Sustaining a Practice

image credit: Eileen Dreyer

How can we sustain balance with practice?

What is it about the word practice that makes us turn away from activities that promote our well being?

I often experience the thought of practicing yoga as something I have to do. Not only do I have to do it but I have to do it well. This may or may not be true for you. Journeying to the studio or unrolling your mat can feel like a monumental task. Somewhere along the path my practice switched from something I enjoy doing, purely for the love of it, to something I felt obligated to do. As a result, when I did not practice, I felt guilty or defeated by my lack of comittment. Do you feel guilty for not practicing today? Yesterday? Has a week or two gone by? Maybe years? Whatever the case is… it’s okay. The door is always open. I am sending you a warm invitation back to sustain your practice. This party is designed to make you feel good.

In August, I recommited to my practice with a renewed attitude, I drew from what got me back in the door of my second yoga class and eventually my first yoga training. I loved it. I left feeling cleansed, renewed and nourished. For you nonyoga lovers, consider the benefits and explore different styles before you give yoga the boot.

Reflecting on my first steps on the yoga path, I was reminded of the power of a natural draw to engage in something you love versus a disengaging, ritualistic mindset. The appreciation of the feeling of restoration and renewal of my mind – body – spirit kept me coming back. Whatever I am going through, I found that when I practiced, I felt better–its was that simple. Who cannot stand to feel even a little better with a busy or inactive lifestyle?

One day, after a week or so without practice in August, I returned to the studio for a mysore class (self-led sadhana), the lead instructor said “Hi, Gail. It’s nice to see you. Your purvatasana looks beautiful.” There was no judgement in her eyes. We shared a warm smile beneath the surface and I felt my numbing guilt fading away.

This was a pose that I found extremely uncomfortable in the beginning of my practice and now it required less effort to execute, leaving more space to meditate on my now relaxed breathing. I thought to myself, wow I was carrying a sense of guilt and inadequacy to my practice that was robbing me of a beautiful experience. The warmth mirrored by my teacher helped me see a different attitude that felt sustainable. Not every pose was beautiful; I fell out of a headstand the same day, but instead of beating myself up by attaching it to my lack or practice. I laughed and tried again. When my body said that is all for today, I rested in child’s pose. Since then, I remind myself that it’s okay to fall down, just as long as I try again, and when I need help, I ask for it from myself and others within the yoga community.

Chances are if you’re falling out of practice there are some imbalances in your life that you need to stabilize in order support yourself. Your practice is a pipeline. Look at yourself with warm grandmotherly eyes of forgiveness. Find a time to give back to yourself, if no one is around to encourage you today, encourage yourself. Say to yourself, “Your [insert pose here] looks beautiful today.”

Here are some tips to set the tone for a sustainable practice:

1. Encourage Yourself to start over for any length of time, anywhere
In bed movement (body scanning exercise)
Chair Yoga
Wall Yoga
Pick a restorative pose that suits your needs

2. Say Aloud or inside, “I love my practice; it accepts me as I am without judgement.” Inhale, Exhale… begin

3. Plan Ahead: schedule your practice/ at home/ in a studio/in the park…
Be honest with yourself, determine a time and space that is realistic for you?
Set regular dates for practice that do not feel overwhelming in relationship to your other comittments. Think of how your practice will support your engagements by enabling you to showing up more alert, relaxed and with a fresh outlook.

4. Just Do it!:

Whenever you find a moment, as little as 30 seconds, close your eyes feel your feet, think “ground” or just breath.

5. Share your practice:
Get a yoga buddy or build a relationship with a teacher or practioner to promote accountabilty
Express your challenges or perceived shortcomings
Get help and/or support
Journal about your practice, especially the areas/times that moved you

Comments

  1. thanks for the links–
    i was just discussing with my friend who doesn’t “believe” in all that yoga stuff… and i was trying to illuminate that its about the breath, about arriving in the moment, and not trying to change or shift anything to perform or to perfect a pose. the start can be the hardest. for her, she needs less esoteric terms and more tangible/quantitative prove that it will help. she agreed to let me help her breathe and i am looking forward to helping her expand her lungs…but even as i offer space for other to practice and i shape my classes around the present moment, time and time again– i find myself lost in the complexities of this science/artform we call yoga. i rely heavily on the pause between thoughts to get me through to the next breath and remain available to what moves me, not what i want to move. its a powerful place and i honor where you are. it is an encouraging reflection to find people like you shining light and delivering a positive message for all of us to be inspired. thank you.

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