Do the practice. Words that are familiar to many yogi's. Sutra 12 of Book One tells us that through practice and non-attachment the fluctuations of the mind are brought to rest. It's the mantra of yoga teachers everywhere. Do the practice, do the practice, do the practice. Even that late, great Sri K. Pattabhi Jois says "Practice and all is coming".
But what does this mean? Do the practice on the mat, or keep up the practice off of the mat? Unfortunately no great guru has ever given us the answer to this question. And maybe that's precisely the point. One of the great things about yoga is that it's for each individual to figure out for herself.
For me "do the practice" is a call to live in a yogic manner, and for me that means to do the physical practice. The physical practice of asana is where we come to train ourselves, like warriors preparing for battle. We train to battle the citta vritti, the fluctuations of the mind-stuff. The asana practice is where we come to recharge and refocus, to regroup and reorganize when necessary. From the physical practice we bloom.
So, does this mean to do the physical practice every day? In an ideal world, yes. In a world without the demands of human life, yes. As a daughter, a mother, a wife and a teacher, well yes. As much as I'd love to give myself a break for falling into all three of these categories my honest thought is that there are no excuses. Do I do the physical practice everyday? No. I try, but I don't. What I tell myself is that life gets in the way, that I'm busy or that I'm tired. What I know is that these are all just stories that my mind is telling me. When I start to come up with these stories I know that it's time. It's time to get on the mat, to regroup, reorganize and change my priorities.
How is it possible to keep up the physical practice when the demands of life seem to get in the way? How, especially during this busy Holiday season, can you make time for your physical practice each day? I don't know all of the answers, but I do have some tips that help keep me on track and make my practice a priority.
1. First and foremost, let go of any ideas you may have about how long you have to practice. A yoga practice doesn't have to be 75 minutes. If all you can carve out of your day is 10 minutes, use it. It's amazing what only a few minutes on your mat will do for you. Need some energy? Run through a few sun salutations followed by your favorite standing poses, throw in an inversion and a backbend and you're done; Need some grounding? Try a seated practice of forward bending, savasana and finish with some seated meditation. The point is, the practice doesn't have to be long it just has to be done.
2. Try to attend class at a studio at least once a week. Knowing that you will have the opportunity to practice with a group energy will often be enough to keep you motivated in your home practice through the week. While a home practice is often a beautiful experience of compassion and intuition it can be very powerful to experience the energy of a group. Make the most of your group practice, tune into the energy of the room, recognize the feeling that group practice gives you and recall that feeling as you practice at home.
3. Choose a time each day in which to do your practice. Get up before the rest of your house and practice in the silence of early morning. Send the kids off to school and relish the silent emptiness of your house. Wind your day down with a meditative yin practice or a relaxing restorative practice. Find what works for you and stick to it. If you intended to get up and practice in the morning but didn't? Map out your day and work it in at a later time.
4. Remember that it's called practice for a reason. We aren't perfect at it. We accept the parts that we aren't good at and keep working to make them better. In other words, don't let a day of missed practice be a set back. We make mistakes at it. Accept it and try again tomorrow. It's just practice.
5. Develop self awareness. Notice how the physical practice changes your attitudes. Notice how the physical practice can set the tone of your day. When you begin to develop awareness for what the physical practice does for you, beyond the physical, you will be encouraged to practice.
These are just a few of the ways I keep my self on the path and keep up my physical practice. What does "do the practice" mean to you? How do you make your practice a priority?