Recently I have fallen out of the habit of my yoga. I like to practise everyday and in a perfect world, I would. This though, is not a perfect world and I am far from perfect in it.
When I stop practising my yoga, I find it really hard to start again. Lethargy and anxiety (I won’t be the same as I was before, I won’t be as ‘good’) mix up in me to make it so much easier to lie in bed and consider my intention to practise rather than getting up and actually practising. These feelings combine with guilt for not doing what I know I want and what would be good for me. Not practising becomes some kind of self-punishment for not practising. A self-perpetuating circle is started.
I start to find the thought of getting on my mat and practising overwhelming. I easily start to believe that I have to get up and do a fiery, energetic practice for an hour, plus savasana, plus pranayama, plus meditation, and that can seem out of reach to me. Another block that I’m coming up on a lot recently is not having anywhere to put my mat. While I’m travelling I’m often finding myself in rooms with no space for a yoga mat, and outside spaces too full of people or too hot.
I really let these challenges stand in my way. Until this morning. Over two weeks had passed since I did my physical yoga practice and the guilt was starting to get to me. I woke up wanting to take my mat up to the terrace of our hostel, but an hour later I was still scrolling mindlessly on the internet and willing myself to get up. I recognised that the anxiety of other people being up there was stopping me from taking action. When I’m coming back to my practice I need privacy, or at least anonymity, to not feel self conscious, and that’s ok. This morning I ended up laying on my bed and did 20 minutes of very simple breath led movement lying on my back. I followed it up with a few minutes of pranayama and meditation practice. I feel renewed from that short practice and inspired to get back to my regular yoga once again.
What I’m learning is to let go of the guilt that I create when I let my practice drop. It’s not feasible for me to practise every single day. Especially when I am not in control of my surroundings. When I let go of militant thoughts around what I ‘should’ be doing, I feel better and that creates a better space for me to go back to my practice. To reestablish my connection to my self and my body.
However I also recognise that regular practice is important for my wellbeing and to make yoga a tool for better understanding the life I live. What’s important, to me, is not having a strong (aka physically demanding) practice as often as possible but having a chance to connect with myself in a meaningful way as often as possible. This is what I forget when I fall out of practice.
Apart from my constant work of forgiving myself for not meeting my expectations, I endeavour to remember just how rejuvenating a short practice can be when I’m not in the habit.
When I am practising regularly I often do shorter practices. When I am in the habit I know that even a few sun salutations or 5 minutes mindful breathing is sustaining. It doesn’t matter if you do 1 hour of full self-practice or 20 minutes or 5 minutes, but it matters to do it often. Fit it in around your life to make it more accessible. For example, I find it difficult to motivate myself first thing, so I like to wait a couple of hours after breakfast. This isn’t always possible when I’m working so I’ll do a little practice before or after work and at lunch time if I can find somewhere quiet.
Try to do self-practice on top of going to classes. Going to a regular class and connecting with your teacher is key but you also need time alone with your practice to assimilate anything you’ve learnt and to notice how something feels in you.
On the days when it seems like you don’t have enough time or energy, do just your favourite part of your practice. Whether that’s asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting or anything else. Dedicate a moment to just that and get back to the rest another day.
Do what you can when you can, and forgive yourself when you don’t. I seem to say that a lot but it feels like the truest, most self-loving thing I know and I want to share it. The practice of self-forgiveness is my most inspiring yoga, above, but generating from, every other practice.