Are you starting your yoga practice—or maybe starting again? Keep it simple.
“Just do it” might work for gym routines, but won’t cut it on the mat.
Your yoga practice isn’t some transient, target based routine you shoehorn into your schedule. Times when I’ve needed support in getting on my own mat usually have to do with burnout or uncomfortable feelings I’d rather avoid, thank you very much. At those times, drill sergeant tactics are the opposite of practice. Instead, the “Drop and give me 10 Sun Salutations!” voice recapitulates the burnout and avoidance.
What’s needed isn’t all candles and incense either. What gets me to the mat are very practical, simple everyday cues. Somewhere between fairy dust and grunting force of will is a draw, born of experience and experimentation. You know once you’re there, it’ll feel good.
How to bridge the gap between the chasm of avoidance and the playfulness of presence? Use simple, mundane actions to usher you onto your mat. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Use your current routine to find your way to the one you’re creating. Bring your morning cuppa onto your mat. Whether it’s water, coffee, tea or vodka (just kidding—yoga before cocktails!) this single shift can create a seamless transition. Instead of having to finish your current routine before you roll out the mat, you import it. Hey, I’m not above tricking myself some mornings when the trick has such a massive payoff. You can sit and take a sip or two of hot morning yumminess while you sit on your mat and absorb the loveliness of the fact that you showed up.
Leave gluten-free breadcrumbs. “The best way is to stop…when you know what will happen next,” Hemingway instructs on the practice of writing. The next best thing, when you’ve already stopped and have no idea what will happen next, is to leave yourself breadcrumbs. Not knowing what to do is the number one obstacle my students report: the self-imposed pressure triggers a massive round of monkey bars for the mind. Before you know it, you’ve convinced yourself you don’t have the time or expertise or right to roll out your mat all alone. False. You have all three. Choose three to five poses you want to play with and write the names or draw stick figures out the day before. If you want examples, I posted some breadcrumbs for students on my blog.
Create a container. If staleness is your main concern with bread crumbs, plan just the beginning and end of each practice. This creates a container of sorts and frees you up in between. I begin sitting in vajrasana, or sitting on my shins, and just observe the feelings of breathing in and out. I end with a selected sequence of finishing poses. You can begin in Mountain pose and end with Bridge before Corpse pose . If you know the beginning and the end, you may find it easier to show up.
Choose a simple signal. Whether you have a fancy bell to ring or start the same music every time, simply having a repetitive action that you associate only with coming to your mat can be powerfully settling. I have come to look forward to ringing a particular bell at the start and end of practice. It sends a wave of “Okay, you’re here now, until this bell rings again,” and allows me to sink in to simply doing the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.
How do you work yoga into your everyday, get it done and out the door life? Share your bridge or just declare that you’re owning your practice by leaving a comment! Yoga allows you to come as you are and leave renewed. Do it yourself renewal in a package you already have: your body, breath and mind.
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Asst. Ed.: ShaMecha Simms
Ed: Brianna Bemel
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