How to Start / Restart a Daily Yoga Practice
Every Yoga teacher I know and respect says that having a daily sadhana (personal practice) is the key to continue growing both as a Yoga student and as a Yoga teacher. Especially as a teacher, a personal practice is of utmost importance. As a Yoga student, I agree and as a Yoga teacher, I fully endorse this notion.
Yet, I'm human and I'm not perfect in anyway. So I have had moments where I have strayed from my personal practice and come back to them. I used to be extremely austere with my practice (to the point of being too rigid), and then when marriage and kids happened, it went the opposite way. Then I came back to it, but with a different body, and then I strayed again because I was uninspired. Then I came back to it again.
What I thought was a short break actually ended up being a much longer break than I anticipated. How did I come to this realisation? My sadhana journal kept track. I am embarrassed to reveal that once, I had not meditated once in over three months... but I'm glad I have revealed that because I feel that many yoga teachers and students struggle with the idea of having a daily practice.
Each time I lapsed, I had feelings of shame and although I always thought about my sadhana, it was a struggle to get on the mat. I would judge myself for being a "bad" Yogi. I have had to start over many many times. I've found my new groove and I have rekindled my love for my personal practice, and here's what I learned:
Forgive yourself for being a human
If you are anything like me, (actually, if you're anything like all human beings) you get down on yourself a lot; mainly because you want to do a really good job. We all have this trait of putting ourselves down, or feeling like we aren't good enough. How can we be an authentic teacher, if we don't practice what we preach? Well... being honest about the pitfalls of your own daily practice can be a source of relief and inspiration if your students can relate to it. Instead of putting yourself on a self-proclaimed teacher pedestal, come back to earth. Love yourself in all your humanity and guess what, your students will respect you a lot for that.
Done is better than perfect
Robin Sharma, the author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari has a wonderful quote: "The smallest of actions is always better than the noblest of intentions." We have all these great ideas of how we want our practice to be, but when it comes time to execute it, we put all these blocks in the way about how it's never good enough. Instead of wasting time figuring out the perfect time, place, atmosphere, circumstance, etc... just get on your mat and do something - anything - a round of Alternate Nostril Breathing, one Sun Salutation, one OMMMMMMM.
REMEMBER THAT THE PRACTICE SERVES YOU
To me, success in Yoga is about equanimity of mind and an overall sense of wellbeing in the midst of your life. We all have different goals for physical fitness, mental clarity and stress management. Yoga practice is there to serve us in bringing us closer towards our inner peace and our personal goals. My body today has specific needs which requires I avoid certain poses, even though I know I can do them, I have to resist the temptation because it's not good for my healing to do that. If my energy is low, then my practice must suit my energy. It's no use loathing myself for not wanting an intense practice. A simple breathing practice or one-minute meditation may be all I can do today... but at least it's done, it's sincere, it's authentic.
Learn From your inner-beginner
Some students feel discouraged at the notion of having to start at the beginning again. For many years, I had the worst attitude of "I already know that..." That phrase held me back and prevented me from growing, learning and developing. Once I allowed by inner-beginner to coexist with my more experienced side, I made new discoveries about myself, found new inspiration to explore in my practice and had some epiphanies to help my students through their personal challenges. The best part was I started to have fun again. If you are going through obstacles, your students are definitely going through similar obstacles, and now you can offer them some authentic knowledge by always being a beginner.
GET OUT OF COMPARING YOURSELF
Time and experience do not determine how good of a Yoga teacher you are, and who you practice with does not make you any less of a Yoga student. Honestly, it doesn't matter if you attend a class that is taught by a yoga teacher or a trainee or a friend or a master. If a person inspires you to go within and find your zone, you're in the right place. Countless times, I've attended a practice class taught by a teacher trainee and found absolute bliss by the end of the class. No matter which class you are in, if you truly follow the guidance from a teacher, getting past your own judgemental attitude about where you "should be", and of course listening to your body, you can receive a very wonderful class that serves you in the most wonderful way.