I have a shocking confession to make.
I have dreaded yoga and meditation a thousand times. Surprising words from a dedicated yoga teacher? Yes, I have dreaded yoga and meditation a thousand times, but I have never once regretted it. Resistance to the practice is something we might not expect, and when it arises it can really pull us off the mat or meditation cushion if we aren’t ready for it.
When we start off on a yoga or meditation practice, there is a natural progression that we may not be aware of.
At first we feel amazing -- the fresh energy makes us feel so alive and energized; we feel hooked. We want to rearrange our whole lives and do teacher training to steep ourselves deeper into the practice.
This phase lasts just long enough for us to tell everyone we know about our new practice and life path, but then...
Then we go through a period where the dirty work of yoga practice begins. We start doing more heavy lifting of our garbage in our meditation or we start working on deep alignment issues in our asana practice. We start encountering the blocks and knots that need unraveling in our kriyas. We turn a corner and suddenly the party is over and things start getting real.
Now the sad thing is this is where we lose a lot of practitioners. Folks get turned off from the practices when they feel like yoga and meditation are causing them to feel lousy or angry or depressed. The practices are not causing our anger or depression -- they are just turning our attention to what is already there, swept under the rug. Instead of increasing these emotions, the practices are stirring them up as they clear them out.
It isn’t a fun part of the process, but it is a necessary one. Just like Spring-cleaning, sometimes we have to make a bit of a mess before we can really do a deep cleaning.
If we just keep going when we reach that point, we can make major progress and return to that place of joy and enthusiasm for our practice.
So, how do we do it? Create that regular daily practice and stick to it? Here is something I tell new students of yoga in the Kundalini Essentials Workshop I love to teach. Start small. Start with 11 minutes of home practice a day. Now, that does not sound like much at all does it? If you begin practicing for this short amount for a few days in a row, not missing one day, you will find that you crave it and you will want more. You can gradually increase the time, adding on a minute or two – and then you are slowly up to 20 minutes. Keep going, a little bit each day, and before you even notice you are practicing a half an hour a day and the rest of your life has barely been inconvenienced by this shift – it’s like you have driven a wedge into the schedule of the day, slowly and gradually enough that you have actually created more time in the day.
Now you can keep going from there, getting up to your own maximum practice. It is good to know that your schedule can be flexible too. You can do a shorter practice one day, or split your practice to do half in the morning and half in the evening. Whatever is needed but you don't miss a day. There is always 11 minutes to get some kind of practice in. And of course, get yourself to class! There is nothing like practicing in a group – we push each other more and can devote more time to our practice when we step out into a class. We want both though – a good home practice and a good yoga community connection if it is possible, even if it is online.
I can't tell you what a day changer, what a life changer, a daily practice is. I say it is like having the right amount of air in your tires -- it helps you navigate challenges and not get blasted by every bump in the road. In this metaphor we need to keep an eye on the air pressure each day or we will get flat. It is much easier to maintain air pressure then to fill a tire from empty to full. Our daily practice is what it takes to keep us in our optimal levels for rising to road before us. Give yourself the time every single day to do something to keep you elevated so that you feel full of life, regardless of what life throws at you. We may not always want to start our daily practice, but we will always feel better when we finish. Enjoy!