Abhyasa: The Art of Practice
I was hoping to write about Practice before Christmas, to encourage you to find a way to fit in small moments even when the change in your daily routine over the holidays takes your normal practice time away. Inevitably I massively underestimated the effect the change in routine would have on my own time! Keeping a personal practice going over the holidays is hard. So today I am going to write about the act of practicing. Hopefully it is still relevant as we all get back into the daily grind.
The first step in Yoga is to find a way to integrate it into your daily routine. Even 20 mins can be harder than you think. In order to add something new we need to consider that we will also need to give something up, whether it be half an hour in bed in the mornings, getting to bed half an hour earlier to compensate, or the equivalent whatever time of day you choose.
If your practice feels like a chore, just another task to be ticked off, then it will never take root. We become professionals at finding reasons not to practice! We all go through busy and chaotic periods when our routine is upset and suddenly days have gone by without our practice. Don’t give up. The first opportunity you get to take just a few minutes to yourself find a quiet space, feel the floor beneath your feet and the breath in your lungs. Use a few simple movements such as raising and lowering arms with the breath to anchor you. Enjoy the moment of arrival. Check in with yourself. Even if that is all you can make time for today it will be easier tomorrow and the next time and the time after that and when life allows your practice will come back.
Checking in with your teacher will help. Maybe your new normal means we need to change your practice or find a different time of day. The support of the people around you, especially those who live with you is really important. They can help protect your practice time and your practice space from interruptions and encourage you to use them.
The Yoga Sutra addresses this, I have chosen just two verses here (Translations from Paul Harvey):
1:13 tatra stithau yatnaḥ abhyāsaḥ |
Practice is the effort to remain there
It takes constant effort to remain in the moment, in the present. By not clinging to that which arises, whatever the mind throws at you today.
1:14 saḥ tu dīrga-kāla-nairantarya-satkāra-ārdarā-āsevitaḥ ḍŗḍha-bhūmiḥ |
Moreover, this stage becomes firm when cared for over a long time, without interruption, with respect and enthusiasm
These are attitudes we need to bring to our practice. You get out what you put in! Without respect and enthusiasm the practice will become hollow.
Happy New Year! Keep practicing and get in touch if you need extra support. I am always happy to have a phone call, video call or written exchange outside of your lessons.