A little bit is better than nothing

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Me coming out of crow.

Apparently, September is National Yoga Month. For me, every month is yoga month, but hey, I’m down for celebrating and creating more awareness. I am, in a small way, celebrating this month by upping my home yoga practice. I admit, I tend to like going to the studio a lot more than I like practicing at home. For one thing, I love being surrounded by the collective energy of my fellow yogis. It’s nice to have the variety of different teachers who challenge me to push myself. For another, I’m ridiculously easily distracted (hello, vata) and most of my home practices are liberally punctuated by the sound of dogs barking and kids yelling and lawnmowers doing their thing. I can look at it positively and see it as an opportunity to learn to tune out distraction, or I can get annoyed that while I’m in savasana or yoga nidra, my very lovely, loving pug is trying to lick my face or jump on my stomach (not to mention when the neighbor dogs start barking, Monster happily joins in the barking frenzy.) Truth be told, I’m not yet at that point where I’m able to completely disregard distraction and the yoga studio environment is so much easier for me to stay in ‘the zone.’

For a long time, especially in my first few years, I grappled with the notion that if I didn’t practice for an hour or 90 minutes, it didn’t count. So, I didn’t until I went to my studio classes. All this really accomplished was that I missed out on a lot of really great yoga practice. I tried to establish a home practice and was fine following along with DVDs for a while, but after the 10th time of the same class, I’d lose interest and again, miss out on some great yoga time.

More and more often, I’ve read advice from other yogi(ni)s that has really resonated with me, “a bit of yoga every day is better than a) nothing or b) a lot of yoga once (or twice, or three times) per week.” So, while I may not have an extended physical asana practice every day, I try to incorporate some dedicated yoga time daily to either meditation or philosophy. And, on my meditation/philosophy days, I’ll try to throw in a sun salutation or two, or maybe just a pose I’m working on. Often, giving myself permission to practice a tiny bit leads to more practice.

That said, in the past few weeks, I’ve been working on honing and extending my daily home asana practice (distractions be damned!) My most recent useful tool is: YogaGlo. It beats the same DVDs every day by a mile and a million. I am kicking myself that I haven’t signed up earlier. I have on several occasions almost signed up, but didn’t feel like ponying up $18/month when I’ve got access to free yoga through my work/study. $18/month is actually NOTHING in Chicago, where $18 will get you approximately one class at many studios. Unfortunately, my studios are not close to my house and while I love the 10-14 mile round trip bike commute when the weather is nice, some days, I just don’t feel like it.

The day I signed up, I felt like a kid in a candy store. The choice and variety of teachers is fantastic, especially since my 2 favorites, Jason Crandell and Kathryn Budig are amply represented. I love that you can filter classes by duration, which really fits in nicely with my “a bit of practice every day” goal. Yesterday, for example, my energy was way low after I found out my poor sweet pug had another mast cell tumor. However, I found a 20 minute class that was perfectly tailored to my energy level and needs. I’ve been so excited by my options, that I queued up and scheduled classes for nearly every day of September. Sometimes two or more a day (i.e. vinyasa flow in the morning and restorative/yin in the evening.)

The ultimate point of this post is that every little bit does count and that the all or nothing/studio or bust approach, especially for me, doesn’t work. The key is to make a commitment to let yourself practice for 5, 10, 20 minutes, whatever it takes, in lieu of thinking it doesn’t count if you’re not practicing for an hour or more. And, there are so many tools at our disposal these days that make even the short practices more enticing and easier to stick with.

So hey, why not join me in practicing every day in September?

To ashtanga or not to ashtanga?

Lately, I’ve been absolutely fascinated by the idea of taking up an ashtanga practice. As much as I adore my vinyasa classes (there’s a pretty decent overlap between the two, asana-wise, except vinyasa is basically a freestyle ashtanga, where as ashtanga has a very set order of poses.) I’m starting to like the idea of really honing my discipline and focus by concentrating on mindfully moving through the primary series and really working pose by pose before progressing to the next one.

