Daily practice, why bother?
Here are four gifts of daily self-practice that might inspire you to get started.
1. You get more presents!
Practice brings presence. It’s a gift.
I’m in a mood, I’m tired, I’m hyper… But I practice anyway.
There is something about committing unequivocally to daily practice that puts life in perspective. No matter what our subjective ego centered mood, if we reach beyond ourselves we learn to drop our loop, we see more clearly and can be more present.
Presence isn’t about ignoring the past or not considering the future. Our learning and discernment are key to our lives, but it is an awareness of our predisposition to color our experience with our own crayon. Already bringing our own expectations to each moment means we cannot be fully present. By practicing, we can have a fresher outlook and start to see beauty in the most seemingly mundane things.
“It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything a new, and in that there is joy.” ~ Krishnamurti
2. A 24-hour alarm clock!
Through practice we connect. Connection is a bit like a slap in the face sometimes, but it works. We are not one body, but five bodies. In the West our medical models so often separate health into mind and body and do not even acknowledge the other subtle aspects of our being.
The physical body is our vehicle for life, so I have found this is a good place to start.
“My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than the intellect. The body-unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos.” ~ D.H. Lawrence
The body is a matrix of our past evolution and experience, each tension or holding pattern has a story. In yoga practice, we work through asana and specific movements to uncover our rigidity and start to raise awareness of our physical blockages. The body literally teaches us. We begin to notice the connection of our physical tensions, breath and mental fluctuations. We break old habits and begin to wake up.
The problem is, we tend to nod off again. Hence, the daily part… first, we wake up to our body, perhaps our eating habits start to change or we just don’t fancy caffeine anymore, whatever it is. But this is just the beginning, we find that there is another layer and another and another, each one a little deeper and more subtle. The beauty of practice is that we constantly wake up to newness as more is revealed. I have been practicing for 12 years and the only thing I am truly certain of what I know could probably fit into my little finger and I have a whole body to investigate.
So wake up! Daily! There’s so little time and so much to explore.
3. We also get fruit!
I find the days we really don’t want to practice are the most fruitful days.
When we build up resistance to something, it is often because it is the thing we most need. How many times have you read “if you don’t like something about someone it’s often an aspect of you”? Practice is a bit like this. We don’t like to bump into our self or be with our self so we avoid.
The days I have to haul myself to my mat are the days I often discover the most. It’s like getting a teeny breadcrumb, which tells me I am on the right track. Our practice begins to nourish us. And when we are nourished we have something to share with those around us, who also benefit and our practice is recycled for the good of all.
4. And wings!
Yes, we also grow wings.
Through our practice, we start to shed our baggage. The five bodies I mentioned earlier are like a rich tapestry, each one is intrinsically linked to the other. Looking back to my early practice, all five layers were penetrated immediately, but I wasn’t consciously aware of this until much more recently.
But that’s the beauty of a true daily yoga practice, we get so much more than we bargain for. Until eventually, we catch a glimpse of our truth, we simplify and subtract and become more playful and free. And that filters out into our daily life.
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” ~ Nelson Mandela
In summation, Practice is a wakeful, conscious approach to all of life not just the part that happens on a mat. It is a microcosm of life and brings so much joy. Even in tough times we feel gratitude. We are awake. And become liberated.
Sounds great doesn’t it!? It is. But it can also be very hard work at times. In my experience, support is imperative—so hunt out a good teacher along the way. And remember, yoga is free! Everything you need is right here. The only requirement is practice.
This article was inspired by my own daily practice and those around me. In particular, Nanna Mountain, who did her 2000th daily walk in June. At 84, she has not missed a day come rain, snow or shine. She is an inspiration and shows that you are never too old to start a daily practice.
And my teacher Jonathan Monks. A few years ago, his 1000 days of devotion gave birth to a wonderful course called Sadhana, which is all about cultivating and supporting practice through the Yoga Monks Method.
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Ed: Sara Crolick/emailing author
All photos by Carly Mountain except the last photograph which was taken by www.mikecurryphotography.com.