More than a hundred of you responded to this Talk mailbox question. Here is a selection of your responses:
My cat named Bear, or The Yogi Bear, as he's now known, wakes up from wherever in the house he is curled up and joins me, without fail, two or three poses into my practice. I practice triangle, and he rolls beside me. I revolve in a standing pose, and he looks up and purrs. One day I focused on learning Bakasana, Crane Pose. I placed a pillow on the floor in front of me for my inevitable nose-dive as a beginner at arm balances; I psyched myself up and placed my hands in the proper position. I lifted my feet off the floor, transferred my weight and held myself aloft, at the same moment that Bear decided to make this a partner practice. My 15-pound cat walked through my arms and rubbed against my right arm, knocking me off balance and onto the floor. I lay on my side and he looked at me and purred, delighted at our latest exploration of yoga.
A while back I was home alone and decided to do some yoga. So I got my mat out, turned the lights down, and sat down to meditate for a few minutes. All of a sudden, I felt the paw of my 80 lbs boxer on my leg. I removed his paw and a few seconds later it was back on my leg. This went on another couple of times and I told him to lay down. Next thing I knew, his head was in my lap! Finally he got the hint that I wasn't on the floor to play with him and he left me alone.
My challenge is to keep my little three and a half pound Yorkie named, "Pixie", from sitting on my chest and giving me kisses while I am doing certain poses! I just love her company so it's really hard to tell her to go away. So, I end up playing with her instead.
My biggest challenge trying to do my yoga at home is my dogs! I have two Pembroke Welsh Corgis and every time I get on the floor they want to either lick my face or jump on me. Picture me doing a forward bend and having a little fuzzball waddle up, push her way through my legs and just start licking! How do you focus on your breath when you are trying to keep your mouth closed!
Biggest challenge for me is being a guy (male) in a predominantly female venue. The difficulty is that most of the yoga classes I attend are girl-clubs and guys are not exactly welcome. It is not, mind you, overt discrimination or exclusion, but I get the subtle nuance sometimes that the women in the class kind of wish I wasn't there.
This is especially true during times when you do a yoga position with a partner or helper. I take an ashtanga yoga class and without exception we work in teams of two during every class. It's both amusing and disheartening to see a woman I'm standing next to run to a woman on the other side of the room because she doesn't want to partner with me. Now I understand this: it's uncomfortable to have someone from the opposite sex put their hands on your hips, legs, thighs (or ass). Yet it seems that if a person is following yoga principles and looking for the worth in another person, this should not be so much of a problem. As it is, I almost always end up partnering with the instructor (also a woman). I'm not ugly (I don't think), hideous or particularly sinister looking. I am your average 50-ish guy whose been taking yoga for about eight years. But this aspect of the class makes me not want to attend sometimes and is thus a hindrance.
Grand Rapids, MI
I live with four cats and my biggest challenge practicing at home is the cats mistaking my yoga time for kitty play time. The youngest cat, Sharky, will head-butt me every time my head is within range. He also will lie on the floor behind me during Savasana and play with my hair. Then there's little Kiwi who likes to wind her way around my legs which makes balancing difficult sometimes. The other two cats do not distract me as often, but they have been known to demand attention during my practice. It would be nice if I had a separate room for yoga, but then they would probably rattle the door and meow until I let them in. In a convoluted sort of way the presence of my cats is beneficial because I really must focus on the asanas and not on them.
I think I probably have an easier time practicing at home than many other people; but my biggest problem is my three cats. They appear to enjoy my practice as much as I do, and especially enjoy lying on or just next to the yoga mat while I am trying to practice, sticking their feet in the air and showing me fuzzy bellies and winsome expressions. The result is that I
sometimes find myself practicing "pet-the-cat" pose rather than whatever it was I set out to do.
—Loraine McMurray DiSalvo
My greatest challenge for my home practice is my young son. When he was one and a half and I was practicing a modified version of the handstand using the wall, I heard some thumping and there he was trying to go upside-down. From then on, my home practice became his home practice. I would do a move he would copy me the best he could and I would often stop to spot him. What I didn't realize is that those practices, as intermittent as they were, were still practices. Poses were done, effects were felt and I was so proud of him.
