Getting Back to the Mat

There are a million reasons why our beloved Yoga practice can grind to a halt, usually arising from some variation of how busy our everyday lives can be.

If you’re finding it difficult to get back onto the mat, here are a few ideas that can help you get your practice going and keep it regular:

  1. Grow Your Tree from the Roots Up—Just as a strong tree starts from a tiny seed, a strong habit of practising is best started from a short practice. Most of us don’t need an hour or 90 minutes of practice every day, we are just used to attending classes of that length. If we minimise our practice, say to about 15 minutes (which is 1% of a day), then it becomes almost impossible to create excuses for not practicing. Try it for a month, until your practice habit is solid and then you can (slowly, gradually) lengthen it out. And remember, that practice doesn’t just mean asana, especially if you’re injured or recovering from illness.
  2. Find the Right Practice for You—Genetic variations, unique life experiences, illnesses and injuries, your personal interests and many other personal factors means that generic yoga practice often fails to meet our individual needs. This means working with your mentor to develop a personalised practice, as despite our good understanding of yoga we are usually too close to our own life situations to truly see what is needed without bias.
  3. Declutter Your Life—In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that we reach the state of yoga through practice and detachment. We practice the things that lead us forward and detach from the things that are holding us back. Have a look at everything in your life that is taking up time and ask yourself if they really serve you as well as a committed practice would? If nothing else, this process will give you a clearer perspective on where your priorities actually lie.
  4. Commit to a Schedule—I’ve found in more than a decade of working with students to develop a daily practice, if they don’t schedule a specific time to do it, eventually their practice grinds to a halt. “I’ll fit it in some time ” is not a commitment. Our lives are so busy that work and other demands will easily expand to fit any free time that arises. So where possible, book in your practice time and commit to it.
  5. Prepare Your Practice Space—That old trickster of mind will use any excuse to persuade you not to get out of a warm bed and practice, so set yourself up for success in advance. Unroll the mat, set the alarm, put the heating on timer, have anything that you need to have in place to minimise your effort in getting to the mat at the (scheduled) practice time.
  6. Become Aware of Excuses—I’ll bet as you read this a dozen reasons have come to your mind as to why you can’t practice regularly. I’m not saying they’re not valid, but question them. Are they really good reasons, or just a poor excuse that shows a lack of commitment? Commitment isn’t thinking that something is a good idea, that’s an ideal. Commitment requires action.
  7. Find Support—I once read an article that says supervision increases productivity by 50%.  I’ve never found proof of this figure but it sounds reasonable, so why not get a little help from our friends. This can can come from one-to-one mentor sessions, a friend or partner how will practice with us, or even a weekly group class that keeps us motivated. We don’t need to do it alone.
  8. Write It Down—Keeping a practice journal can help at those times when we feel we’re not moving forward. We often forget how far we’ve come, so writing a few lines about practice every day can inspire us to keep going when we see how far we’ve already come.
  9. Take a Risk—Just for a while, try putting your yoga practice at the top of your priority list and see what happens. This is an investment in your self at every level of your being, and I’ve found that such investment brings rewards in all other aspects of your daily life. Try it and see.
  10. Be Relentless—Every so often you’re going to miss your practice, through necessity or maybe even through excuses. It doesn’t matter, just get back on the mat. Your practice break is irrelevant, whether it was a few days or weeks or months. Just get back up and keep on going.

These points were extracted from a bigger article written by Scott, “The Perils of Personal Practice”, published in the Winter edition of Yoga Australia‘s newsletter, Yoga Today (links to follow).