My Practice Is…

August 3, 2015    BY Steph Auteri

My practice is two times a week: a 15-minute drive to the studio, rolling out my mat, setting up my blocks, perching on the edge of a folded-up blanket as I breathe, breathe, breathe and then sweat, sweat, sweat, bicep sliding against thigh as I strain for that bind, leg trembling as I rise up toward bird of paradise, thigh on fire as I lean in warrior II. It is the belly flop as I try to jump back from eka pada koundinyasana, and the face plant as I tip over in my unsteady crow. It is the damp my forehead leaves on my mat after a well-earned child's pose, and the drop in body temperature as I lay collapsed in savasana.

It is the belly flop as I try to jump back from eka pada koundinyasana, and the face plant as I tip over in my unsteady crow.

My practice is once a week, a three-minute walk away, studio expansive and high-ceilinged and bright with morning sun, the unsuccessful leap from downward dog through to upward plank, the unsuccessful shoulder opener as I struggle to find opening across the front of my chest, the delightful surprise I experience upon successfully finding a mermaid arm variation from a standing balance, toes clenching, arch clenching, muscles clenching.

My practice is pulling my mat over to the wall, cartwheeling up, catching air, one toe tip touching, wrists aching, tailbone tucking, soles of my feet straining toward the ceiling.

My practice is legs up the wall. Supported shoulderstand. Hips supported. Spine sinking into my mat. Eyes closed. The gentle rise and fall of my belly, my chest, my lungs.

My practice is a grab bag of delicious hip stretches, pigeon pose, head bent in supplication, hands together in prayer, muscles loosening, letting go.

My practice is home. Rolling out my yoga mat next to my infant daughter's play mat. Doing vinyasas as she lays there, looking up at me, laughing like a lunatic as my head hangs, as my hair brushes her face, tickles her nose. It is 15 minutes. It is 20 minutes. It is the five minutes before I have to strap her into her high chair and feed her ripped apart pieces of pizza and half a banana and her sippy cup. It is the five minutes before I am sure she will wake up. It is the five minutes when I can sit on my mat and close my eyes and actually feel quiet.

My practice is five sun breaths in the morning, bare feet on the hardwood next to my bed or cold on the tile in the downstairs bathroom right before I step into the shower. It is inhaling my arms up overhead, bowing down, tipping my pelvis forward, feeling that gratifying stretch in my hamstrings before I swoop up again, reach toward the sky, bring my hands together in prayer, close my eyes, feel a fullness behind my rib cage, inside my chest.

My practice is a series of gentle stretches at night. Cat/cow. Baddha konasana. Supta baddha konasana. A gentle inversion. My hands clasped on my belly, moving with the soft expansion and contraction of my body.

My practice is the extra yoga mat rolled up in the trunk of my car. Going out of town. Searching Google Maps. Checking schedules. Class descriptions. Yelp reviews. Slinking into a strange studio with my head down, floating out with my spine long, my shoulders back, my arms warmed up and sturdy and strong.

My practice is sitting cross-legged on my bed, hands resting on my knees, headphones on as I breathe through a 20-minute guided meditation and then open my eyes, revived, unfold my legs, return to my home office downstairs.

My practice is laying back in bed at night, arms at my sides, feet falling out, headphones on as I breathe through a 15-minute body scan meditation and drift away.

My practice is teaching beginner yogis. Teaching meditation novices. Knowing I am a novice myself. Sharing what I can in the hopes that they will get as much out of their practice as I get out of mine.

Finding gratitude when I am despondent. Finding strength when I feel weak and small and filled with self-doubt.

My practice is finding empathy instead of anger when I am cut off on the highway. Finding serenity instead of insanity when the cat pees on the couch. Finding gratitude when I am despondent. Finding strength when I feel weak and small and filled with self-doubt.

My practice is wherever I can find it. Whenever I can find it. Five minutes or an hour and fifteen.

It is whatever I need it to be—and I do need it—because life changes and thank god my practice can change with it.

#arts & culture Photography: Andrea Killam

Steph Auteri
Steph Auteri is a vinyasa yoga instructor with a yen for yin. Though she started practicing yoga in order to eliminate her muffin top, Steph soon realized that in addition to feeling stronger, slimmer, and more flexible, she also felt more balanced than she had in years. Now, on top of guiding her students through flowing standing sequences and a variety of stretches, she enjoys integrating meditation techniques and breathing exercises that help people find a sense of inner peace, making the... Read more>>