Now he's almost two and our practice has changed. Most poses creates holes which he feels he must crawl through. This morning while doing downward dog I found myself face-to-face with him. He sat under me like one might sit under a canopy shielded from weather. Those are good days when I'm a canopy because most days I am a climbing apparatus. My positions create interesting chairs for him to try and sit in, steps for him to climb, walls for him to scale and angles that he can slide down. This climbing, almost-two-year-old, made me remember playing with my dad. He would lie on the floor with his knees up and I climbed thinking he was the best gym ever. If I was so thrilled with the singular dad-pose playground, I must look like the good park. The ride'em cowboy park. The warm park.
This morning I was sitting and chanting OM when I felt a tremendous thud around my heart. I opened my eyes and there was my son, a red mark on his forehead, laying on the floor in front of me, smiling. I scolded him gently explaining that it hurt. But while I explained I had another thought—maybe this small person is doing me a favor. Maybe my heart charka needed a kick start. Maybe my son does not so much hinder me as he does help me. But maybe not. Perhaps I need a new approach. I could get injured being a park and hey, wasn't this supposed to be time for yoga? We'll let the days ahead unfold a new plan because, right now, I have no map.
The biggest challenge with home practice is the general hulabaloo. It is hard to find quiet.
One night my husband decided to watch the hockey game on TV even though I was already practicing in the living room. So he and the dog made themselves at home on the couch. He urged me to continue. Frustrated, I thought I would give it a go anyways. I had been struggling with lotus and I was determined to ease my body into this position. I was working on the element of challenge. I was doing quite well until our cute puppy flopped down on my yoga mat and passed gas right in my face. I was extremely horrified at the
smell and tried in vain to unwind myself. I developed a muscle spasm in my lower back at that precise moment and my husband had began to laugh at me so hard that he couldn't find the sense to help me out.
All is well that ends well. My husband and dog arenow banished from my yoga space and I will never try to unwind quickly from a pose again.
Instructor and avid yogini
I have learned to be careful when I resume my home practice after doing a workshop or retreat. A year or so ago I did a wonderful week in Spain with Liz Lark, the day after I arrived home, after a day sitting around airports I did practice as usual. Problem was that when I did Halasana I forgot that behind me was
no longer a big space, but a cabinet on which I broke my toe! Ahhhhhhhh.
Not everyone has the problem of not getting started or getting interrupted in their practice session. For example, I started doing yoga about two and a half years ago and I probably haven't missed fiive days of yoga over that span of time. Actually, my day begins with about forty-five minutes of making music—playing classical guitar—followed by my yoga session that lasts another forty-five minutes or so. This whole morning ritual begins at about five-thirty am. I have created a wonderful foundation for my day. I am blessed with my discipline, music, and yoga. I don't know where it comes from but I do know that a day without this foundation just isn't the same. I hope this letter can serve as an inspiration to others...that is my reason for writing it. Now it's time to make some music!
My biggest challenge is finding the quiet time when I am not beat. I have 2 kids and that demands much of my energy. I also work full time. I think about yoga all day every day. Do you have any solutions? I do manage to attend class once a week and I treasure those moments.
I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but what is it about being down on the floor that makes those little furry balls of dust pop out and torment you with all the things that you could be doing instead of practicing. But of course, a lovely relaxing hour on my mat wins out against housework any day.
One of the biggest obstacles I've had to overcome with practicing at home is the feeling of guilt that I'm taking time away from my boyfriend, who I live with. In Manhattan space is a premium and we share a one bedroom apartment. When I unfurl my mat in the middle of the living room I take up most of the space and that physical thing can make me feel selfish for the hour or so I practice.
Another obstacle is the self-consciousness that can come with having your family as an audience. Inevitably others are interested in the pose you do, and knowing you are the center of attention—especially when practicing a pose you haven't quite gotten yet—certainly makes the whole process less calming! I've tried to get over this by welcoming questions and explaining
as much of the pose as I know. I'm certainly open to someone I care about taking up yoga!
