We don’t need to be told that it’s good to practice something every day.
We’ve heard it many times throughout our life: from parents, teachers, tutors, coaches, successful friends, and even unsuccessful friends. We say it to ourselves, too. Whether we’re learning an instrument, starting a workout regimen, cultivating a meditation practice, or writing for a career, we know a daily practice is vital to our success.
Easy enough, right? It sure sounds that way.
Then why is it so difficult to do?
The simple answer is that it takes determination, discipline, motivation, and lots of passion to devote a part of every day to an activity.
But simple answers won’t get us anywhere. How many times have we gritted our teeth and dragged ourselves to our meditation cushion, yoga mat, or journal, only to decide on the way that we’ll just do it tomorrow?
Fear not. There are tricks and methods we can use to finally reach this destination that is perpetually so close, and yet so far.
If you’re not sure you’re someone who’s cut out to maintain a daily practice, let me tell you a story. This story is about my own experiences, failures, successes, and a few more failures.
My story revolves around yoga.
Last year, I traveled for eight months. Given that I had lived in over 10 different locations during that time, my yoga space was constantly changing. I lived in tiny, cramped huts and in yoga centers with vast halls. Some places were inspiring, some were downright mind-numbing. I tried my best to stay consistent in my asana (yogic postures) practice, but it tended to be scattered, rushed, and distracted.
However, there were periods of several weeks when I would fall into a routine and my practice would leave me feeling blissful, content, and empowered. Every. Single. Day.
Why were the effects of my practice suddenly magnified at certain times? What changed? I decided to look deeper and investigate what exactly was creating this transformation.
The following is a list of factors I realized were leading to a powerful asana practice. It is also a list of ways we can greatly transform and enhance the time we spend doing anything.
Whether we are beginners or have spent many years practicing any activity, these tips can be beneficial in helping us get the most out of our time:
1. Environment is everything.
Our surroundings matter, and our practice space should exude an energy conducive to our activity. For example, when we practice yoga or meditation, it is best to choose a space that is calm, soothing, quiet, clean, and sattvic, or having the quality of purity. A similar principle would apply if we are writing. It might be best to stay away from crowded, noisy, or polluted areas that could serve as distractions or prevent us from relaxing fully. A good example is an open, quiet room full of natural light, or a favorite park where we go to introspect and commune with nature.
Of course, sometimes finding a perfect space is just not possible. I have practiced asana in so many different places: in a small, messy room with barely enough floor space for a mat, at festivals, in the middle of a garden thick with weeds. However, just know that the environment we practice in will absolutely have an effect on our mind and body.
If possible, create a space exclusively for your practice. Have you ever walked into a church or a temple and felt the energy of the “Divine” from years (sometimes centuries) of people coming there for worship? It’s because spaces store energy.
There is a reason people go to an office to work. So choose one place where you only practice asana, pranayama, meditation, or any other activity. If you have space in your home, you can designate a “Yoga Room,” an “Art Corner,” or a “Study Area.” It will collect and store that energy and allow you to automatically sink into the right mindset for those activities.
2. Minimize distractions, magnify results.
We want to be able to focus on our practice. This means keeping the phone, computer, and any other distractions away from the dedicated space. Concentration is incredibly difficult if we are constantly thinking of what’s happening on Facebook or hearing our phone buzz every few minutes.
For activities like yoga and meditation, try not listening to music. Doing so can serve as another distraction that takes the mind away from the inward focus we want to have when practicing, whether we acknowledge it or not. In fact, even having a mirror in the yoga room can take our attention away from relaxation as we catch ourselves checking out how we look.
3. Consistency is key.
It takes regular daily practice for asana to become an effortless part of our routine. This is called abhyāsa, the yogic principle of sustained, regular practice. As soon as we no longer have to spend energy persuading ourselves to practice something—when the practice becomes natural—the mind relaxes and eases into the pattern, and the experience of our practice deepens.
Try it for a week. Choose a set time and place for practice—then do it. A good motivation is telling yourself that if after a week it hasn’t become any easier and you don’t feel any better, you may return to your old regimen. But I promise, after you feel the difference, you won’t want to go back.
4. Comfort is crucial.
You may be thinking, well this is obvious. Why would we not want to be comfortable? Of course we all want to feel comfortable, especially when we’re doing something that takes effort, like yoga. Unfortunately, many of us have long forgotten about the compromises we’ve made for the sake of beauty, fads, or fitting in.
Nowadays, what we are most used to seeing (and wearing) are synthetic clothing and sports bras so tight they cut off our circulation and leave marks after we’ve removed them.
Attractive? Maybe. Helpful to comfort, breathing, focus, and relaxation? Not exactly.
Next time you do asana or any other practice, try wearing your most comfortable outfit, for example, a pair of comfy pants and a light cotton shirt (synthetic material doesn’t actually let our skin breathe). Stressful conditions, whether related to our environment or attire, won’t help our mind or body become calm, focused, and relaxed.
5. Develop a spiritual supplement.
Any activity done without a higher purpose or that is not of benefit to others will not render useful results.
There are many different ways to enhance the effects and success of any practice. Meditation is a great supplement, but other options include asana, pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), kirtan (chanting), mantras (a sacred sound), volunteering for charity work, eating a wholesome diet, or simply writing notes of gratitude to family, friends, teachers, or strangers.
The possibilities are endless.
I’m still working on implementing these guidelines into my own life. The beautiful part is that we are all in this together. As our practice becomes more powerful, so does our sense of peace, happiness, contentment, and well-being.
May all know peace!