What practice looks like for me has evolved immensely over the years. What hasn't changed is that my practice has always been about taking a journey within.
As a young practitioner, I was really excited about the physical practices of Yoga. I wanted to go deeper into all the Asanas. I wanted to stand on my hands. I wanted to put my foot behind my head. Practice wasn't practice without vigorous movement and physical challenge. That was what I needed at 16. It's what I needed, still, in my 20s, in order to journey within. It's how I was able to get out of my head and into my body so that I can actually hear the wisdom of my heart.
Now, my practice has shifted. Yes, I still stand on my hands sometimes. No, I've never been able to put my foot behind my head. Sometimes I still sweat. But, sometimes I don't. Oftentimes, practice involves simple breathing, reading, reflecting, meditating. Sometimes, the physical practice for me is a light jog while paying attention to the rhythm of my feet on the pavement or a mindful walk while absorbing the sensory experience of each step.
I learned in the past few years that the fewer rules and restrictions I put on my practice, the easier it was for me to journey within. It's cyclical in nature. If I listen to what I really want and need from my practice, the path of how to get there unfolds naturally. Then, by taking the path that my heart paves, I find my way back to my center more quickly. When I'm centered, connected to my essence, it's easier to hear what it is I want and need out of my practice. And so on and so forth.
What's interesting is that when I am able to decide with ease what I want and need out of my daily practice, I notice I am also able to decide with more ease what I want and need out of my life.
As we approach the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall, we also approach a time when it's a little easier to journey within. Nature demands we slow down and turn inward - the weather cools, the days become shorter. We innately crave activities that are introspective - sipping tea, reading a book while wearing cozy socks, etc.
If your practice is nonexistent or if it's no longer representative of a journey within, now is a great time to dive back inward. Practice doesn't have to look a certain way. It doesn't have to take a certain amount of time or happen at a certain time. It just has to feel a certain way - it has to feel right to you.
Here are 5 ways to break through excuses and limiting beliefs about your practice and start the journey within:
- Practice daily. The magic of Yoga + Mindfulness reveals itself with consistency. This doesn't mean that you have to roll out your mat and move through the physical practice (Asana) for 90 minutes everyday. It simply means, you choose to create space for yourself everyday where you can pause, breathe, absorb the moment and feel fully alive. That could happen in the 3 minutes it takes for your tea to brew at night, during your commute to work or in a more formal setting, like on a mat or meditation cushion. Even on the busiest day there is time to journey within.
- Break all the rules. Because, really, there are no rules. What practice is to me is different than it is to you. What practice is to you today is different than it will be tomorrow. If you try to put Yoga + Mindfulness in a box, you'll feel caged in. If you set arbitrary or rigid rules ("I have to do Asana for at least 15 minutes" or "my practice has to happen first thing in the morning.") you're setting yourself up to fail. What you want and need to recalibrate changes moment to moment. Allow your practice to be whatever it is for the day. Remember, there is no right or wrong! There is only what is right for you, right now.
- Make a list of all the activities that light you up. Your practice has the power to connect you with your essence, your spirit or soul, the part of you that is unchanging. How do you know when you're connected with your Self? Well, when do you feel most alive? Because that joy, lightness and love that you feel, that's the feeling of connection with Self. So, what activities make you feel most alive? Make a list. Over time, add and subtract from the list. Keep the list handy so that when you're feeling disconnected, you can use one of these activities on your list to reconnect. The frustrating part of being human is that when we feel lost, angry, sad or afraid, we generally aren't sure how to get back to "feeling like ourselves." If you make the list when you "feel like yourself," it will be there to guide you when you don't.
- Get clear on intention. When you practice, name what it is that you want and need from your practice. If you aren't sure what you need, refer back to your list and choose an activity to get the ball rolling. Then, when you are clear about what you need, keep that intention close to your heart during your practice and for the rest of the day. For example, if you wake feeling unmotivated and depleted, you may look to your practice for vitality. And after you practice you can continue to call in vitality in all that you do.
- Find an accountability partner. Human beings thrive on connection with other human beings. Numerous studies have shown that people who feel connected with other people are physiologically and psychologically healthier. In part, this is knowing you're not alone, having support to manage stress and loved ones around to share joy. In part, though, this is because other people make us better people - through reflection, feedback and accountability. So, pick someone who has similar values and ask them to be your accountability partner. Ask them specifically to check in with you (weekly, monthly, etc) to see how your journey inward is going. Return the favor if they are interested. And, if you don't have someone who can play this role in your life, then join The Journey Within: A Yoga + Mindfulness Intensive where you'll be deeply connected with other likeminded folks.
As always, if you have any questions, reach out. I'm here.