I have a tendency to lose focus mid-anything and would love to learn how to harness that focus. It seems like it would also be very beneficial for exercising patience and non-attachment (aparigraha.) I’d like to learn how to stick with the pose and get it right instead of getting frustrated and moving on to something else that I find easier or more comfortable.

So, what is stopping me? Well, apparently, I’m still feeling a little resistant to the discipline of a 6 days/week practice, working on the same series. I can easily manage 6 days of vinyasa because you never know what sequence you’re going to get next. With ashtanga, I’m going to get the same.damn.series every day. I’m also hung up on the idea that maybe I’m too old? Many of these practitioners started out in their 20s, so by the time they’re my age, they’ve been at it for 20 years. It’s humbling. Yowza. I was living a life of next to zero discipline in my 20s.

Fortunately, I’ve found a few other ashtangis online that have discussed their foray into the practice in their 40s. If they can do it, I can do it. There is one fellow who was quite overweight and chronicled his journey and the difference a few years made was truly astonishing.

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Kino is amazing. I can totally do this….not.

And then there’s Kino MacGregor, ashtangi extraordinaire. I am awaiting the arrival of her book, The Power of Ashtanga Yoga, which should arrive any day now. I just adore her. She moves with such control and grace and seems really down-to-earth and straightforward in her instructional videos. She’s definitely a huge inspiration for me.

This whole paragraph from her blog REALLY resonated with me and I’m going to say it’s been my strongest impetus to go ashtanga.

“The recommendation to take on a six day a week practice is often hard to accept for new students, so new students can easily build up to a full six day a week practice by starting with three days a week. Then once that level of regularity is established one additional day a week can be added every six months until the full six days a week is within reach. One other crucial shift must happen in order to facilitate the transition into full immersion in the yoga tradition. You must make the transition from a fitness oriented approach to yoga into a devotional one. By getting this subtle shift you will gain consistency and regularity in the way that you do your practice. A daily spiritual ritual where you take time to connect internally to a deep sense of yourself requires dedication. The requirement to practice six days a week is meant to develop the kind of mental, spiritual and devotional determination needed in order make progress along the internal path of yoga. If yoga is meant to be a life long commitment to inner peace it behooves yoga practitioners to practice as much as they can. If you only practice when it is convenient or when you feel good then yoga is more of a hobby then a lifestyle. But sincere spiritual practice has never been a leisurely activity if it is to produce the results of awakening. True spiritual practice is an unbroken commitment to do everything it takes to see the deepest truth there is. It is not something you can choose to look at only on Monday and Wednesday for an hour and pretend it does not exist for the rest of the week.”

Hopefully, putting it out there means it’s too late to back out now! Wish me luck and yoga on!

Whoa! Such a slacker!

ImageI was so convinced that this year was going to be different….It seems like every year around the holidays my will is sorely tested. My will to eat healthy….my will to maintain a daily yoga practice…But, alas, I’ve fallen off the wagon. All of the wagons.

And my wee little blog hasn’t seen the light of day in a while either…

Since I haven’t been to a proper studio yoga class in an entire week, I’ve been trying to make do with some home practice. Thank goodness for Shiva Rea. She was my first and favorite home practice yoga instructor (well, I guess technically it was Rodney Yee, but once I got Shiva Rea’s Yoga Shakti, it was all over. Can we say matrix? Yes we can!) I hung out with Shiva yesterday and  rocked a few flows on her Daily Energy DVD. Good stuff.

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Home practice aside, I had intended to head to the studio today but instead got waylaid with plans for a teeny tiny New Year’s Eve party with family and a few friends. Confession: I hate cooking. For some reason, despite this flaw, I LOVE hosting a small party with appetizers at least once a year. I like challenging my culinary skills, trying new recipes, presenting the finished product, hosting…I’m looking forward to this year’s shindig.

As much as I’m anticipating a fun New Year’s Eve, this ol’ gal is looking even more forward to returning to a more disciplined January. More yoga, less sugar.

I’m willing to bet I’m going to be missing in action for a few more days, so until then, Happy New Year! I hope this upcoming year is wonderful and fulfilling for us all.