How to Keep a Yoga PracticeMar 23, 2017
Starting an Ashtanga practice is hard – keeping it? Well that’s damn near impossible. Here are my tips for staying with it.
Get excited! The yoga sutras teach us to practice for a long time with devotion and enthusiasm. Think of all the benefit that comes out of your yoga practice – a clearer mind, stronger body, community, friends, transformation – and get on your mat excited about what the practice holds for you.
Lets also address the long time part of this sutra. A long time: let go of the idea of accomplishment, cling to the idea of consistent practice. Yoga is the state where you work hard without caring about the result.
Find out what motivates you and keep that in your mind every single day. Maybe its that post yoga high, maybe it’s the latte you treat yourself to after practice, maybe its better arms, better sex, better sleep. It could be that you are more compassionate to your partner, coworkers, children – or yourself. Maybe you are better equipped to deal with your anxiety, troubles, or the current political environment. Maybe you’re going for samadhi in this lifetime. It will be different for each one of us. Recognize what motivates you and keep think about it every day. Write it on post-it notes, set a reminder on your phone, name your alarm so when it goes off at early AF o’clock you are reminded of why you are doing this.
Be accountable – and hold others accountable: Tell your family, friends and other supportive people about what you are doing. Find a practice buddy to help you get going in the morning. Get to know your teacher so that he or she is expecting to see you. Did you notice that your co-practitioner was a no show all week? Shoot them a text and ask what’s up. Sometimes we need a little help from our friends to keep us in line.
Make it a habit: For me, practicing yoga is like brushing my teeth. I wake up in the morning and I just do it. After years of practicing Ashtanga it feels weird not to do it.
Take Refuge Ashtanga is traditionally taught in the mornings – which can be a particular challenge for a lot of people. But a morning practice can also be incredibly peaceful. Learn to appreciate the special energy of the early mornings while the rest of the world sleeps. I love how there are minimal distractions early in the mornings. There is no traffic and no emails or texts pinging my phone. An added bonus? Watching the sun come up is a beautiful thing. If you can’t practice in the morning, practice in the afternoon or evening – the important thing is that you practice.
Night Time Rituals. Start thinking of your practice the night before. Consider what you eat and drink so you can set yourself up for a successful morning. Streamline your morning by getting everything ready for your practice before you go to bed. Pack your bags, fill your water bottle, program your coffee pot, unroll your mat, put toothpaste on your toothbrush – whatever you need to do to support your morning rush.
Try to be consistent with a bed time so your body falls asleep more easily. I like to drink tea before bed and do some boring reading to help me fall asleep.
Alarm, lights, action! Struggle to wake up in the morning – you aren’t alone. My best tips for getting out of bed in the morning? Turn on the lights right away, turn on some upbeat music to help get you going, take a hot shower to get your muscles ready and also to help you wake up. I look forward to a cup of hot coffee for a dose of caffeine, but if thats not your thing drink water or tea. You can also consider using a sleep app to help you wake up at the most ideal time of your sleep cycle.
Enjoy the Process. To sound all yogic on you – the journey is the goal. Cliche, but true. Your practice is going to look and feel different every day. Let go of the idea of getting a particular result or achieving a certain asana and learn to love the process. There is no better way to understand yoga than by doing it.
Show Up. I say it all the time, but showing up is the most important thing. And I mean really showing up and being present on your mat, in your body and in your practice. I care less about what you do on your mat and more about the fact that you made it there. Make the goal to get on your mat, not do your full practice.
It’s your return that counts. Life happens. And really, would we want it any other way? We get injured, busy, have kids, start new relationships, and have other activities that we love to spend our time doing. Teachers move, shalas close, and communities dwindle. Doubts come up and we question the practice. There are a myriad of things that can buck you off this path. But it’s your return to the practice that matters most.
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