This Yoga Love Affair: A Collage of Views on How to Keep Your Yoga Practice Sustainable Over One Year
As the chill of December ushers in the close of another year, it is a fitting time to reflect on habits, routines, resolutions, and aspirations. Where did your yoga practice take you this year? What were the elements that kept you coming back to the mat? If you are just beginning to explore yoga, what have you found that makes you curious about cultivating a regular practice? Even after seven years of practicing and teaching, my relationship with yoga runs hot and cold. I know that I love it, that because of yoga I see my life through lenses that were previously unavailable to me, and that I would not be the same person without it, but I still resist my mat. There are times when I want space from my practice in the same way I crave space from a lover: Baby, I want you, but I just don’t want to play today. I don’t have it in me to work this hard right now. I am still exploring what it means to keep this practice sustainable – for one year, and yes, for a lifetime.
To help offer some strategies for the rest of us, I asked several amazing yogis who make the practice their livelihood how they keep faithfully coming back to the mat in the 365-day cycle of a year:
Trust your Inspiration: Teachers, Communities, and Whatever Else Moves You
The call to practice comes from my physical body, yearning for harmony. The call from my mental/emotional body craves the centering engagement of yoga which cultivates a calm state of mind. The truth is… my practice is not confined to the mat. It is sustained by the call to pay attention to my interactions, choices, responses, and my words. Some days my practice is just being present with those around me and learning to honor all beings whatever their perspective. Other days, the call is to help others, or to be present in discomfort of body or mind, or simply, to live in the mystery. I try to remember that when I keep my consciousness elevated that I help to elevate the consciousness of all beings at some level.
~Libby Robold, co- Founder, Yoga for Health Education, Traverse City MI
I make it a priority to make it to my teacher’s class as often as possible. I’d love to go once a week, but sometimes it’s less than that. But practicing regularly with one teacher has helped me keep my practice sustainable and she also helps me to feel inspired.
~ Torrey Mansur, RYT 500, Berkeley/Bay Area
Over the course of the year, my practice is sustained by being in community with strong people who show up no matter what. I started practicing at It’s Yoga with Larry Schultz in 2008, which was the first time I had been turned on to a regular practice, and what I found most captivating was the complete lack of what I would call “yoga bullshit”, which needs little explanation. It was completely practice-oriented and the effects of regular practice were evident all around me in the regular members of the community. When It’s Yoga was winding down their presence in SF, I knew Rocket Yoga and the community which emerges from it formed such a lifeline that we would have to re-create it ourselves.
~Steve Pyka, co-Founder Asta Yoga, San Francisco CA
I give myself permission to have a practice that doesn’t look the same every day. At one point in my life, I was very attached to doing a vigorous asana practice that needed to be a certain amount of time to “count” as a practice. Now I feel great when I can do whatever practice nourishes me that day. I do different practices depending on my menstrual cycle, which is much more sustainable to me than having an active asana practice daily. Also, I just had a baby, so my practice these days has mostly been a seated meditation for 1-5 minutes, a simple pranayama practice and restorative yoga. This type of practice really supports me right now, making it very sustainable.
I take it easy on myself to be quite honest. On days I am called to my mat, I practice; on days I am not, I do not. I take time to observe patterns and do a bit of inquiry as I know when I am in my optimal state I am called to the mat. When it has been more than 3 days, I attempt just rolling out my mat and stepping onto it. If I am there for 5 minutes fabulous, 55 minutes fabulous.
~ Lindsey Kaalberg, co-Founder and CEO Ritual Hot Yoga, San Francisco CA
I am attempting to let go of my attachment to progress in my practice, and I am enjoying the process of sitting and centering every day. I am enjoying the discipline and regularity of a daily practice more than advancing in a certain direction. Progress does happen, and I enjoy that, but I am trying not to be so attached to it.
Self Discipline is key, of course. At the heart of Self Discipline is an underlying attitude of “I am responsible for my health & welfare and, I am worth the effort for I am here to be of service to others, especially those I love.” Naturally, it helps to have at least one other person who offers their support and encouragement to stay the course. And, teaching classes at a yoga studio mandates, from my perspective, a requirement to sustain an ongoing practice.
~ Michael Robold, co-Founder Yoga for Health Education, Traverse City MI
My practice could be a good sit in my bedroom before I start the day, sometimes my practice is unrolling my mat alone in the studio and just moving my body, sometimes it’s a 6:30AM Primary Series at my local Mysore studio, sometimes it’s slapping down my mat and taking class with one of the amazing instructors at my studio. I say this to my students all the time, the practice will always meet you where you are. You just have to show up. In order for me to maintain an honest commitment and connection to my practice I just have to show up, sit down and listen.
To participate in a practice of mindfulness means there is a constant shifting of perspective, the invocation of empathy, and the demand for honest examination of the body and the mind. And, damn, it’s hard work. It can be as overwhelming and frustrating as it can be beautiful. It’s messy. There’s not one answer. There’s not even a correct answer. For now, I take solace in the journeys of the folks who have been walking this path with sage wisdom for years, and find hope in those whose eyes gleam with the fresh excitement of a new romance. I am inspired by everyone brave enough to try. The journey is not going to be perfect, not even close. It is gloriously human in all its individual facets. I believe that this love is worth fighting for. I believe that, sometimes, love in all its mystery has to be enough.