Barriers to Practice

So you have been going to yoga for a while and you know what the benefits are.  You have become more flexible and strong in body and mind, your 90 minutes weekly yoga practice might be the hour you carve out of your busy week for yourself, you might see it as your only hour of peace, stillness and quiet in an otherwise hectic week.  You might feel grumpy if you are prevented from practising by another engagement.  If you leave off practice for a couple of weeks or more, you might be aware of how your bad habits in body and mind creep up on you, perhaps your shoulders get tense, your back aches, you are more short-tempered.  Your body just doesn't feel so good as when you keep to your practice and your mind feels too full of stuff without respite.  So you try to keep to your regular weekly practice so that you can keep on enjoying its benefits.

The next step is to bring your yoga home.  It is amazing how difficult it is to start a regular home practice given how well you understand the good things it will do for you.  Here are some of the reasons I have given myself over the years for not coming to my yoga mat...
  • I don't have time
  • I'm hungry
  • I just ate
  • I'm tired
  • I don't feel very well
  • I need to do my online shopping/do the laundry
  • I want to finish that book/watch that tv programme
  • I made it the last thing on my list of things to do and now it's bedtime/too late
  • I don't feel like it
  • I can't be bothered today
  • I just got started and the phone rang/someone was at the door so I stopped
There are more, but those are the ones that spring to mind. 

Here's my advice: just go somewhere and roll out your mat.  Tell yourself you're only go to do one vinyasa/sunsalutation and see what happens.  Remind yourself even doing one sun salutation every day will bring real and tangible benefits to your day.  Some days you might find you naturally want to do a little bit more, other days you'll find you just want to set your timer for 5 minutes, close your eyes and sit quietly or lie in savasana.  It's all good; it's all a positive aspect of your yoga practice.

It's helpful to go to the same place every time, because you (and your family) get to know that place is your spot for doing yoga - you can keep it clean and free of clutter; over time you might make it more special by lighting a candle, or bringing fresh flowers there.  But it doesn't matter.  Likewise it's easier to go to a place where you can shut the door and have uninterrupted peace.  But if it's not possible, then it doesn't matter.  I have done my yoga practice in the living room while one child watched tv and the other did their cello practice.

If you get interrupted by your family, see if you can kindly tell them you will be free in 5/10/15 minutes and carry on with your practice.  If someone comes to the door, deal with it and return to your mat.  If the phone rings, ignore it; they'll leave a message or you can call them back.  Having overcome your own internal tendency to distraction, try not to let external factors keep you from your mat.

It's not just you that finds daily practice a tricky discipline to get into.  Over 2,000 years ago Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, wrote

"There are nine types of interruptions to developing mental clarity: illness, mental stagnation, doubts, lack of foresight, fatigue, overindulgence, illusions about one's true state of mind, lack of perserverance and regression.  They are obstacles because they create mental disturbances and encourage distractions."
Yoga Sutra I.30 translation by TKV Desikachar

We're still the same yoga students, with the same barriers to practice today.  So give yourself a break and don't make your life difficult by thinking you have to do some complicated sequence of postures.  Just roll out your mat every day and see what happens.


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