Some people like to come to their mat and just do. I’m not one of them.
When I attend a yoga class that’s devoid of a dharma talk or connection to intention, I quickly become so distracted by its absence that I forget to be present. Sometimes, I leave the class wondering why I even went.
We go through the motions in our lives enough already. Why bring that habit on to our yoga mats, the very space that helps us return to purpose?
The issue is most of us believe we are powerless to change the events of our lives—that somehow we are locked into a routine we didn’t create.
I’ve got a question for you: If you didn’t make it, who did?
We pull the blame card on the society we live in, the people we’re surrounded with, money (both abundance and lack), our jobs, and, perhaps most frequently, the lack of time we have for the things we really want to pursue.
The common denominator beneath all of those factors, however, is you.
You choose it all. Every moment of your life.
What to “do” on your yoga mat
You also choose to make time to do yoga (or not). And if you pay attention, you’ll notice that how you move on your yoga mat is a replica of how you’ve moved in your life that day/week/month/year.
As a yoga teacher, I’ve seen it all and it usually comes out in Savasana, Final Resting Pose: from those who can’t lie still to those who walk out of class before savasana begins.
None of this is good or bad—it’s just telling. It’s a clue to what’s really going on inside.
Are you having trouble with stillness because you’re too busy all the time and have a hard time unwinding? Or, do you fall asleep in savasana because you’re sleep-deprived or have low energy? Maybe you want to avoid the practice altogether because you just don’t see the point.
My first savasana happened in an Iyengar yoga class. The teacher told me to let my belly button sink into the mat with each exhale, a feat which my mind told me was technically impossible.
After logic quieted, I distinctly noticed an absence: for the first time in months, the depressed thoughts I had on repeat were nowhere to be found. I didn’t know it then, but over the next few years I would come to find out that:
When you love what is, you don’t need to fidget in savasana or fight to overcome your sadness, depression or stress. You don’t need to struggle to find balance in your life.
Instead, balance and happiness comes, just like when you stop resisting in Warrior III and accept that you might fall or your standing leg might wobble. Suddenly, flying is your reality.
‘But I don’t have enough time!’
But learning to be still and learning to find time for stillness are two separate challenges, with the latter a constant complaint in our world.
I’m just as guilty as anyone. When I finally crawl under the sheets at day’s end, often one of my biggest reliefs is realizing that once I wake up, I get more time to do all the things I didn’t do that day.
But you know what? That type of mentality stinks.
It stinks because:
- It makes us feel like we are powerless to the events of our lives.
- As I mentioned before, this is absolutely not the case.
Maybe you’ve had this conversation with yourself: “If only I can get through this day/week/year, then things will be different. I’ll have more time for myself because the circumstances of my life will change to allow me to have more time.”
And how many times has the circumstance passed, only for another to come along?
Per a friend’s recommendation, I just finished reading The Big Leap. In it, author Gay Hendricks presents time in a radically different perspective than most of us are used to. He says,
“You’re where time comes from…. Quit thinking time is ‘out there.’ Take ownership of time—acknowledge that you are where it comes from—and it will stop owning you.”
To stop being “time’s victim,” Hendricks says you should ask yourself a simple question: Where in my life am I not taking full ownership?
If you want stillness, own the fact that you have time for it because you are the chief “do-er” and “be-er” of your life. You call the shots.
6 ways to sneak more yoga into your day
Despite our best intentions, though, it’s still hard not to let our daily obligations overtake our aspirations. So here are six “sneaky” ways to commit to more yoga when you forget to take ownership of time.
1. Become aware of when you complain about time in order to stop using it as an excuse for not doing yoga.
By far the most important and most difficult to do; it’s also the most transformative, per Hendricks’ The Big Leap.
2. Instead of hitting snooze and going back to sleep, do yoga for 9 minutes in bed.
Consciously deepen your breath and do several poses laying on your back, like legs extended to the ceiling, twists and happy baby. When your feet meet the ground, turn to the mattress and do a supported forward bend with your arms outstretched.
3. Practice a pranayama exercise while driving to work.
Avoid exercises that cause you to breathe very fast or slow and that may distract you from the road; instead focus on breathing deeply into each area of your torso: abdomen, mid-chest and upper heart. Fill up on the inhale from the bottom up, then exhale from the top down.
I especially love doing this practice in traffic because it helps me to stay present and in control of my reaction to the situation (i.e. not flip out).
4. Say no to an obligation so you can say yes to a yoga class (or home practice).
This is probably easier for introverts than extroverts, but if you’re not enthused about your social plans maybe it’s best to instead opt for yoga instead of happy hour.
If you have a family, arrange a set time each week to recharge yourself—and let everyone know about it. Believe me, this will benefit everybody in the long run even if it seems to be a short-term inconvenience.
5. Remember that practicing yoga isn’t just about the poses.
You can train your mind to be present at any time: walking the dog; washing the dishes; talking with your friend. I find it helps to seek out the newness in the situation and pay close attention to details: how your pup trots; how soap bubbles form; how your friend’s eyes light up when she smiles.
6. You have time for this: Viparita Karani.
If you’re having a tough day, and can only make time for one pose, I highly suggest Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall Pose.
Karani in Sanskrit means “doing or making” even though the doing you’re making in this pose is an undoing. This pose encourages blood flow to the heart and, speaking from personal experience, can invert your low mood, too.
All you need is a blanket and a wall. Use your sticky mat to help prevent the blanket from sliding on a slippery floor. Stay in the pose for five to 10 minutes.
Try this: Viparita Karani, Legs Up the Wall Pose
1. Place your mat perpendicular to an open wall space, with a folded blanket on the mat close to the wall.
2. Sit on the blanket with one of your hips on the wall. Prop your arms behind you and swing your legs up the wall. Scoot forward until your glutes and the back of your legs are supported.
3. Curl the toes gently toward your face, reaching your heels high, and then relax the legs. Goal post the arms or extend them palm-face-up like airplane wings to each side.
4. Breathe openly into the chest for five to 10 minutes. Your legs may tingle, but if at any point you feel discomfort, leave the pose carefully by…
5. To come out of the pose, walk your feet down the wall and gently roll onto your side. Notice the rush of sensation into the legs and tune into your heart center for a few breaths. Use your arms to press yourself back up to seated. Bask in your happy glow.
Your turn: How do you take control of time and commit to your yoga practice? Help fellow happy seekers by sharing your wisdom in the comments.