Personal Practice and Pranyama

My first week as a yoga teacher has come and gone. The dust has settled, and the future lays wide open before me. It's been a whirlwind of a week. I led my first studio class and taught two private sessions: one with two newbies, and one with a seasoned practitioner. All went very well, and already I've learned so much. I teach another class tomorrow, and then the rest of the week I'll be out on the prowl, beginning my hunt for more teaching jobs around town.

I was finally able to return to my daily home practice this week, and it's becoming apparent that both body and mind have evolved. My strength has increased dramatically, and flexibility has followed suit. In light of these developments, I'm realizing that my home practice is in need of a makeover. The old standby sequences just aren't cutting it anymore. On top of this, I'm feeling compelled to be more creative in my own practice for the purpose of cultivating new ideas for my classes. This is where I'm feeling conflicted: how do I preserve the healing, therapeutic nature of my own practice while simultaneously using it as a tool for my teaching? How do I maintain a single point of focus while in the back of my mind I'm wondering, how would I best describe this to a room full of students? Where does my personal practice end and the teaching begin?

Naturally, my personal practice is the well from which I draw for my teaching. And I believe this is as it should be, but does this mean that, henceforth, I will always be watching my own practice for teaching ideas? Does my assumption of the role of yoga teacher preclude the individuality of my practice? I have many questions, and I'm hoping that everything will fall into place eventually; but, currently, I'm struggling as I attempt to navigate these murky waters.

In the meantime, in spite of these swirling questions, I've been having some truly beautiful practices. I'm enjoying this new and improved body, feeling freer to explore and push the boundaries of possibility. This week I've also begun a shiny new morning routine: pranayama. I've decided to start the day with 30 minutes of pranyama, 15-20 minutes of meditation, and, of course, a headstand. All told, it takes about an hour of my time, but it is absolutely worth it.

The pranayama practice is what is really exciting me right now. I begin with ten deep yogic breaths, then 5 rounds of kapalibhati (50 breaths per round), 20 breaths of nadi shodhana, then ujjayi, first with inner retention (10 count inhalation, 5 count retention, 15 count exhalation), then with outer retention (10 count inhalation, 15 count exhalation, 5 count retention). The new yoga space has a clock on the wall that audibly ticks, so I've been able to use that reliable ticking to pace my breath, rather than relying on my own less-than-accurate count. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I'm quite comfortable breathing just 2 breaths per minute, particularly since I have not been devoting much time to my pranayama practice. In other words, I haven't had a pranayama practice outside of the that which coincides with my asana practice for quite some time. I had no idea how much my breath has improved. Here's to progress and pleasant surprises!

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