Time seems to be the biggest obstacle that most of us face when it comes to having a daily practice. Setting aside an hour or two to practice can be a struggle when there are so many things to get done each day and so many distractions, and so many of us find that a home practice is more of a regular wish than a regular habit.
In my early days of Ashtanga Yoga practice, I often found that if I was thinking about doing a full practice of 90 minutes I would postpone, negotiate, and procrastinate until…whoops…time for bed. Oh well, tomorrow I’ll do better. But, tomorrow is not the day for practice. In fact, in one of the metaphysical traditions that I study, one of their most often quoted teachings is ‘never put off to tomorrow what can be accomplished today’. So, in order to help myself attain a daily home practice, I did something kind of crazy…I lowered my expectations.
The 90 minute Primary Series practice that was my aspiration was just sometimes too big for my brain, especially when I had a busy day. So, I decided to drop any expectation that my practice would look a certain way, follow a certain path, or take a certain amount of time. And, miraculously, taking the expectations out of my practice helped me to attain the practice I had been aiming for.
Starting with a few breathwork exercises to settle the mind and a few favorite stretches to move into the body, I found that most days Primary Series just naturally followed on. Some days it didn’t, and the short breathwork and movement practice I did was all that happened…but that’s still a daily home practice.
I attended a lecture with Dan Millman once and he advised that if you wanted to exercise regularly, do one star-jump a day. You could then honestly say that you exercise daily. He gave this advice in a joking manner, but behind the humour was a great truth – anything you do with regularity has a profound benefit. And, one star-jump often leads to more.
So, if you are struggling to find a home practice, perhaps you can start in the same way. Make a commitment to one Sun Salutation a day, or a few of the stretches that are best for your body, or 10 deep breaths, and then allow more to follow in time. Letting go of rigid rules of practice can sometimes create a freedom that inspires you to more. And taking the pressure off of having the ‘perfect’ practice can give you some space to explore your body in a way that you might not be able to in a led-class environment.
For this month, why not make a commitment to a regular practice, even if it is just a short and sweet stretch, and see what flows from there?