I have been a yoga teacher for 25 years and have had many runs at a regular daily yoga and meditation practice.
When I first started teaching in the mid-90s, I felt I was a bit of a fraud because I didn’t practice every day, really preferred a class to my own scripted home practice, and was an off-and-on meditator.
And I will admit, this still holds true. But does that make me less of a yogi?
As a sole small business owner, wife, and mother, finding regular time to practice and meditate can be challenging. My students have often asked me if I practice every day.
They envision me getting up at 4:30 a.m. to meditate and do yoga, eating a perfectly clean diet, and never yelling at my children.
“No, I absolutely do not get up at 4:30 a.m., maybe by 7:30 a.m., and a regular practice; this Vata has a really hard time with routine. Eating…I do the best I can but love vanilla birthday cake. The yelling at my children…don’t we all have bad hair days?”
At that point, I get a relieved look from my students when they realize I am totally human, and that is why we call it a practice—we try a little every day.
What I suggest to yoga practitioners is to find a way to make yoga a part of their everyday life.
As my husband always says, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Your practice will ebb and flow—times of regular practice, times of no practice. Times you are inspired, and times you are bored with your practice.
I always come back to the mat. I do not judge if it has been a day, a month, or six since my last practice. If you view the mat or meditation cushion as a welcoming space, it doesn’t judge your absence—you shouldn’t either.
Also, give yourself credit for the various acts of yogi kindness you do throughout your day. Those count as a yogic practice.
Yogic practice is an attitude, the way to see and act in your life. Living in truth, non-harming, non-stealing, generosity, and connection is living your yoga. Continuing to grow, seek clarity, contentment, and serve others are acts of Real Yoga.
One of the biggest ah-ha moments for me was realizing “doing yoga” or having a strict meditation practice did not make me more yogic or a great yoga teacher.
Finding compassion and kindness for myself, and giving myself permission to ebb and flow in my yoga and meditation practice, would allow me to take this yogic lifestyle 25 years—and 25 or 35 more to come.
Finding a way to make this just a part of what you do, like getting exercise and cooking healthy food, makes this Real Yoga. It is just part of our day, our life.
Six steps to finding your yogi essence:
1. Do you enjoy your yoga practice, or is it another thing on your to-do list?
2. Do you have a special place for your yoga and/or meditation practice?
3. If your meditation practice is elusive, notice the points in your day you do mini-meditations such as bringing awareness to your breath, listening to your steps while you walk, allowing your mind to be still when in your yoga practice.
4. Do you try every day to be a little kinder, gentler, compassionate toward yourself and others?
5. Letting go of the obligation to do your practice, and doing it when it calls to you and nourishes you.
6. Finding joy in the simple things and knowing your yoga mat is always there for when you return.
Realize that Real Yoga is really living through a lens of compassion, kindness, and love.
It is trying every day to be a better version of yourself. Real Yoga is not about whether you have a beautiful physical practice or if you can sit in silent meditation for 30 minutes—Real Yoga is one that makes you happy.