No matter how you feel about the holiday season, there’s one thing it does incredibly well: help you break out of your daily routine.
Last week, I road tripped to New Mexico on the first week-long vacation I’ve had since January. We visited Santa Fe, Bandelier National Monument (pictured), Taos and the Great Sand Dunes on our way back to Denver. I stood inside the oldest house and oldest church in America and the oldest continuously lived-in 1000-year-old pueblo. One of its residents said she liked my boots.
I love traveling because it helps me deviate from the same-old storylines that I tell myself. I think that’s why so many love it so much. When you’re in a new place and experiencing a new culture, it’s easy to forget the obligations we have back home.
And then I got back and bought an iPhone 5 and a new set of tires and I donated to Goodwill and spent 33 minutes on hold with Apple and thought, here it is again. The same old.
Think back to the past 11 months of your life. How much has been lived in routine?
There might be the Month of Yoga Every Day; the Month of Eating Sweets; the 5-Day Cold; the Week of Deciding You’d Make a Change and the Week When You Tried to Make the Change and the Week When You Felt Bad for Not Making the Change.
Then there’s all this in-between time when we’re just roaming through sleep, eat, work, sleep.
A routine doesn’t have to be a rut, though it can easily (and often does) turn in to one. Putting yourself in a new place — a new yoga studio or taking a road trip — can help shake up ruts, but it’s only a matter of time until your routine thoughts follow you.
In that case, what do you do?
The best routine to break
Have you enjoyed the routines, thoughts and otherwise, that you’ve created this year? Or should you spend some time away to see if they’re worth keeping?
The best kind of routine to break, quite frankly, is the one you feel like breaking. The one that doesn’t offer room for fun, for loving yourself or for seeing the world with a new view. That new view makes it easier to get up in the morning, eager to live.
The thing about routine is that we think we love it, until we don’t. Routines can bring comfort and stability and make us feel like we’re accomplishing a lot, when in actuality we can be living very little. Just think of the last day you lived on autopilot or told yourself “if only I can get through today…”
In lieu of changing your locale, an easy way to break routine is to disconnect from your devices. If the Taos Pueblo people have survived and thrived for 1,000 years with no electricity or running water, well, I think we can go a few days without checking our smartphone apps.
Seriously, you have permission to stop checking your email and your Facebook. Going “off the grid” once in a while will not sideline you from the rest of the world. In fact, it can bring you back to it.
Within the space spent not checking on others’ lives, you’ll have more freedom to enjoy your own.
What’s worth keeping in your daily routine
Through my own limited social media access the past week (you can’t tweet from the Great Sand Dunes), here is what I think is worth keeping in your daily routine.
- Always do whatever you do with a lot of curiosity for what the outcome is (thanks, Pema Chodron).
- Show up, wherever you’re at. Really look at colors and hear sounds.
- Recognize, once in a while, that you will not experience this moment right here in the same way again.
- Give, even when it’s not asked of you. Receive, even if it feels unnatural.
- Be kinder than you think you are to everyone.
- There is no right or wrong. Stop beating yourself up about that all the time.
- Everything is going to be okay.
- Where you are right now is exactly where you need to be.
You can’t run away from thought routines; you just create new (and hopefully positive) ones. But there’s no reason that you can’t find freedom in their midst.
The practice of yoga is age-old and by most estimates originated around 3000 BCE. Older than the oldest house in America, for sure! But of all the things that can become the “same old routine” in our lives, yoga’s not one of them.
While you might have a yoga sequence or teacher or DVD that you love, the practice is never the same twice. We create it anew each time we get on the mat or hop on the meditation cushion. Or pop into Trikonasana in a national park next to ancient cave dwellings and cacti.
So the best thing to add to your daily routine, besides all of those above things I mentioned above? Yoga and the practice of being here now, especially when that “here” looks the same day after day.
Try this: Trikonasana, Triangle Pose
After teaching today, one of my students remarked that it’s so helpful to be adjusted in a pose (it just so happened that I adjusted her in Triangle); even if you think you’ve been doing it to the best of your ability, adjustment brings a sense of newness that allows you to look through a beginning yogi’s eyes again.
I know exactly what she was talking about. Triangle, for me, was one of the first poses where I found my “edge” — where I rode the space between almost falling over and feeling like my feet weren’t even touching the ground. It’s anything but routine.
- Step your legs about four to five feet apart, right toes pointing to the top of your mat, left foot parallel to the back of your mat and the right foot lining up with the arch of the left foot. Straighten both legs, keeping a soft bend in each knee to avoid hyperextension.
- Extend your arms to shoulder height. Inhale and lengthen through the arms and the spine. Exhale and reach your right arm as far forward as you can, while tipping at the hips to the right. Imagine you are within two panes of glass as you stack your torso over your right leg.
- Float your left arm high to the ceiling, palm face out, and place your right hand on your shin, the front of the shin or the back of the shin on a prop, such as a block. Root strongly into the legs, using them for balance and support instead of your right hand.
- Turn your gaze where the neck is comfortable, which could be straight ahead, down or up at your left hand. As you breathe, extend evenly through both side bodies, taking care not to curl and crunch the right side body. Move your right hand further up your leg if you feel this.
- Stay for eight deep breaths, firmly rooting into the feet and legs. To come out, reach your left arm back toward your left leg and tilt your torso back up. Turn your feet parallel and relax your arms before moving to the other side.
How do you shake up your routine or what are your routine must-haves? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.