Doing yoga practice is one of the most beautiful activities I do. It’s a daily ritual that sets the tone for my day and over time has created a momentum for my life.
This is not the case for many, many students of yoga who lean towards class attendance for various reasons:
• Surrendering to someone who tells you what to do
• Getting corrections/feedback from a teacher
• A feeling of community connection
• An underdeveloped discipline muscle!
I’d like to address the last item: lack of discipline.
If you believe that laziness is the reason for not doing individual yoga practice, I’d be willing to bet my yoga mat that slackness might crop up in other areas of your life. I like to think of the process of cultivating yoga practice as creating a new good habit, or what I call a ‘positive addiction’.
A big downfall in initiating and maintaining any new activity is we don’t often
do it long enough for it to become a deeply ingrained habit. When I hear people say they’re not disciplined enough to do yoga on their own, that they’re too lazy, I’m tempted to challenge their use of the word ‘discipline’. My computer thesaurus tells me discipline is synonymous with control, rules and punishment! But for me, discipline equals learning. To learn anything takes repetition and the willingness to persevere.
It’s best not to obsess over whether or not you have the requisite discipline. Instead, you just put all that wasted mental energy into setting aside a period of time to practice yoga and stick to it. This amounts to making an agreement with yourself to do yoga regularly; a month’s duration is perhaps a good initial objective. Then, you just go ahead and do what you said you were going to do.
If it sounds too easy, it is! It’s your mind that makes it complicated by generating reasons not to do what you set out to do. Reasonably speaking, you don’t have time, you are too busy, you are feeling tired and you do have a headache. This is the job of the mind, to be ‘reasonable’, but our minds are not always our best friends, and it works well to turn off the mind chatter and ‘just do it’. You find the reasons for not having done your practice usually disappear by the time you finish your practice. Instead of the low-grade anxiety you experience from procrastinating, you get a feeling of accomplishment. This adds up in small increments to feeling more confident in your ability to practice yoga. Moreover, you’re consistently receiving all the great benefits from your practice, such as fitness, vitality and tranquillity.
If you can learn to harness your mind in this way for doing yoga practice, you can apply the same skill to practising your singing, your golf swing, your ballroom dance steps, your writing – absolutely anything!
Swami Vivekananda has described spiritual practice: “No one is ever really taught by another; each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestion, which arouses the internal teacher, who helps us to understand…”