11 September 2012

A good argument for practicing yoga in solitude

What's so magical about solitude?
In many fields, Ericsson told me, its only when you're alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. 
When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just our of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. 
Practice sessions that fall short of this standard are not only less useful - they're counterproductive.
They reinforce existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them.

Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. 
It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. 
It requires deep motivation, often self-generated.
But most important, it involves working on the task that's most challenging to YOU personally. 

Only when you're alone, Ericsson told me, can you "go directly to the part that's challenging to you. If you want to improve what you're doing, you have to be the one who generates the move."

Taken from a book I've just finished reading:
'Quiet.  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' by Susan Cain

The text in purple is the line that smacked me in the face.
How much of my yoga practice, and how much of my normal daily activities are simply reinforcing existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them?


sarah said...

sometimes i actually feel that moment of decision -- do i take on that which i fear is beyond my reach without a sequence of failures.. or simply "do" the asana that i know i can do and reap those benefits? without anyone in the room, i am so much more willing to risk falling or negotiating rather than the "safe" -- existing pattern.

self knowledge is not a matter of reinforcing what we think we know until we are trapped in that place. it demands that the observer be the true witness in our self, able to learn to discern this moment from some other moment.

Kim A. said...

This post addresses what feels like an uncomfortable truth to me---uncomfortable b/c I'm so far from having a home practice that bears any resemblance to my studio practice, and because I know that a really strong self-practice would seem to be something you could do anywhere—including home... That said, I actually feel the opposite of what you talk about here. I slip into patterns of complacency and comfort and a kind of automatic mode much more frequently at home. My practice is far more deliberate and concentrated at the studio. (sometimes I wonder how much my nearsightedness helps with that--I take off my glasses to practice and the rest of the room is pretty much a blur of pretty colors...though I still feel the intensity of focus and energy of the other practitioners, of course, and I think that helps)

Claudia said...

Hm, good point. Having both, although heavier on the home practice these days (I practice as an out of town student in NY), I find the balance to be delicious. The days I go to the shala I get adjustments and notice where I am "falling asleep"

Then when I come back home I use those adjustments to propel me and also... well... fall asleep sometimes...

nobodhi said...

Thanks for your comments :)

Sarah, I love your willingness to 'risk failure', there is such an innocent inquisitiveness and playfulness in this approach to our practice - like when I tried all those weird headstands recently with no preconceived idea of what I could or couldn't do - the journey was more important than the destination and as you mentioned it helps us to learn to discern each moment.

Kim, I can identify with your sense of slipping into complacency and comfort with home practice. Going to a class with a teacher and a new sequence makes us focus and 'wake up' because we don't know what to expect. It's such a challenge to approach our solitary home practice with this same sense of unfamiliarity, of curiosity, of 'what will happen next'. I totally agree that the energy of other practitioners (especially in a morning Mysore class) helps a lot - I do miss that.

Hi Claudia, adjustments by a good teacher are great aren't they, I'm sure I have lots of sleeping parts that could use a bit of prodding. Reminds me of all those annoying 'dead areas' we come across in a Vipassana sweep - do you think we can detect and wake them up without moving anything except our consciousness...?