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Are you ready to commit to a daily practice?

Some commitments seem inherently more worthwhile than others.

I once heard a story about a senior Iyengar teacher whose non-negotiable daily commitment to her practice was to do her headstand and shoulder stand at 5 p.m. local time.

I no longer remember who it was – if you can fill me in, please do.

But since she was an international teacher, who travelled often, she more than once did her practice in an airport lounge, in a time zone her body didn’t recognize.

I’ve been thinking of that story lately. For an Iyengar teacher, the core poses are headstand and shoulder stand, regarded as the mother and father of asana. So our travelling teacher’s choice was logical, if somewhat extreme.

Now that September, land of infinite possibilities, is drawing near, and I find myself asking what daily practice I’d be ready to commit to.

This is a different question from the one I’ve asked in the past, which was: “what are my goals for my practice?”

Sometimes it was a specific pose or series of poses that I wanted to focus on, sometimes a weakness or a closed area in my body. Last fall, my goal was to prepare for the Jr. I assessment.

But a daily commitment is something different. It makes me nervous.

I don’t even know if I like the idea of making a daily practice commitment. It changes my relationship to my practice, like any commitment changes any relationship. Do I really want to have one more thing in my life that I’m duty-bound to do? Isn’t it enough to just do my best to do a two-hour practice every day, and be content when it turns out to be four out of seven, with a class on the fifth day?

While searching the internet for the wisdom of the ages, I ran across this quotation from leadership consultant Anne Morriss, first published, as far as I can tell, on a Starbuck’s cup.

The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Oh well then, it’s worth a shot.

I know myself well enough to know that I will not get up early and practice every day at the same time. I also know that I’m not willing to commit to a headstand every day. Five days out of seven, yes, but not every day.

So what I would commit to do every day, not when I have the time, or feel like it, but without fail?

At the moment, I’m thinking about shoulder stand.

I love Salamba Sarvangasana, and barring a bug that keeps me in bed, I can always do it, even if it’s shoulder stand in a chair.

To make it easier, I’m thinking of my commitment to a daily shoulder stand as a time-limited offer: shoulder stand every day for the 12 weeks of my teaching session, from the middle of September to the beginning of December.

It looks small enough to be doable.

As of now, I’m still mulling it over. I plan to keep on mulling, in fact, for the next two weeks. I won’t be posting until then, and I’ll let you know what I decide.

In the meantime, is there a daily yoga commitment you’d like to make?

Think it over. Perhaps we could commit together.

Image courtesy of squeezomatic, via Flickr Creative Commons.

If this was your kind of post, you might also like:

Morning Practice: if it’s so important, why is it so hard to do?

When it comes to yoga practice, how much is enough?

Practice Buddies: my secret weapon against sloth


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • tru September 2, 2011, 7:50 am

    I have been an off-and-on yogi for over 20 years – I still have the first yoga book I bought and remember where I got it.

    I have been through various sufferings the past few years and everywhere I turn I am smacked in the face with yoga and mindfulness being the keys to alleviate what suffering can be and to accept that which can’t be.

    My most recent concern is with my health and incipient diabetes. My doctor, bless him, prescribed three months of aggressive dietary changes to combat this, rather than loading me up with prescriptions. In my effort to maintain a healthier dietary path, I’ve been aided by a book called “100 Days of Weight Loss”. While it’s occasionally superficial (I want to look good in a bathing suit!), the daily practice of it has really grounded me.

    You see where this is going, right? Commitment. I’m with you.

    So, starting September 6 (day after the Labor Day holiday here in the US) I am commiting to the following

    Daily practice of your 5 minutes routine and the foot challenge routine
    Daily practice of Sudarshan Kriya (a pranayama technique taught by the Art of Living Foundation)
    Support – a group of friends with whom I shared this post, you, daily journal entries to log the commitment

    My commitment to this practice is through 31 October.