My biggest challenge to practicing at home is to not get angry when my two boys (ages 10 and 13) interrupt me. They know my practice time is important, and they usually try not to interrupt, but sometimes there is a fight, or the dogs make trouble, or they forget I'm practicing and come to ask me a question. I have to calm myself, and patiently tell them that unless someone is hurt, I will attend to them later.
My other biggest challenge is to wake up early, before everyone is up, so that the boys don't interrupt. I'm a working mother (school teacher), so sleep time is precious. I wish I could develop the discipline to wake up early!
As a yoga teacher at the university rec center, I always feel guilty when students trustingly look at me and ask "How often do 'yoga people' practice?" I usually say, "Well, the die-hards try to do two hours a day, six days a week, but any amount will benefit you even a little," and I vow to go home and start doing yoga every day. Then I don't.
But about six months ago, I got together with two girls and a guy from my class who were interested in learning to teach yoga. We agreed to meet for two hours, once a week, at the same time every week. We rotate through ourselves as hosts, and after the first two meetings, the hosts started making lunch for everyone for after practice.
Sure, we miss a week sometimes, and as summer draws near, the yoga time has gotten shorter and the lunchtime longer, but I know that if I cancel, it's not just me I'm letting down. I still wish I was doing that "Only fifteen minutes, every day" that I tell my class, but at least I'm doing something.
The biggest challenge I face in my home practice is variety. I do not know by heart all the various yoga poses, so when I practice in my home I usually do yoga videos that I have or follow routines in books, but I get bored of them and do not like the videos because they go to fast. If I could add some more variety to my yoga practice, I would practice every day. Right now I practice from 3 to 5 times a week.
Thanks for asking! In my regular (semi-regular home practice) I face a daily challenge with how I am feeling. First there is the variable question about what time of day the spirit moves me... then there is the time of day that is actually free...then there is the consideration of my energy level, whether I am pain free, and finally, if I will or will not be disturbed by family members and their schedules and whether or not my animals are mellow or participatory. Oops! forgot one. Will my mind be able to concentrate unconditionally and will my intention be profound, or distracted? Now, the question is, can I even do yoga at home and not stress over it? I asked my friend Cindi, a Kripalu Yoga teacher what is the best position of the head in downward dog, and she just looked at me, replying sincerely, "down and relaxed!" I thought to myself, of course! I am obsessing! I might add that I have Fibromyalgia and often cannot even go to class, so I do have a vested interest in doing Yoga at home. Meditation and stretching complement my coping and vegetarian lifestyle.
Where to start? A one bedroom apartment with a husband and two cats. The TV is on, the computers are on, or when I sit on the floor, the two cats become very interested in me (second only to their interest in my pen when I try to write checks.)
Just staring at your own house puts your thoughts on mundane tasks like "Boy, I really need to vacuum this carpet" during dog pose, or "Oh look! That's where I left my sunglasses" during proud warrior. Someday I'll live in Hawaii or California, and have a porch with a beautiful view to inspire me each morning. But for now.
If only they would make quieter refrigerators. That would make up for everything. Anyone with a small apartment will understand.
I am the mother of five children, ages 14, 12, 10, 7 and 2 years. We also have two very active Australian Cattle Dogs. Strangely enough, I don't have too much trouble with my home practice, as long as I get up by 4:30 am! I manage to get an 11 mile run in, then a yoga session usually before anyone else is awake! Now that I've said this...
This is my first thought in the morning:
"Is it early enough to do a meditation? Or, if I go out of bed now, will I only wake up the little ones? And if I do, will I enjoy it when my 3 year old daughter comes sitting on my feet as I try to meditate in siddhasana? Or will she be in a talkative mood and spoil my meditation? In other words, would it be a better idea to just turn over and go back to sleep for another hour? But then, will I have time to meditate later during the day? And I like doing it before breakfast, before the family wakes up, before the world around me starts doing what it does every day: be active and noisy rather than receptive and quiet like the time of dawn..."