When you are trying to build up a regular routine or habit of practising yoga it can be helpful to think of it as something that is a necessity rather than an add-on to your day. For example in the same way that travel to work is not something you choose to do. This can help to shift the way you think about practice.
Start by setting REALISTIC goals… And know that ‘practising yoga every day’ is not realistic! My first teacher, Larry Schultz, gave me perhaps the best solution/prescription for keeping my practice consistent. Do not go more than three days in a row without a practice. With that “simple” commitment I have kept my practice for over 18 years! Another important idea is to change the paradigm of thinking that Yin, Restorative, Meditation or Pranayama are not yoga practices. For me, this was a tough learning process as I came from an Ashtanga and Power yoga background. If it wasn’t 90 minutes and I didn’t sweat… it wasn’t a practice. When I finally matured enough to move beyond this, my practice and consistency became a pleasure rather than a chore.
I have two tips:
- Set up a specific timetable for your practice and start out with maybe 20 minutes of practice time, so don’t overdo it. For most people, 20 mins is relatively easy to schedule in a few times a week. Commit to it and if you don’t practise on your scheduled time, do it at another time that same day. Make it an integrated part of your life, just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
- Start out doing poses you love to do and the ones you are good at or that you would like to. When you enjoy doing your practice, the discipline to actually do it will be much easier to stick to. Over time, you can add poses that you find more challenging.
- Be clear why you want to start a routine. Is it because you want it? Because your teacher advises you to? Because others do it and you see they are benefiting from it? These are all good reasons! But you have to be honest with yourself and find what your reason is.
- Ask yourself what you would like to get out of it. What is the benefit you would like for yourself? If you have several answers, good! Taste them, and find the motivation that makes you lighthearted and happy. This is the one that is beneath them all, your deepest motivation.
- Write it down, make a little artwork from it if you please, and put it in the space where you are going to do your routine at a spot where you can see it and be inspired by it.
- Now be aware… The key to a longstanding joyful routine is that you see that you do not need it! This might seem strange to you because we are so used to do things because we feel we have to do them. Either from inside pressure (if I don’t do it, I am wrong/ weak/ bad/ lazy etc) or outside pressure (I will be criticised/ ostracised/ not belong etc). Als,o our lives are so full today, that it often seems there is no time. Very often it’s all ‘must do’s’, pressure stuff. Even relaxing can then get a colour of ‘must do’, because if you don’t relax you cannot perform the next day.
How joyful and fulfilling it will be to have half an hour each day (or maybe even an hour!) just for you. A gift, a celebration. This is why the Buddha said, “a routine or practice is not the way to happiness, happiness is the way”. Find it by doing it.
The real important thing, is to have fun because fun will keep the momentum going. If you have a spare minute make a list of 5 poses you like and do them, do them whenever you feel like it. Ideally every day or if not a few times a week then build up from there. Maybe add a pose which is a bit more difficult for you or add a pose which you really don’t like. So the basis is really that you’re having fun doing it, then the mind gets triggered and you dive into the yoga and really explore yourself. That’s how I started and it worked for me and I can really recommend it to others.
Be gentle yet firm with yourself. The mind will ALWAYS find excuses not to practise. For most people, it’s best to practise early in the morning, before checking your emails or doing the laundry (or whatever it is your mind tries to convince you to do at that moment). Practise for at least five minutes every day, preferably at the same time each day, so it’ll become a routine before you know it. If your day allows it, practise longer, up to two hours if you feel like it. Start with poses you know and are comfortable practising (Sun Salutations are a great start to your day, as is sitting in meditation) and add more gradually. Make a commitment and hold yourself to it, yet don’t beat yourself up if you missed a day.
And the most important part: smile. Enjoy your practice!
When students ask me what they could do to start their home practice I am very happy! It means that they see the benefits of a regular practice and they crave for more… yoga is starting to work! I suggest a visual, maybe a book, a sequence from a yoga magazine, a sequence from EkhartYoga… and I suggest to them to enjoy the process of creating their own space and time to do a little bit of yoga, even if only for 10 minutes. When they have a steady home practice I suggest to them not to beat themselves if they don’t feel like practising every day. A lot of my students say that they do a little bit in between classes remembering some of the postures, and I think that is fantastic! I started my own yoga journey with my self-practice, so I value a lot the time on my own mat.
- Create a little sanctuary where you feel comfortable and undisturbed.
- Meditate at a regular time, just make it part of your day. This is your moment!
- You can do the meditations online, but also just sit in silence sometimes. Even if it’s only for ten minutes, just enjoy sitting, doing nothing, just observing.
- Any mood is perfect. Sit when you feel fine, sit when you feel horrible or restless. All you need to to is stay with it…as it is.
- Be friendly to yourself! Meditation is not about getting somewhere…so you are always exactly where you should be.
If you have a suggestion for a question you would like to put to the teachers please let us know in the comments.