Practice when it's easy ... practice when it's hard.
I recently went back to Canada to visit friends and family. At the start of the two week trip, I had every intention of a daily yoga practice, but as the trip progressed, the late nights and commitments started to compound, and the first thing I gave up in favour of a few more minutes of sleep - my practice*.
Even as a yoga teacher, sometimes it's hard. It's often easier to escape than to show up.
But when I let go of my practice, I feel disconnected with my heart ... my body doesn't feel good (especially during trips when lots of planes, trains and automobiles are involved), and I get cranky and stressed. And on a trip when things are busy, there's little downtime, and the inevitable family drama eventually pops up, practicing is the perfect antidote to bring me back to a place of calm and feeling good.
Doing yoga or meditation when all is going well is easy. Continuing the practice during times of difficulty - especially mental or physical illness, stress or upheaval ... that is where it all gets hard.
I've developed a few tools to help me maintain my practice, even when times are tough (not just when I'm travelling):
- Practice less. Practice every other day, every two days or just make the practice shorter - 10 mins instead of 30/60/90
- Change the practice. When I have an injury or am feeling less than awesome in my body (tired, run-down, sick, etc), I switch to a less physical practice. Meditation, pranayama (breathing techniques), guided meditation, yoga nidra, yin yoga, going for a walk, sitting in nature. I swap it out a traditional practice for something that feels good on that day.
- Skip the practice and be ok with it. I don't feel that an everyday physical practice is best for me. Sometimes it works, but sometimes not doing it feels better. On days when any kind of practice feels heavy or like an obligation, I let go of that day, and start again the next ... or the next day after that.
- Make one small change. Forget the practice of yoga and focus only on one thing that know will make you feel good. Maybe it's going to bed half an hour early, or taking time for a luxurious bath. Or focus on only the practice. Take 5 minutes and determine one thing that would make an improvement on the situation. For me, it’s usually food. When things are hard I get lazy and stop cooking, so focusing only on improving what I eat generally gives me the impetus and energy to make other beneficial changes too. But I start with just one small change.
- Prepare in advance. I always prefer to practice first thing in the morning so that I ensure I don't get distracted as things pop up during the day. Meditation or yoga is easier first thing if I set out any tools the night before (creating space for my mat, laying out clothes, setting up a playlist, putting out yoga props (blocks, strap, etc), my journal … whatever it is I need). Then all I have to do is get up, go to the place and practice. Ease in practice comes when there is little to do beforehand …
What tools do you use? Let me know in the comments or use #hardtimeseasypractice
*When I say practice, I use the term broadly - to me yoga is not just about physical poses, but also includes meditation, breathing, sitting quietly, taking time in nature ... any practice where I am consciously present, connecting with my body or my heart, and making time to connect with and listen to myself. I don't do physical poses every day, but I aim to practice some form of yoga six out of seven days a week.
Photo courtesy of Donald MacKenzie Photography