Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Practicing Yoga When Life Gets in the Way

I often joke with my fellow yogis that life is always getting in the way of my yoga practice. By this I mean that I have a habit of laying down a plan, a yogic plan, of how I am going to practice from now on, and then my plan gets derailed because of family responsibilities, work, emergencies, etc. Well, of course, that is the yoga. Trying to stay balanced and even-keeled wouldn't be much of a practice if life doesn't throw you a few curve-balls every so often. But how annoying! I want to practice Tapas by sticking to my asana and physical fitness routine, yet here comes a cold; I want to practice Ahimsa by nourishing myself better, yet here come the holidays and the bombardment of treats; I want to practice Pranayama but the phone keeps ringing. You get the picture. How often do we hear people say they would exercise more if they could only find the time? I have counseled many people over the years to make the time because time is not something that can be found. And so the same holds true for yoga practice. There is never a perfect time to practice. Something always wants to get in the way. And that is in fact part of the actual practice: staying present with our intentions regardless of what is currently in the way. This is not always easy - in fact it is usually pretty darn hard and we often fail! But the other part of actual practice is giving up the rigid structures we set up for ourselves in order to be more present with the true moment. My practice for this Fall is not to get down on myself when I fail to stay present with my intentions, but to try to remain conscious and open to the alternative experience. Being conscious of the fact that I have lapsed is half the battle. Staying present with the reason for lapsing, without judgement or resentment, is the other half and that for me is the trickier part!
I long ago gave up trying to meditate. It is either going to happen or it is not. More recently I gave up running a certain distance or pace. I just start running and see what happens. Sometimes I'm fast. Sometimes I end up walking instead. I gave up trying to get through the entire primary series. I get on my mat and see what happens. Sometimes I just sit there! And that is my practice.
It is good to have goals and to work toward them, but it is very liberating to give up the seeking of results sometimes. Usually what happens then is that you open completely to the reality of the moment rather than trying to force your ideals on the moment. Suddenly, you are practicing yoga.