This article is for the yogis-to-be who have yet to step onto a sticky mat, through to the seasoned yogis that have downward-dogged their way onto their tenth sticky mat.
Nothing stays the same
Our bodies and our minds are constantly in flux. Constantly flowing between different rhythms and changing states. I am not sure whether this is good news or bad news, or whether it’s new at all but the gist is, nothing stays the same. We can only start from here, and we can only start now.
A regular practice does not mean a familiar practice
If everything is always changing, can we expect ourselves to create or sustain a regular yoga practice? YES, we can.
However, we would be doing ourselves a major disservice by expecting everything to feel how it did yesterday or last month or when we did the exact same sequence or five years ago. A regular and consistent asana practice does not mean everything will flow together exactly as it did previously. The mat stays the same - what moves is us!
‘Regular’ and ‘same’ are very different
A regular and consistent asana practice requires us to show up, voluntarily regulate our breath and have a healthy disrespect for the 'ideal' form of the asana. That’s the internal, 'how this feels' form, and the external, 'how this looks' form.
A regular and consistent asana practice requires us to show up, voluntarily regulate our breath and have a healthy disrespect for the 'ideal' form of the asana.
As Desikachar (1995) proposes “We begin where we are, and how we are, and whatever happens, happens”. But we must actually begin, again and again and again.
The obstacle is not external
If you’re reading this you certainly know your way around the web. With multiple classes online, at your fingertips, at the length of your choosing, we can agree that the practicalities of time management and accessing classes online (start here) are not really where we get stuck.
The biggest obstacles I have experienced in getting on my mat daily are my thoughts, my expectations, the terms and conditions I put on myself (in my practice)...the negotiations.
The biggest obstacles I have experienced in getting on my mat daily are my thoughts, my expectations, the terms and conditions I put on myself...the negotiations.
The fear that ultimately it won't feel as good as I want it to, the fear of being really truly present when all I want to do is run far away from how I am feeling.
Yoga happens Now
Now that’s a bind if I ever knew one – the embodied tension we bring into a practice which purports to reduce tension inside and out. I am reminded: yoga doesn’t begin two kilos from now, neither does yoga happen once you can touch your toes, nor does yoga happen once you’ve given up smoking, or when you follow a vegan diet. Yoga doesn’t happen only when you’re happier, calmer and kinder to others!
Yoga happens now and always.
The asana practice was never intended to make us feel bad about ourselves. It’s what we bring to the practice that might leave us feeling less than awesome. In the purist sense the practice is about resolving and integrating all the disparate parts of ourselves.
The gift and the curse of a daily asana practice is that there isn’t any place to hide. The treasure of a daily asana practice is that over time we'll want to hide less.
And that’s the figurative carrot on the stick – we have the opportunity to practice acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness daily. We are encouraged to embody strength, balance, joy and peacefulness daily. Our yoga mat becomes our playground, our sandpit. A safe place to explore and discover ourselves – the fluctuations of our minds, the intricate minutiae of every bone, muscle and fibre in our bodies and the cadence of our inhales and exhales. Daily we have the chance to embody a deeper sense of spaciousness between and beyond the breath, the shape and discursive thought.
Be loyal to yourself
By committing to a daily practice we are ‘backing’ ourselves, we are showing ourselves the deepest loyalty. We are communicating to ourselves that whatever is, arises or passes is okay! Progressively, we get out of our own way as we learn to stay present and connected to each moment, the easy moments and the hard. By firmly establishing ourselves in a daily practice, we make a pledge to ourselves to leave the exit door behind.
"The sincere human no longer needs to adhere to a perfect ideal, whether social or philosophical, to attain wisdom. She simply needs to watch her experiences unfold and to enrich her action with tender watching." ~ Remski, 2012
If we do not make a commitment to practise asana daily, that is okay too (really!), I still invite you to witness (with compassion) the days when you do and you do not practise asana. I encourage you to look (without judgement) at how your preferences dictate when to and when not to practise. The profundity of a daily practice is that it fortifies our resolve, our resilience, our relationship to Self and other-Selfs.
So whether you do have an existing daily practice that you’ve had a siesta from or whether you are embarking upon a daily practice for the first time, the obstacles and solutions are the same. Likewise, they derive from the same source, YOU. And that is a good thing, because wherever you go, there you are, full of resources and solutions ☺
This article has focused principally on asana. It is equally as important to get on your mat as it is to take your mat (and your practice) with you. Asana is but one of the many gateways (on the 8 Limb Path). By engaging in the full spectrum of all practices available to us we optimize our state of Yoga. By incorporating the practices of yoga into our daily lives to the best of our ability, the obstacles do diminish simply because we see them more clearly. Essentially, because on a daily basis we embody a sense of spaciousness, within and between our thoughts and our actions. Steadfast we become in our commitment and motivation toward self-liberation.
Books that inspired my writing:
Chodron, P. (2013) How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind.
Desikacher, T.K.V. (1995) The Heart of Yoga. Developing a Personal Practice.
Klein, M (2012) How Yoga Makes You Pretty: The Beauty Myth, Yoga and Me.
Horton, C & Harvey, R (Ed) (2012) 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice.
Remski, M. (2012) Threads of Yoga. A remix of Patanjali's Sutras.