How to Get Your Practice Back
No matter how much you love your physical yoga practice, how much you believe in it and know its the best medicine, sometimes life has other plans for you for a while. Don’t worry about it. Sometimes your time away from a steady, structured practice actually freshens and strengthens your relationship with it. It can lend a whole new perspective.
The best part? Your practice always welcomes you back with full acceptance of where you’ve been and where you are - no judgments passed, no wagging fingers, no scoldings, no big deal trying to “catch up”. It’s not like that at all.
When you feel the first spark of desire to get your practice back, that’s your practice, inviting you back. Pangs of guilt? That’s your practice prodding and poking you to come back. Longing for that freshly twisted, fully kneaded, magnificently alive, awake and aware sense you get after a practice? That is your practice pulling you in, back home to your essential truth, welcoming you back with open arms. The hard part is done. Quit whining about needing to get back to your practice and surrender!
If you missed last week’s post, I talked about getting inspired with great books. That has always been helpful for me. It plugs me right back into why I practice in the first place. And if, for some reason I am physically unable to be in a physical practice, reading inspired works is my way of staying inspired and aligned with the beauty I love.
If you are ready to move back into a physical yoga practice, yet are unsure just where to start, you can begin with an uncomplicated awareness and the simplest of postures: the mountain. In Mountain pose, to be fully engaged, fully enlivened, you will want to scan your body and work with your prana, the flow of life energy within and around you, by adjusting and aligning yourself in the most efficient ways you can find. And while its fun to do in bare feet on your yoga mat, it’s possible to do this while standing in line in a grocery store, or anywhere. I do that often. That way I never feel I’m wasting time or energy standing in line.
Sometimes by the time you get to the checkout, you’re feeling like collapsing on a couch. When you find yourself melting over the shopping cart grip bar, remember you have a choice. You can continue to melt or use these few minutes to energize and revive yourself. So with your shoes on, and outwardly looking quite normal and ordinary, straighten your body and stand as tall as you can muster. There. Feel better?
Then turn your awareness to your feet. Do your best to adjust your feet so they are bearing the weight evenly on the soles by shifting this way and that to better feel them, finally settling on a nice, comfortable, balanced contact. If your shoes have any wiggle room, activate your feet and legs by lifting and spreading your toes. It’s like a little hug and it brings more energy to them.
Then, energize your back and legs by placing your feet 3 or 4 inches apart, parallel, and isometrically draw them inward, toward the midline. This engages the inner thighs and really gives your torso some badly needed support. Rise up from that firm sense of support, further lengthening your spine upward in a way that feels natural and relaxed. This little shift releases all kinds of wasted energy and you’ll start to feel lighter and brighter already.
Notice your shoulders because I’m betting they’ll want to straighten out too, by moving back a bit, while your heart lifts. Still, I doubt any of this would be noticeable unless someone was watching for it. The next obvious thing is your head and neck. Drawing your chin in a little, toward your throat, lengthen the back of your neck and level out your head so you’re neither looking up nor down, and see if you can rise up yet another notch, straight up through the crown of your head, as if an invisible string was drawing you upward.
Now scan through your whole body, and relax a little more. Breathe a full, relaxed and natural breath while you wait your turn. When you arrive at the checkout, the clerk may even notice and appreciate your calm and quiet presence. Then again, no one may notice at all but isn’t that a better vibe to be putting out into the world?
As you move through your days, cultivate an awareness of your alignment while, sitting, standing, walking. The mountain pose is the foundation for many other postures, standing and sitting. You are rewiring your body/mind for more vitality. The more you practice it, the more natural it will feel. It may have taken a few minutes to read through this and try it but in actuality, it happens almost all at once. After you’ve done it over and over, your body knows the routine - it knows where to go to get relief, to get revitalized. Coming to ’Tadasana’ (mountain pose) becomes almost more like a gesture than a list of dos and don’ts.
Of course, if your practice is mainly meditation, or breath work or non-harming or any other aspect of the many practices of yoga, the same idea applies. If you’ve gotten away from your structured practice, you can begin by inviting it back into your life, wherever you happen to be. If you’re like me, you’ll soon find yourself completely immersed, back into the fullness of your practice.
Sometimes the simplest things can be the most profound. Next week I’ll give you another little nugget on practice I just picked up. Meanwhile, do you have any experience with the ins and outs of a long-term practice to share with the group? Any tips? What works for you?