As if life isn’t hectic enough – here comes the holiday hoopla. Extended family, holiday shopping, holiday parties, drinking, brunches and lunches, baking, cooking and decorating. You are going to need your practice more than ever over the next month – but how do you maintain your practice when the holidays are getting the best of you? Here are my tips for keeping your practice alive during the season of merrymaking.
Give yourself a break! Practice compassion with yourself this holiday season. If you’ve been indulging in too much food and spirits, let your binds go. If you are feeling jacked up from the holiday stress, don’t push your backbends. Now is the time of year to focus on showing up – you can fine tune all the details in the new year. So send yourself heaps of love. Don’t judge your practice – remember if you practiced, it was good – it’s really that simple.
Do your best to stick with the morning...
Today marks the beginning of my third month in Encinitas. And, so far (as I should perhaps have expected somehow, although it’s naturally impossible to expect this) nothing has gone as I planned. I realize now, though, that perhaps I’m not the one doing the planning.
When I announced to my community that I would be taking a sabbatical and leaving DC to study with Tim Miller for a year, I told them to keep doing their practice. We all need to remember that practicing because of an attachment to a teacher is a dead end. In fact, to practice for any reason other than a love for the practice is a dead end. Practicing because you love a teacher is like looking for something you’ll never find - teachers can give us a false sense of permanency, especially considering how formative a good teacher can be, but one of the most crucial things this practice teaches us every day is that nothing is permanent.
I certainly didn’t think that I would get here and be...
A student recently told me she was feeling burned out and wondered why we practice 5-6 days a week in the Ashtanga system.
In a nutshell, I think the answer is transformation. But I’ll give you some of the details.
When we practice 6 days a week we get the opportunity to learn faster. By repeating asanas and vinyasas on a daily basis we are able to memorize more quickly — both in our minds and our bodies. When you practice 6 days a week it can help prevent injury because your body becomes more accustomed to the movement and you become more aware of what your body can and cannot tolerate — which of course lends itself to progress in the poses.
Your body will acclimate to the practice more quickly if you practice consistently. Your flexibility and strength increase at a faster rate with a daily practice. Its easier to adopt a daily routine that you can stick to. You’ll find going to bed early and waking up early enough to practice easier when you do it...
I know better than anyone how hard it is to have a successful morning. I am a morning person, yes. But I am more of a 7am morning person, not a 5am in the morning person. So teaching Mysore in the wee hours of the morning goes against my natural rhythm.
When you have to be someplace at 6am every minute counts in the morning. Here are my tips for optimizing my morning and maximizing how late I can sleep.
If you’re trying to start a home yoga practice, you might have noticed something - practicing yoga at home is hard. Then again, just like any other disciplined practice, yoga is always hard. But I think, like with so many other of life’s challenges, the biggest strategic change you can make is to your own mindset.
Consciously decide that you are going to create an awesome yoga space for yourself, and that you are going to have a transformative home practice, and you will. But if you tell yourself that you can’t practice at home because of any of the million distractions that can keep us from practicing, then guess what? You won’t. Our thoughts create our reality - don’t limit your practice potential with limiting beliefs.
That said, I know it’s easier said than done, and I know how “out there” this all might sound, so here are my practical tips from seven years of practicing mostly by myself. I’ve had my ups and...
For a lot of people the holidays can be stressful. Extra expenses, jam packed schedules, travel, holiday shopping and parties lead to over stimulation - and this throws off our balance.
During the holidays it's easy to lose track of the things that contribute to our overall happiness. It’s also easy to take on additional things that throw off routines, relationships and environment. This can leave us feeling overwhelmed and over stimulated. We finally stumble out of the holidays in January feeling like a hot mess and needing a month to recover.
When the holiday hoopla starts to feel like too much: Practice. When the days seems impossibly short and cold: Practice. When you are sure you are going to be on the naughty list: Practice. When everyone is getting on your last nerve: Practice. When you are tired, feel bloated, partied too much, spent too much money: Practice.
When things get tough, like they always will, this is what you should do: Practice.
In yoga the teacher plays an important role. The teacher not only sheds light on the subject of yoga - but the relationship itself is foundational. The specifics of the teaching such as techniques and beliefs are not as important as the love and relationship established between student and teacher. Yoga, to yoke, is about connectedness, and that begins with the connection between two beings. Connection is the driving force in transformation.
Good teachers remain heavy in their experience and not swayed. One of the definitions of Guru is heavy.
I think as students we seek to find teachers because we need someone to help us hold what is too big for us all on our own, and hopefully to provide a vision for us beyond what we can imagine for ourselves.
One of the central components of being a good teacher, is to be clear on what you’re teaching. My job as a teacher is to impart my knowledge of asana, but I’m not an asana teacher, I’m a yoga teacher. My job is also to...
The struggle ends when the gratitude begins - Neale Donald Walsh
If you want to create more good in your life, you need to start recognizing and being grateful for the good you already have. People who are grateful lead happier lives - it’s that simple. Being grateful contributes to resilience and the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.
Gratitude puts everything into perspective - you can’t be grateful and angry simultaneously.
You get to choose gratitude now. Gratitude is not just about being thankful for the good things in your lift. Rather, it is about being thankful for everything in your life. Practicing gratitude helps direct energy in a positive direction and away from ruination about what isn’t going well, and often what isn’t within your control.
So, reframe your struggles. You don’t have to wait until you make it to the other side. Look at how you are being challenged and think of how much you get to learn and be thankful.
I’ve had a lot of students come and go in the six years that I have been teaching a daily Mysore program. This can be for a variety of reasons: schedules change, people have babies, jobs relocate. But the truth is, a lot of people never really stick to the practice, or the practice doesn’t stick to them. What I have noticed over the years is that those who make practice a habit are the ones who practice for the long haul.
Our habits shape us and they play a central role in any successful long-term discipline. Once practice is a habit, it is no longer something that we have to think about. You wake up, you brush your teeth, you practice yoga. Boom—it’s done.
But getting to the point where practice is a habit is difficult. We’ve all felt it—showing up is the hardest part. Our minds play tricks on us. They have all sorts of sneaky reasons to try to prevent us from practicing, because the mind knows that with practice, its thought patterns...
Ever consider using visualization in your practice?
Visualization, or mental imagery, has long been used by top athletes as part of training. I figured if Michael Phelps uses visualization, then I probably should too.
Studies show that mental imagery can help both mentally and physically. I tend to use it primarily with really difficult poses. Here are my tips for your visualizing yourself in an asana.