folding chairs and blankets and sand bags and people scattered all over the place. I showed a picture of the studio a few days ago, and as you can see, it's not a huge space. If we put the mats down almost side by side, we can get in about 45 people.
Kind of dark in these photos, but the walls are yellow and the floor is wood and there is a very good feel to the space. You can see the shelves with some props on them in the far right corner of the picture.
But with this class, you and your student are moving about the room, going from the mat where she starts in relaxation to the wall to practice Arda Uttanasana, to open the chest and strengthen the arms, and then to the wall with ropes to do a modification of Down Dog, with rope around your hips, then down to the mat again for some supported backbend work with the block under the sacrum, and then, one of my favorite poses: Viparita Karani. Queen of poses in my book: legs up the wall, backside scooched close to the wall, and back flowing down over the top of the bolster and onto the mat. Very very relaxing.
We had a good session. I talked with my student about some practical things that will help her to make her yoga practice a more regular event in her schedule. First, setting up an area where she can practice. My advice is to find a place that is large enough to put down a mat. Next, keep all your yoga stuff together in that area, so that you don't have to stop to gather things together when you finally settle down to practice. The space doesn't need, in most cases, to be any larger than the size of a yoga mat. I've practiced in hotel bathrooms and in between beds in motels. If you can fit in a mat, or even a large bath towel, you have space to practice. I know that some folks get very fancy with their yoga spaces. Typical Yoga Journal this month: the article about creating a yoga room in your house shows people adding on whole additions and walls of windows. Nice, but unrealistic. A corner of the bedroom, a space in the living room once you've slid the coffee table out of the way - most people can find that kind of room already available.
In that area, I keep a mat, folded up so it's not in the way when I'm not using it; a large pillow to sit on for forward folds and meditating; a timer so that I don't have to be in charge of the time when I'm meditating or in savasana, but still have a handle on how long I plan to sit; a glass of water; copies of the practices that my teacher has written for me; a book of Vedic chants; and a regular old candle, which I light in the fall and winter to give some soft light if I practice in the late afternoon.
But to get back to my student: if space sets up one barrier, time sets up an even mightier one. It is super easy to find a million things that need to be done, and then the day has zoomed by, and even though you feel frazzled because you haven't stopped, it can feel like it's too late to do some yoga. But that's when you will benefit the most from stopping, practicing even for 10 or 15 minutes.
My advice to my student was to pencil her yoga into her calendar. Such a good idea that I gave the same advice to another student, who hasn't been practicing much because she's been going to baseball games. Creative, but I liked it. Anyway, I suggested to her and my therapeutics student to put their yoga on the calendar. If you put it on the schedule, and keep it realistic - say, start by aiming to practice two or three times a week - it's much more likely to happen.
It was a day of advice-dispensing, which is pretty silly, given that I'm feeling very in need of some advice to be sent my way. I'm thinking that I'd like my very own Yoda right about now. Even the Yoda in the new Star Wars, tiny light saber and martial arts moves and all. (Here he is as a cardboard cut-out. )