Hi. I’m Alex, and I’m a yogaholic. Recently, I came dangerously close to falling off the yoga wagon.
Since returning to Montreal from India, I decided to ditch my yoga studio and focus on developing my own sequences while cultivating my own yoga practice at home.
For three glorious months, I was hitting the mat six to seven days a week, an hour and a half each day, and despite a wrist injury, I was love, looove, looooving going with the flow (pun intended) on my own time, trying new things, building on old ones, and discovering ALL kinds of advantages to my home practice.
The grueling discipline I learned in India stayed with me (albeit in less intense doses), and even though I was back in the North Pole (Montreal) smack dab in the middle of my multitask existence (and an intensely demoralizing Arctic cold-spell which will most likely NEVER end), my yoga practice was thriving.
I was focused, motivated and enthusiastic. I was on a yoga high. Until I wasn’t.
Life hit me hard with a flurry of “stuff” so fast and all at once that I was left gasping for air, running around my life like a madwoman trying to get everything “done” and still make time for yoga.
Yoga. That thing that keeps me sane amidst the chaos, deadlines, stress, demands of life, and everything in between. And I don’t even have kids. I don’t know how “THEY” (the people who DO have kids), actually do it. But I know plenty of these super-humans who DO actually do it, DO find the time for kids, fitness, yoga and meditation, and I’m in awe of them.
As for me, instead of children, I have hobbies. I paint, I draw, I write, I travel, I read, I try to maintain a social life and I try (really) hard to deal with my ridiculously fast-paced and schizophrenic professional field, which (often) sucks the life out of me, but which also gets me jumping out of bed in the mornings.
I DO push myself overly hard to fit in all the things I love to to, even when I’d rather stay in bed, eat pizza and rejoice in the fact that I don’t have to get up to walk my dog, feed my baby, or mow my lawn.
When everything moves so fast, all the time, we have to find that thing that centers us, brings us back to our core, and keeps us sane, whatever it may be. For me, that “thing” is yoga. I’ve gotten very good at making time for it, even when I have none to spare.
And I DID. I did make time for it. Even when things got really crazy. But at one point, I caught myself doing it through gritted teeth, trying to “get it over with”, cutting it short, skipping days, skipping poses, shortening my breaths, shortening my practice time, shortening my patience. I think you get the picture.
My 6 to 7 days of yoga turned into 5 and then 4, the usual 1.5 hour sessions began dwindling down to 45 minutes, and even THEN, it became just plain hard for me to stay focused. My monkey-mind was constantly racing, fast-forwarding to the end of the session, and making mental to-do lists.
To be reeeeallllly honest, I caught myself answering emails in Baddha Konasana and stepping out of my home studio mid-Down Dog to transfer my mental to-do lists onto paper.
I hit rock bottom the time I skipped Savasana due to a peanut butter craving that I simply couldn’t NOT give in to.
So there you have it. I got distracted by life stuff, and fell prey to its many distractions. Am I alone in this? Yes (literally) and no (figuratively) speaking.
Considering that in a home practice my teacher is me, my studio is my home, and my timer is my monkey mind, it’s easy to lose sight of self-discipline and let other things take over. Even worse, there are no witnesses, so I can talk myself into (and out of) almost anything, including giving into that peanut butter jar calling my name.
Realizing that I’d hit an all-time low and that my Down-Dogs were heading down a slippery slope of yoga no-no’s, I decided to nip it in the bud before it was too late. Desperate times called for desperate measures. And some self-imposed ground rules.
And so, I’d like to share with you the process I went through to get my home practice back on track. I’m happy to say that it seems to have worked. I’ve rekindled my yoga mojo, and managed to bring that yoga-lovin’ feeling back.
Here’s hoping that this might offer some sort of motivation, perspective, or a spark of “je ne sais quoi” to those of you who are going, have gone through, or will go through your own yoga funk at some point in your journey.
1. LOSE THE “DEBBIE DOWNER” SCRIPT:
Realize that your experience is normal, and it happens to even the most dedicated practitioners. Let go of the negative internal dialogue, guilt or drama monologues you’re probably having with yourself first thing in the morning, before bed, or anytime in between.
On a scale of 1 to 10, this will help you NOT AT ALL. Relax, breathe, and acknowledge the negative dialogue you’re having with yourself, without getting sucked into it. Try shifting your attention from any negative thinking to the present moment, without comparing your present state to the past or projecting into the future. All the stuff you’re feeling guilty about is of your own construction, so deconstruct it. Or ignore it. At least for now.
We’re harder on ourselves than anyone else will ever be, so let’s try to give ourselves a break, put our egos aside, and recognize we’re human, flaws and all. Give yourself a “hall pass”, a “get out of jail free card”, or whatever else you need to call it to let yourself off the mental hook. At least for now.
2. BUT… DO ALLOW YOURSELF TO CONSCIOUSLY BE A “DEBBIE DOWNER”, FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY:
If you need to, take a day off (two MAX) and wallow in your lazy. Let yourself sleep in, read books, watch shitty TV shows, eat things you normally wouldn’t, and be lazy, guilt-free. You’ll feel like shit soon enough, and will start missing the “feeling good”, good old yoga you. I promise. You’ll feel a pang. Listen to that pang. That pang will motivate you to stop being a slob.
2. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS TOO “THIS” OR TOO “THAT”. STOP MAKING THINGS UP:
Shift your awareness to the reasons you’re coming up with for not getting on your mat. Too tired? Too fat? Too weak? Too late? Too stressed? Too cold? Too hot? Maybe later? What’s the point? You’d rather sleep in? Sound familiar? Recognize that all these reasons NOT to do yoga are mental projections, not reality.
The truth is, if you wait for the “perfect time” to do anything, you’ll be waiting a long time, and will never get anything done.
Just DO SOMETHING. Anything. Do a sun-salutation in your kitchen while making dinner (but wash your hands after), or some boat poses in front of the TV. Anything that will get you going again, even for one minute.The mind is a powerful tool that can help us do great things, or that can sabotage us, if we let it. Recognizing that these thoughts can be changed or ignored allows us to avoid feeling helpless against our perceived circumstances.
3. THINK IN INCREMENTS OF 15 MINUTES:
Let go of this attachment to a “fixed” duration of time. You can get the benefits of yoga from even a 15 minute session, so you don’t NEED to do 1.5 hours every single day. Instead of forcing yourself through a long class when you don’t have time or energy, tell yourself that you will do 15 minutes. After all, 15 minutes is better than no minutes, and you are less likely to skip it all together if you don’t put an overly-imposing time constraint on it. And who knows, you might feel so good, stretched, strong and energized after those first 15 minutes, that you’ll want to do 15 more, and perhaps after THAT another 15…
4. MAKE THE MOST OF RANDOM MOMENTS:
Start using your ujayii breathing and engaging your bandhas during random moments of the day like walking to your car, waiting in line, or sitting through a totally un-necessary work meeting. It’s still yoga, even if it isn’t happening on a mat.
5. SWITCH IT UP:
Try doing yoga at different times of the day, even if you only break with routine one time a week. I know, I know… Regular routine is good (in the long term), but sometimes it can get old, and even deter us at times that we’re in a funk. Switch it up and see what happens (ie. getting up 10 minutes earlier than you normally would). An early morning practice when you’re super stiff, sleepy and disoriented can sometimes turn out to be one of the most memorable ones, when you’re most in-tune with your body and mind.
Sometimes if you’re in a rut, even the smallest changes can go a long way. Ever tried taking a new route to work or walking down a different street to get to a familiar place? If yes, you know what I’m talking about. Small changes can go a long way in giving you a perception (and motivational) boost. So, if you usually practice in the evening, try a morning class, and vice versa. Go on, live on the edge. You can do it. And even if you can’t, at least you can say you tried. Right? You have zero to lose.
6. YOU, YOU, AND YOU:
Personalize your “you” space. Try to do your practice in the same space every day. This space should be quiet and allow you to practice free from interruptions or distractions. Jazz it up if you need to, whether with a colour you love, your favorite flowers, incense, candles or your favorite music. A yoga space that makes you happy will help you WANT TO BE THERE, focus and establish a routine.
Get rid of all distractions in this yoga space: this includes boyfriends, girlfriends, pets, to do lists, and cell phones. Turn your cell phone off, or even better, lock it out. The world will not end if you take a bit of time for yourself, away from everything else. Make time for YOU, and you’ll find that you have more to give to everything else after that uninterrupted, exclusively YOU time, away from all distractions.
7. YOUR PAJAMAS ARE NOT YOGA CLOTHES, EVEN IF THEY’RE COMFORTABLE.
Don’t wear your pj’s to class, even if the class is in your living room and you’re the only attendee. It makes a difference. And don’t do yoga in your day clothes, even if these consist of stretchy jeans, jeggings, or your biking shorts. While I’m far from what I’d call a fashionista, there is a psychological link between what we wear and how we feel. I’m not saying you have to wear Lululemon (I certainly don’t), but you should separate your regular clothes from your yoga gear. Ever gone to work in your workout clothes after working up a good sweat? Didn’t think so. And if you DID, well… I’m willing to bet it was a one-time oversight that you probably didn’t repeat.
Something I found really helpful to get me on my mat after an exhausting work-day or in the morning (when all I want to do is hit the snooze button AT LEAST 10 more times) is having my yoga clothes laid out and ready to go. I get up and I put them on, before talking myself out of it, before brushing my teeth, before sitting down to do ANYTHING else. In the evenings, it’s the first thing I do upon walking in the door. Because once those yoga clothes are on, how can I possibly justify the 2 minutes I spent getting them on in the first place, and not actually doing any yoga in them? Exactly.
8. MIND OVER MATTER:
Your mind can be a stronger opponent than any curveball life throws a you. Learn to trick your mind (at least while it’s not cooperating with you), and you’ll get through the slump.
Unfortunately, there’s no yoga pill, just as there’s no “get your shit together pill”. Our biggest asset (and our biggest challenge) to keeping a yoga, fitness or healthy lifestyle routine is our mind. When things get rough, the first thing it tells us to get rid of are our healthy habits. So let’s turn the tables on it next time we find ourselves in a funk. Let’s learn to use it so that it can help us, and learn to trick it when it doesn’t want to cooperate.
We all have it in us, after all.