“Often a little practice every day is better than a big one once or twice a week. Take the edge off and just do a little. A little every day goes a long way!” – Sarah Hatcher
There’s a reason that we do a yoga practice every day…
Everyone is drawn to yoga for different reasons: for some it is for physical health and wellness, others it is for the quiet time alone to breathe and meditate; others, it is for deep relaxation. Each and every time we step on our mat, no matter what our intentions are, we have a chance to discover more about ourselves and change our view of the world around us. Yoga is experiential, it is personal, it is alive and magical – and it has a different effect on each and every person.
When we commit to a daily yoga practice where we challenge ourselves on a physical and mental level, a new awareness of ourselves comes to light and usually it is an inward focus. The drishti (gazing point) of looking off our noses or straight ahead tells us right here that we aren’t looking at others or allowing our mind to wander. This focused act of controlling where we are looking (drishti) leads us directly towards a more concentrated state, one of yoga’s main goals. Learning how to concentrate enables us to still our minds.
It isn’t easy to still the wandering minds that we have – but it is achievable with a plan of action in order to make it happen: it’s called a daily practice.
During our weekly chanting classes, we openly talk about our yogic practices. We often talk about the obstacles that come. We all have something that holds us back from doing yoga. Sometimes it is laziness, fear, doubt, worry, stress from work or home, and general disillusion that the yogic practice actually isn’t the right thing for us at that moment, as if we should be doing something else at that time instead. Often we will make up things to do instead of actually doing yoga. An example of this would be having that second cup of coffee in the morning instead of getting ready and walking out the door to the studio.
To add to this, many yogis have high expectations that they have to practice to a certain point in the series or do a certain asana every day in order to achieve yoga. This expectation to do something or go somewhere we aren’t capable of doing is unrealistic and sets us up again for failure to get up and get on our mats.
These fluctuating and doubtful thoughts that pull us away from achieving yoga are called “vitarkas”. These could be negative thoughts or actions that steer us away from seeing clearly, concentrating, and experiencing yoga. The great sage Patanjali says that we have to counter these vitarkas with meditation and positive action. No better way to do this than by actually doing yoga!
The committed yogi will share with you that a regular, dedicated practice will offer you a calm mind in return for your daily efforts. Sure this may seem like a difficult task to do, yet I believe the hardest part is just stepping on the runway! Once you are there, it is easy: you begin to breathe with vinyasa – you create heat in your body and stir up the heaviness. You add bandha and drishti and what you have is an activity worth exercising on a daily basis: a potent recipe for health and wellness inside and out.
“Boil the blood”, Pattabhi Jois used to say. This means that we are taking those stagnant old patterns and thoughts and churning them up. What results is a one-pointed “ekagrata” focus that brings us into deep concentration.
This could be a fleeting moment during triangle posture, or during a Surya Namaskar: the drishti, bandha, breath and posture are all flowing easily and you are taken away from any previous stressed thoughts, and you just are being you at that moment, easy and pure, sound and safe, calm and yet active and engaged. There is an auspiciousness about these moments on the mat. For everyone they are different, for most people, they are magical.
What we need to seek is not a place in the series or an asana to conquer, but a conscious effort to be present and aware during each and every breath. It actually doesn’t matter which asanas we do or which series we are practicing, what matters is how we are practicing our yoga.
If we keep focused on being present during our practice and not on perfection or achieving a certain asana – then we are more likely to:
-have a genuine new awareness of ourselves
-see wellness in our lives and seek ways to make this actually happen; with this in turn we actually begin to spread this to others
Sounds like it is worth it to me! And when those doubts (“vitarkas”) come, steer that negativity away by getting on your mat and cultivating positive thoughts and actions that make you feel better. For those days when you are dogging’ it and not wanting to come practice because of some reason or another, start out by saying to yourself, “Ok, I’ll just go and do 5 Surya Namaskar A’s and 5 B’s. After that I’ll do triangle, and then see how I get on.” If you are feeling better, then keep going in the series or if not, close and have a nice rest. Often a little practice every day is better than a big one once or twice a week. Take the edge off and just do a little. A little every day goes a long way!
See you on the mat, dear yogis, and get a handle on those vitarkas by working on your yoga practice each and every day.
Sarah Hatcher, Morning Mysore Director, Meadowlark Yoga
We have Morning Mysore from 6:30-11:30 Monday – Thursday. Fridays are led practices at 0730 and 100 and Sundays are from 0630-0930.
You can learn more about the Mysore programme on our monthly Mysore-Style Beginners Intensive Courses.
Featured photo by Jewellea Photography, Philadelphia