March 15, 2015

The Roller Coaster Ride of Regular (Yoga) Practice.

sunset yoga

7:30 a.m.: My phone plays the pleasantest alarm tone I could find.

I hit snooze, of course.

7:35. Alarm again. Snooze again.

7:40. I roll out of bed, still half-asleep, and pull on the lightest clothing I have. It is already around 80 degrees outside.

I make my way to my yoga spot—an open-air stage with an excellent plywood floor and an even better view of monkeys scampering along nearby branches. Choosing music, I unroll my mat and sit down (or lie down, or stand up, depending on my energy level).

Within 10 minutes I am fully awake, alert and filled with gratitude for this morning ritual. Lately, I have had to remind myself to take days off.

I first began a daily yoga practice two years ago, upon completion of an intensive month-long teacher training program. Thirty days of twice-daily practice will certainly help kickstart a new habit. As I traveled onward, I kept it up, finding a powerful sense of home and rootedness in disciplined practice.

A year or so later, when I waned in that commitment, I did so first with guilt, then with resignation, and finally with acceptance. When I taught classes, I felt sheepish about the infrequency of my personal practice—somehow less worthy—but that feeling did nothing to push me into my former discipline.

I came back to my daily yoga quietly, around four months ago. Once I forgave myself the terrible sin of stopping in the first place, I found it far easier to slip back into it. I could once again come to my mat peacefully, unperturbed by pointless guilt about not being there the day before.

It is a fine line—I am learning—between discipline founded on positive intention and that based in angry intensity.

My commitment to yoga had been on the rigid side, and thus my failure to show up naturally engendered guilt and other unhelpful emotions. I feel that my approach has become more balanced. Were I to lose my routine (as, surely, will come to pass eventually), it would be okay.

And that’s the thing about discipline—any discipline. If we’re too rigid, the wagon tracks too inflexibly straight, then it is impossible to jump back in when we tumble out. Personally, I much prefer this softer kind of discipline that allows for the wiggles and curves of human reality. Self-discipline without self-forgiveness, I found, is decidedly unpleasant.

To anyone pursuing a daily practice, remember to be kind to yourself.

Find a balance that accounts for the days when you just can’t show up, while pushing you through the days you just don’t want to. Learn the difference. Know that even if you screw up today, your mat (or whatever else it is) will still love you tomorrow, and so should you!


Relephant Read:

10 Tips & Tricks for Establishing a Regular Home Yoga Practice


Author: Toby Israel

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Flickr/Andrew Kalat

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