Surely one of the most unfair parts of being human is that good habits are hard to form and easy to lose, while bad habits rub against your ankles like cats who’ve just heard a can opener.
I could blame renovations, house guests who have nowhere to sleep but my practice space, early morning ferry rides, summer weather that begged me to be outside, a break from my normal routines.
Or I could point the finger at August: languid, lazy, a foe to every form of discipline that exists.
The truth is, my practice has been spotty since the end of July, and “why?” doesn’t matter.
Usually September is enough to get me back to a regular practice. As soon as Labor Day arrives, I’m in back-to-school mode and ready to go. And once I start teaching, steady practice is guaranteed.
But what if you don’t have an external prompt? And what if your September weather, internally and externally, is doing a great impersonation of August, still hot and dry?
Years of getting back on the practice bicycle have led me to develop a few time-tested strategies for ending a practice break:
• Clean your practice space and lay out your mat.
If you’ve been away for a while, declutter, sweep the floor and dust. Make the space as inviting as you can, with as few obstacles to starting as your living arrangements allow.
• Set an intention the night before and get up and practice first thing.
At the best of times, practice deferred often becomes practice denied. If you’re in a practice slump, any activity that can will insert itself between you and your practice.
• Centre in a quiet position before you start moving through poses.
This is an important step in any practice, but if you’ve been away from your mat for several weeks, take a little extra time to still your mind and connect with the sensations in your body. Remind yourself why you’re there, and spend a moment being grateful: you live in a world in which good teaching is widely available; you’ve had the innate wisdom to turn toward yoga, you are free to practice.
• Make your first practice gentle and exploratory.
Put your legs up the wall and do all the leg actions of Dandasana (stick pose), just in a different relationship to gravity. Roll on massage balls and come into supported bridge pose. Do leg stretches interspersed with supine mountain pose with your arms overhead. Then slowly move into standing poses, taking your quiet intelligence with you. End your practice with some version of shoulder stand, and Savasana.
• If distraction is your enemy, set a strict limit on the amount of time you have to practice. Instead of imagining that you’ll do a two-hour practice, and then telling yourself you don’t have the energy, limit yourself to 15 minutes, or, if you’ve learned the joys of the Pomodoro system, to 25. And if that still seems like too much, tell yourself you’ll just do five minutes – but do it every day.
• Enlist a practice buddy.
I spent one morning last week catching up with Baya. Yes we chatted, about how we spent the summer, but we also practiced, with more energy than I could summon to work on my own.
• Go back to class.
It may be that what you need is a leap into the deep end of the pool. Once you connect again to how good you feel during and after class, you’ll be more motivated to find that sense of well being every day.
I’ve been attending Elise Browning Miller’s workshop on Yoga and Scoliosis this week.
Being in the presence of a master teacher was not only inspiring, it’s given me new ideas to explore and a multitude of actions and understandings to test out in many poses.
Fall is here, and I’m delighted to be back.