You know how they say “flexible mind, flexible body”? I’ve really taken this maxim to heart as I’ve been working my way through the #365Yoga project. Today — day #266 — I can honestly say that having an open mind about my yoga practice has been the only reason I’ve been successful and consistent in my daily commitment to practice asana as well as my sadhana of meditation and swadhyaya.
Like a lot of yogis, I have my preferences when it comes to the way I want to practice my yoga asana. I like certain classes, certain teachers, certain times of day, certain amounts of food in my stomach, a certain mood to be happening when I enter a class. I’m attached to these things, and under the right circumstances, I’ll let them control my practice.
But when I went into this #365Yoga project, I knew I was going to have to let some of my attachments go out the window if I was going to honor my intention to do some yoga every day. So I checked in with my preconceived notions.
NOTION NUMBER ONE: It’s not yoga unless it’s a 90-minute class.
Going to an actual 90-minute yoga class every single day is not a realistic approach to an entire year. But I own a yoga studio in Houston (Darla’s Yoga Garden), so, lucky for me, being “at work” means I’m actually in a yoga studio all day long. That makes it very convenient for me to take 15, 30, 45 minutes out of my day and hit the mat for a quickie practice session. Fifteen minutes of yoga might not sound like much, but I’d venture to say that it’s better to do 15 minutes of yoga every day than 90 minutes once a week. The consistency conditions your body, physically, and helps calm the mind as well. Just knowing that my yoga practice is waiting for me every day helps anchor me when I feel untethered.
However, anyone who has ever owned a studio will agree that sometimes the last thing you feel like doing in your yoga studio is yoga. When you own a yoga business, yoga can become just that: business. It’s hard to focus on asana when, ten feet away, the phone is ringing, the plumber just showed up to fix a leak, prospective students are peering through the window looking for a schedule of classes, and the To Do List looms large.
So my first “letting go” moment around the way I define yoga has been to acknowledge that any amount of yoga counts — even just a few minutes, anywhere, anytime.
NOTION NUMBER TWO: It’s not yoga unless it’s better than it was yesterday.
If I do yoga every single day, I’ll look hot, be skinny, and stay young forever, right? Well, not exactly. Another important lesson I’ve learned this year: to let go of the expectation around how my practice will serve me. Don’t get me wrong; I feel great when I do yoga every day — as a general rule. But some days feel better than others. I’ve learned not to get discouraged when the yoga just doesn’t feel good, or when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and my inner critic goes, “Hey! Why aren’t you perfect at that one yet?”
NOTION NUMBER THREE: It’s not yoga unless it’s suffering.
I also have good days, and days when I can get to a nice luxurious 90-minute class. These days are the days that really feed my practice. Going to a class with another teacher is always a great experience because I get feedback. This helps me keep growing as a student and as a teacher. And I also get support when I practice with other people. Until I’m a sage saddhu living in an ashram in India, I think I’ll always need this sort of check-in with my community and peers.
Sometimes, no matter what I do, life gets in the way and I can’t make it on to my mat at all. On these days, my other practices shore me up until I can sweat. I remind myself that just breathing conscientiously is yoga. So I make sure to take a few minutes here and there to close my eyes, tune in to the sensations in my body, and breathe deep. I find the present moment, and I yoke my body, breath and mind together as best I can with each inhale and exhale.
illustration via MindMapInspiration.com