    • Eve September 6, 2011, 11:48 am

      Welcome aboard!
      And congratulations for making a September yoga commitment!
      I see today is your first day. Mine too.
      I like what you have planned, and I think you’re wise to have a group of friends for support.
      You might be interested in this article on a recent study that showed a slight stabilization of blood sugar levels for people with diabetes who did a gentle yoga class, compared to controls. What seemed even more interesting was the large drop in levels of stress hormones – 20 per cent on average. And since consistent high levels of stress hormones seem to lead to chronic diseases, including diabetes, that’s big.
      Keep us posted on how you’re doing.

  • Victoria Henderson August 30, 2011, 11:00 pm

    There’s a difference between a private ambition, and a public commitment. Every year, I do 2 months with no alcohol; and I share this objective with friends, family, and even casual acquaintances. For me, the more public I’ve made my challenge, the more ego I’ve laid on the line not to give in to all the usual temptations! Plus, I’ve found it’s much more doable with a partner or two for moral support.
    So, I’d say “yes” to a daily shoulder stand; and make a group of anyone else who wants to commit. Perhaps you could suggest several variations, to accommodate those daily fluctuations of energy and enthusiasm?

    • Eve September 1, 2011, 3:37 pm

      Hey Victoria,
      Thanks for the suggestion. I’m open to that – would love to have the energy of a group to help us along. And yes, I agree, making it public makes it much easier to say no to temptation.
      Viparita Karani could always be a last resort for low energy days. And I’ve been meaning to write about chair shoulder stand, another good low-energy options.
      Hey, those two months without alcohol wouldn’t be January and February would they? It’s certainly the easiest time of year for that – sort of like September for setting a yoga intention. : )

  • Traci August 26, 2011, 8:53 am

    I’ve been telling my students that just to show up for yourself is a huge commitment. Perhaps it’s the smaller commitments that have the deepest effect — not which pose you do, but the fact that you arrive on your mat and be with what is…

    • Eve August 26, 2011, 9:26 am

      Ah Traci, thank you for that!
      I agree with the smaller commitments having deeper effects, to some extent because the smaller the commitment is, the better chance I have of honoring it.
      Making it to the mat every day is something I can handle. I’m not sure that I can always “be with what is.” I know that for me there are different levels of acceptance, some deep, and some just a practice of tolerance.
      For this time, and for this commitment, I did want to choose something with no ambiguity – I either do shoulder stand, or I don’t. Next time, who know?

      This post was spurred by a recent reading of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

      • Traci August 27, 2011, 9:05 am

        …even to notice you’re not “with what is” is huge!! Good luck with daily shoulder stand. I”ll be sure to check out Flow; you’re the second person to have mentioned it.

        • Eve September 1, 2011, 3:31 pm

          I see it was a fairly enigmatic reference to Flow – I keep meaning to write about the book, maybe in September. Has a fascinating chapter on yoga, for one thing.

  • Elizabeth August 25, 2011, 5:53 pm

    Hi Eve,

    Ha ha…worth a “shot” and Starbucks…
    It was Gabriella who said that, btw.

    Hope your summer is going very well.
    Here’s to you and your practice; a daily delight.


    • Eve August 25, 2011, 10:06 pm

      Oh, Gabriella, that makes sense. But do you remember who she was talking about?

  • Beverly Fox August 25, 2011, 4:54 pm

    Well, I feel embarrassed to admit it but I’ve been in a slump lately. I still read about Yoga every day (does that count?) but I haven’t been practicing as much as I would like. So I’m going to commit to doing the Downward Dog every day. Thanks for the needed push.

    • Eve August 25, 2011, 4:59 pm

      Ah, Beverly, slumps come and slumps go. It’s all in what we do about it. So are you committing starting today?

      • Beverly Fox August 25, 2011, 5:25 pm

        Yes, today … now.

        • Eve August 25, 2011, 10:05 pm

          Good for you!
          Have to say, if you’re going to pick one pose that’s not headstand or shoulder stand, downward dog is a great option!