For many years I thought that in order to be a “real” yoga practitioner I had to become someone completely different: lose 15 kilos, be super athletic, drink a green smoothie every morning at 5:30 AM and stay calm all the time.
I was never too keen on doing activities where I felt like I’d faint at any moment. Whenever I joined a demanding yoga class where I couldn’t keep up with the teacher, I felt like a failure and would go home frustrated and almost annoyed at my performance in the studio.
For a long time, I also believed that once I’d became a yoga teacher I’d practice every day for at least an hour. Soon enough I realized how unrealistic that expectation was and how incompatible it was with my lifestyle as a mother of a young child and self-employed professional. Many times, I’d come up with excuses to postpone or skip my practice: “I can’t do it early in the morning, I need to have breakfast first”; “I have to finish this now, I’ll practice in the afternoon” (knowing it would never happen that day), “I only have 30 minutes, why bother then?” and so on.
I began to identify a pattern and wondered where this resistance was coming from.
Some of my excuses responded to old ways of thinking or habits, others were related to things I had heard as a child and labels I had given myself. Others were connected to not allowing myself to take time for myself.
To get around my frustration at not being able to commit to my practice, I began to ask myself some questions, scratching the surface:
– Do I have to adapt to a teacher or yoga style? Why?
– Is this type of yoga right for me?
– Does this teacher/style/space resonate with me?
– Does it nourish me and make me feel good?
By questioning some of my beliefs, I also started to make changes in my behaviour. It was then that I decided to accommodate a short practice each day. I tried doing a quick sequence of asanas early in the morning and, to my surprise, I realized that I didn’t need to eat breakfast first thing in the morning as I had always thought. So far, I have not fainted or famished.
I have also found that some days I have more energy and really enjoy more challenging practices. I made a resolution to listen to what my body needed each day.
Commitment has to do with our deepest convictions, with our strongest beliefs. We can more easily commit to something when there is a conscious choice behind it, when we intentionally pursue what is most meaningful.
While there may occasionally be some discomfort or the feeling of climbing up the hill, remembering our intention and keeping the purpose in mind will allow us to fully engage in sustaining a habit in a disciplined way.
I invite you to reflect on the following prompts about committing to the practice of yoga:
1. Listen to your body:
What is it telling you right now? Do you feel like breaking a sweat today, or would you prefer a more grounding practice or some meditation time on the mat?
2. Find the balance:
Mindfully choose a practice that balances what you are experiencing in the present moment. While some days you may feel more inclined to rest and do a slow, restorative practice because you are on the verge of exhaustion, on other days, to overcome lethargy, you may need energizing flow and breath work to restore your vitality.
3. Do the work:
Gravitating towards what your body or mind need does not necessarily mean doing what comes easiest to you.
4. Recognize your block:
Try to identify where in your life you currently feel stuck. What kind of practice helps you best to work through this situation?
5. Find your purpose:
What really matters to you? What is the thread that runs through your life? Rooting your practice in your own convictions will add deeper meaning to whatever kind of practice you choose to cultivate.
Germer, Christopher, 2009. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion : Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. New York: Guilford Publications