Routine, not regime

If you’ve been to a few yoga classes recently, the chances are you’ll have heard the teacher telling you that a daily practice is what is needed. If you view yoga in the same way you view your spin class, weekly run, or other form of exercise, then taking up a daily practice might seem crazy. Every day? Really? Well, yes. Every day. To really experience the profound effects of yoga, you need to practice every day.

If you tend to practice an intensive kind of yoga, one which isvery physically demanding, then I can see how a daily practice might not seem possible. I can see how, if you have children or a long commute to work, getting up early to do an hour or so of yoga before anything else, might not seem too appealing. I can also understand that you might be coming to yoga simply to relax, unwind, and calm down, and that you don’t really feel the need to do much more. And I get that too.

But here’s the thing: yoga is more than a practice on the mat. It is a practice through your life. Yoga is how you connect to yourself, your body, your breath and your mind, through your practice on the mat, but it is also about how you relate to the world around you. It is the attitude you take when you’re trying to get your teenager out of bed and to school on time, it is the time you take bothering to buy the Big Issue from someone on the street, it is the mood you start the day with when your alarm goes off. It is about a practice of kindness, compassion, evenness and truth. The mat is a good place to begin to learn about those things, but it’s the practice of taking them into the world which is where the real change happens.

You might not be able to get up at 4am, 6am (or even 8am for that matter!) and unroll a mat and practice yoga asana (posture work). You might be happy with your weekly class, and stick with that. I think that’s OK. What I think matters is the stuff that takes place off the mat. And this is where routine is important.

To start to treat everyone around you (that includes yourself by the way) with compassion and care, your mind needs to be focused. You need to remember that you are taking yoga off the mat! This is usually why doing something in the morning – be it a two hour practice, 15 minutes of stretching, or 5 minutes of meditation – can be so helpful: it helps us to focus, set an intention, and breathe before throwing ourselves into our busy day. It can be downloading an app like HeadSpace and listening to it on your way to work. It can be buying one of those therapeutic colouring-in books, and using it whilst you have your morning tea. I don’t believe in dogma, and I don’t believe in one size fits all. What I do believe in is that by connecting deeply with your own heart (through simply slowing down enough to be present) that you will find what works for you. This might change day to day, but so long as you show some consistency, you will slowly start to find a routine that doesn’t become a regime.

Forget about what everyone else is doing. Find people that inspire you and spend more time with them, but don’t feel you have to become them. Keep taking guidance directly from your own heart, and soon you will find that a daily practice not only becomes possible, but becomes absolutely essential