BEIRUT: Bent on fulfilling their New Year’s resolutions or just looking for a way to escape from the country’s chaos, Zen-seekers in the city have started bringing their yoga instructors home. For those who have decided to take up yoga, or maybe just to improve after years of sporadic class attendance, a private lesson can be a great way to start things off. But, as The Daily Star learned, it takes more than just rolling out of bed and onto a mat to make the most of this at-home yoga.
Before embarking on my own private class, I was warned explicitly against getting too comfortable by Erin O’Halloran, a teacher at Shiva-Lila studio in Clemenceau who has practiced yoga for over 10 years.
“Yoga is about learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable positions ... something Beirut could use more of,” she said.
However, O’Halloran added that simply taking private lessons in a familiar environment, as opposed to a more anonymous experience at a group class, can lead people to focus more on simply “enjoying themselves, when they should be engaging with whatever emotional and mental state they are in.”
Instead, she recommends that people familiar with yoga try to take weekly classes and develop a personal practice they can perform on their own most days of the week.
For this, and for beginners who want to make sure they learn the common poses before they take on a group class, O’Halloran said it was good to check in with a private teacher. She recommends an at-home class every six months or as the season changes “to develop a personal practice for every day,” which people can then do on their own for as little as 20 minutes several times a week.
“It’s not sexy, but if you don’t have the confidence to do self-practice, you should work on that.”
Yet, O’Halloran cautioned against getting your closest friends together for a weekly class outside the studio, as friends “tend get giggly and lose focus.”
Zeina Aboul Hosn, who hosts a weekly class taught by a friend, has a different take.
“It’s really fun to chat before, do yoga and chat more after,” she said.
She attributed the class’ success to the small group and the individual attention she and her friends received from their instructor.
“I never liked yoga classes – always too big and too crowded,” she said. “But this class has changed my perspective. It’s become a community.”
Armed with this advice and inspiration to make more of my admittedly erratic practice of yoga, I decided to host a private class at my house with Pip Usher, a local teacher fresh off a trip to train and study Iyengar yoga in India.
I caved on the one-on-one thing and invited a couple friends who are also enthusiastic about yoga but felt they weren’t getting enough attention in classes at studios.
And, while there was a certain amount of talking and laughing that took place beforehand, the real thing that distracted me from the start was the logistics of inviting people into your home to roll around on your floor for an hour and a half. It took a while for me to check out of my thoughts and check in with my body, as I worried about the fact that I had forgotten to light the incense and get everything ready for tea afterward and has anyone noticed that I haven’t mopped the floor in a week?
I eventually eased into it and just in time, as the sun salutation combinations sped up and I began to truly sweat (no small feat in an apartment with little insulation in the winter).
When we slowed things down a bit, I really got to feel the benefits of having a semiprivate practice. From the gentle reminders tailored to my specific weaknesses (widening my stance, not bending my knees slightly) to the moments when I was lightly pushed and prodded into the right position (or in one case just downright held up), I became much more aware of what my body was doing and how I was getting it to do that.
Once I was able to break through my insecurities over playing host, it proved to be one of the most successful classes I’ve ever had (with only minimal judgment of how those around me were faring).
While I’m still too sore to contemplate taking what I’ve learned back to the mat for a personal practice just yet, I have more confidence that when I do push into down dog next I’ll be more sure of my movements.
And, though I still can’t manage a handstand, the rush of excitement I feel over this newfound confidence just might compel me to let go and flow into a practice, be it private or group, more than once every couple of weeks.
A 90-minute private (one-on-one) class with Pip Usher is $45. For information, please call 76-451-554.