One of my students, Anna, is debating whether to continue yoga classes this spring. The class she attends, on Mondays from 12:45-2pm, immediately follows three hours of her own work, introducing music to babies and toddlers. As a Music Together teacher, she must be “on”: engaged and animated (the under-four set won’t cut you any slack!).
She has no time to catch her breath or to gather her thoughts (or to eat a snack) before yoga. She’s also busy in her personal life, raising a young son with her husband.
While she enjoys the class and the way it pushes her physically and mentally, she’s also feeling swamped with her overall life. What should she do?
I’d love to see Anna in my class. She’s an attentive, appreciative student who would benefit from regular asana work. But I can empathize with her dilemma. Sometimes, one must take care of pending “business” before one can fully commit to yoga (or any other practice).
Finding space in your life
A decade ago, when I took a Zen Buddhist meditation course taught by Reb Anderson of Green Gulch Farm, a student asked him sitting in zazen at home. He first discussed the “logistics” (my word, not his) of home practice.
I can’t quote him precisely, but here’s the gist:
- You need the support of your household. If your family or partner is opposed or otherwise unsupportive of your practice, it will be difficult to find the time or the right mindset to sit.
- You also need to manage your other priorities (work, travel, child care, pet care, domestic chores, sports, hobbies, etc) to open a space in your schedule.
- You can’t feel rushed, guilty, or distracted when you sit. You can’t meditate if the phone keeps ringing or if you’re trying to feed your kids breakfast at the same time. A chaotic environment (whether in your environment or in your mind) is not conducive to meditation.
I find his advice apropos to my yoga practice. When my life is stable, when the sea is calm, it is relatively easy to plunge into my home practice. Class time, too, feels focused and healthy. When I’m crazed, I can feel it in my practice. I can tell by the way my mind wanders and gallops, compelling me to stop and jot notes in the midst of an asana sequence!
For me, savasana (which I discuss here) is the best barometer. I don’t even attempt savasana if my mind is too stormy. My friend Catherine says that her tadasana is affected when she’s under stress. It is harder for her to “find” her tadasana. In such pure poses, there is no hiding from the truth.
Yoga requires a regular and wholehearted effort. If you’re feeling scattered, do a focused five-minute asana rather than a lackadaisical two-hour practice. Or get your ducks in a row first.
Image: Hilary Walker, RedBubble