The time is now, and now is the time.
Along with the shift in the weather in these early Fall days, the pattern of shifting continues in many aspects of our lives. We shed our old summer skin and slowly adapt to changes in living patterns, environments, responsibilities, wardrobe, even eating habits. And often, that means less time for our own pursuits, including yoga, even though this is when we probably need yoga the most. School is back in session, and for parents of smaller kids, this is the time when we establish new routines, manage homework and school responsibilities, and try to get back in some kind of groove. Big kids in college and in grad school are trying to keep their heads on straight right about now as they settle back into the process of busying their brains and managing new workloads. Even those of us who aren’t in school seem to be nesting, staying closer to home, going inward. So how, in this time of sometimes forced introspection, do we get motivated to either rekindle an old routine that we once loved, or start a new one? A yoga practice is one of the most beneficial gifts you can give to yourself: the hardest part sometimes can just be getting off the sofa, into your car, and into the studio, especially when you’ve been away for a while. Once you’re there, it’s pretty much guaranteed that even if just for a short time, all other obstacles will fade away. Herewith, some reasons why now is the perfect time to get back on your mat.
- Life’s energy is never static – it is always shifting, sometimes by the minute. Sometimes we’re happy. Sometimes we’re sad. Happy, sad, comfortable, uncomfortable are always interchanging. So how do we learn to stay sane in the moments when we feel like losing it? How we learn to relax into this dynamic is vital, and your yoga practice gives you skills to do just that. Yoga teaches us to stay with our breath and find ease in even the most effortful circumstances. Our practice ON the mat becomes, in essence, training for the way we live our lives OFF the mat. Yoga digs a well from which we draw serenity. The more you practice, the deeper your well becomes and the more you have to draw from.
- Schedule your yoga practice as you would your most important appointment. And then don’t bag out. You would get charged if you missed a doctor’s appointment, and you would possibly get fired if you missed a business appointment. Isn’t it just as bad to miss the appointment that will bring you calmness, balance, and the tools to function successfully in the REST of your life?
- If you think you’re too busy for yoga, chances are you need it more now than ever. There are 6am classes, noon classes, 8pm classes. If you make it a priority (see #2), you will find the time for it.
- Remember how good you felt when you were in a regular routine of practicing yoga. As Patanjali tells us in Sutra 1.14, your practice must be consistent and attended to in all earnestness in order for the state of yoga to be achieved. Think how good it feels to be in this pattern: the rhythm of walking into the cozy studio, smelling the incense, hearing soft music, being sincerely welcomed, taking your shoes off, rolling out your mat, and disappearing inside of yourself for a little while. How relaxed you felt. How your day melted away. How great your body felt after a bout of consistent practice.
- Modify your practice to meet your current needs. If you don’t feel “ready” to go back to a class you once frequented, don’t go. Dial it down. Go to a beginner’s class, even, or a restorative class. Earn back the ability to relax into even the most effortful poses: forget about the physical benefits for a while and get in touch with your practice and your breath, then build from there. Physical strength will come, but this is really just a (albeit awesome) byproduct. You are not competing against anyone. You are being compassionate towards yourself by honoring exactly where you are right now.
- Wash and fold all of your yoga clothes and put them in a specific place, ready to be thrown on, so you’re not rushing around looking for your favorite pair of pants. Dust off your mat and put it in your car – for that matter, keep an extra set of clothes in your car. Remove all potential impediments and reasons not to leave your house.
- Go to teachers who uplift you. Even if this involves a long drive or some special arranging (a private class is always a nice way to reenergize your practice), make the time and seek out your favorite class. When my teacher Lisa lived in Norfolk, she would occasionally drive all the way to the Jivamukti center in New York City for one class with her favorite teacher, Ruth, and then drive all the way home. Fortunately we have fabulous teachers in Hampton Roads: try out different studios, find someone with whom you resonate.
- Make a commitment. Don’t be too lofty or unrealistic. Keep it real, keep it simple. Practice with full attention and do it as often as you can. Consistency is key, but figure out what consistency means to YOU. I will go to two yoga classes this week…a week for the next three weeks…for a month…from now to Thanksgiving, etc. Find what works, make the commitment, and stick with it.
- Grab a friend, and make a pact. Come together, put it on your calendars, and keep each other focused and motivated. Send inspiring quotes and texts to one another during the day. Get excited to share the journey with someone – such great conversation manifests out of practice. Make it fun, maybe grab dinner or a glass of wine or a beer afterward. Ask people form your class if they’d like to go with you – one great thing about yoga studios is that they generally attract pretty awesome people. We are products of the company we keep: build your satsang (a group of people coming together for the purpose of upliftment and enlightenment).
- Remember that you’re not just practicing for yourself: you’re also doing it for the benefit of others. Your significant other, your parents, your friends, your coworkers, your boss, your kids…You are a nicer, saner person when you practice yoga. You handle things more consistently and with less anger and annoyance, like when someone at work burns popcorn in the microwave, or someone cuts you off in traffic. You lose it less when you step on a Lego with bare feet and smile instead at the fact that you have a beautiful child. You are more compassionate towards YOURSELF, and in turn become more compassionate towards everyone else. When you practice consistently, everyone benefits.
Here’s a bonus #11: your teachers will welcome you with open arms. We won’t ask you where you’ve been or why you haven’t been coming, and we won’t shame you for not coming to class. We’re here when you’re ready, and we can’t wait to see you.