A few weeks ago this picture was shared by one of the pages I follow on Facebook:
It spoke to me immediately. Not as a yoga teacher, but as one who practices yoga.
I have a confession to make. I sometimes skip my daily practice. This is difficult to admit. As a teacher, I constantly encourage students to develop a daily practice. I am often heard saying, “Just 5 minutes a day is better than no yoga at all. You can do 5 minutes, right?” And now, here I am admitting that I don’t always follow my own advice.
I would be less concerned if my pattern were to skip practice on days when I’m not feeling well. That somehow seems more acceptable. But, I have come to realize that when I’m not feeling well is exactly the time I need my practice most. So, even if I’m not up to an asana practice, I make time to do breath work and meditate.
No, I miss practice most when I’m feeling my best. I don’t set out to miss it — what’s that saying about intentions and the road to hell? The scenario usually goes something like this:
- I feel great this morning. I should go to Target or the grocery store or do some other errand before the lunch crowd gets there/while I have energy/before it gets too hot or too cold out/etc..
- I run my errands only to find I’m hungry when I get home. “Well, I’ll practice later this afternoon.”
- Later in the day I either get distracted or find that I have, in fact, run out of energy and need a nap.
- Now its time for dinner and I can’t practice on a full stomach. “I’ll do a wind-down practice sometime before bed.”
- Then (fill in the blank) happens and before I know it, I’m in bed thinking, “Damn, I never practiced today.”
This would be fine if it was a one-time event. Life happens and practice should never become a chore. The problem arises when one missed day rolls into another and then another — when missing practice becomes the habit and not the exception.
You won’t be surprised to know that the more I skip my practice, the worse I feel — physically and mentally. I’m more fatigued, there is more pain, muscles tighten up. Heck, my emotions tighten up. When I haven’t been practicing, it is more difficult to work wisely with limitations. I start to wish for the “old me,” the one before the ms. These are the times when living with chronic health challenges seems most overwhelming. I am sure my teaching is less inspiring during these times.
Eventually, I come back to my practice. And when I do I think “Why have I not been doing this?” Because the moment I step onto my mat (or sit in my practice chair), every time I get comfortable for pranayam (breath work) or meditation, my soul begins to sing. Yoga is a gateway to what nourishes, inspires and sustains me — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is a gift.
It is through this amazing practice that we can explore why we repeat or hold onto unhelpful habits and patterns. It is what allows us to become aware that we are in the midst of an old pattern. And hopefully, over time, this awareness occurs earlier and earlier, allowing us to begin the process of untangling ourselves from whatever web we are in. This practice allows us to become friends with both our light and our shadow. And it is this practice that I will return to again and again, knowing that with effort (tapas) it will become as regular as breath itself.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go hop on my mat.