I’m a recovering control freak; working to release the need to have a plan for everything and make sure that everything follows the plan. Because let’s face it, life never goes according to plan. There is always something that comes up unexpectedly to throw things off course. There are so many things that can cause us to detour, broken down car, broken leg, or even a broken heart. We can always come up with a valid reason to not practice. But if we spend our days waiting for the perfect time to practice then we miss out on the journey of possibilities along the way.
It is hard to get past overwhelming feelings when we’re in the middle of an unexpected strain, but we’ve got to remember that challenges result in changes. Sometimes life throws us a fast curve ball, but that might be just what we need to hit a home run; it’s all in the way we approach it. Sure, it is way easier to maintain a strong practice when life feels right but that doesn’t mean that practice should be abandoned when life gets difficult. In fact, I think the difficult times are when we need our practice more. Regular yoga practice can show us how profound the practice is. Yoga is an ever changing constant. It is something stable and consistent to come that molds and adapts based on what is going on in our lives and our bodies. It is unique to each person, each day, each breath.
But how do we maintain that consistency when we don’t have the physical or emotional capacity to do what we’re used to? We do what humans have been doing for millions of years, we adapt.
- Modify – If you’re working with a physical challenge, please be safe and modify! Modifications do not show weakness, no, they show that you are listening to yourself and doing what is right for you. There are a range of modifications; things like avoiding twists in pregnancy, using props for support, distributing weight among three limbs instead of four in down-dog or taking a knee for lunges. Modifications to asana are always welcome. Listen to your body above all else and if you need help finding a modification for a specific ailment, don’t be afraid to ask.
- Explore – There are many different paths and styles of yoga. It is not just the body in pretty shapes that makes yoga. It is the quieting of the mind and the connection with universal essence. Sometimes you need to move through asana to get there. Other days you need to enjoy an hour-long savasana to connect. Maybe today is the day for chanting and meditation. It really doesn’t matter what road you take to reach your yoga bliss. The destination is a clear mind, a clean slate, a pure being. Find this state and be there always, through everything.
- Forgive – There is no where that says your practice has to look a certain way every day, no where except maybe this expectation you have for yourself. It’s true, we’re our own harshest critics. Forgive yourself and allow yourself to experience practice that is not what you’re used to. So your practice looks different, oh well! Give yourself some grace to experience life and practice as a continuum; something that ebbs and flows together. Sometimes with ease, sometimes discomfort, but always with a bit of positive attitude. Remember why you started this practice, what makes it feel good for you and focus on small victories. My mat is always my home, or rather it helps me feel like I am home regardless of where or how I practice. There is always the feeling of being in the right place at exactly the right time, everyday on my mat.
“Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.” (Yoga Sutras I.14)
The important things are to keep consistency in the practice, practice with devotion; have patience, for yourself and for the practice; and maintain faith. Regardless of how messy life becomes, you have access to a tool that has lifelong spiritual, physical and emotional healing properties; all you’ve got to do is practice.