Practice Doesn’t Have to Be a Big Deal!
Early in my Yoga journey (alright ... to be fair it was most of it) I was of the opinion that if I didn’t do at least 90 minutes of asana, cross training, preparation for meditation, self study, book study, listen to lectures, pranayama, etc. every day I wasn’t doing enough. As Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras: “For those who seek enlightenment, enlightenment is near.” The following Sutra goes on to indicate “how near” depends on if the practice is mild, moderate or intense. Tapas (heat) drives movement forward and is the willpower to practice. In allowing myself to be consumed by a need to encourage my willpower to become stronger than my habits, I became trapped by the mentality that I could never be doing enough.
Looking back I realize that, while I didn’t always get everything done, I was definitely doing enough - mainly because we are always doing enough. We are always exactly where we need to be! While that can feel like a hard pill to swallow sometimes, it is nevertheless the truth. The inability to see that is simply misperception created by avidya (ignorance). In the past (and even now at times) I would constantly berate myself for not pushing or taking a break which meant I couldn’t finish all of my practice. This is a trap that a lot of people like myself fall into. The type A personality that wants perfection in all things is always “not doing enough.” Now that I have a toddler I have a very different perspective. In the first year of her life I literally couldn’t do anything except watch her. My baby wasn’t easy and I had moved away from my family before she was born so I didn’t have any support. My husband was encouraged by his boss ( and supported 100% by me) to get his Masters to further his career. He did exactly that but it meant that he wasn’t available (‘cause Masters programs are hard) and he was stressed a lot of the time. I was stuck in a situation where I had very little help. While I made these decisions for myself and own them completely, it was very hard to live day to day. In that first year I basically didn't do any Yoga at all. I was completely overwhelmed by life and adjusting to the reality that I couldn't do anything for myself.
Then my baby started walking and she entertained herself for short bursts of time. Initially I used all of that time to clean (I don't like messes!). Then the time she'd kept herself busy expanded and I found I had 5-10 minutes at a time that she didn't need or want me. I started doing a few sun salutations during those periods. Then I started doing pranayama, and self study, then I was adding in energy work, and reading again. Before I knew it, I was practicing more than I ever had!
Ultimately what I realized was that fitting practice into the spaces I had available was and is more effective than having a formal practice. The process of learning how to fit Yoga in meant that I stopped feeling like I had to do something and turned it into how I get to practice. Do I sometimes want to shut myself away and do a 90 minute practice? Absolutely! There is always a place for that. However, it's easy to fall into the “I don't have time” trap. When we instead train ourselves to recognize when we have a minute, yes a single minute, to breathe we start making it possible to be in practice all the time, not for the 90 minutes we're on the mat. So...practice doesn't have to be a big deal - sometimes it's just about seeing where we are in the moment and deciding to pause for a moment of self care!