Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Practice the Art of Showing Up

Occasionally people ask me, “Do you really practice yoga every day?”  This is followed by, “How do you do that?”
 Like many people, I got hooked on yoga because of how I felt after a class.  It wasn’t the same as after a good gym workout or a long walk.  It was a feeling of being energized, but also calmed and reclaimed.  Like coming home to myself.   And I still feel that way 17 years later.  So on good days, practice returns me to a still and centered heart and mind, and a place where my body feels light, mobile, and expansive.   On other days, well, it’s a bit of going through the motions.
Woody Allen is credited with saying that “90 percent of life is just showing up.”  That means being present again and again, without consideration of mood or inclination, or weather, or what kind of a hair day you’re having.  Yoga, like any practice, is like that.  But a slow, steady practice can yield a fruitful harvest.  
Here are a few gleanings:      
  • A practice doesn’t need to be long.  Just bring to it intention, presence, and your breath.   Iyengar teacher John Schumacher said on an ihanuman podcast, “If we practice just one pose a day, we have a yoga practice.”  And often what happens is that one pose leads to another, and 10 or 15 minutes later you’re well in to a longer practice—or not. 
  • Practice establishes routine.  And the body responds to routine.  In Ayurveda, the yogic science of self-healing, dinacharya, or the daily routine, forms the bedrock of health.  According to Vansant Lad, “A daily routine is absolutely necessary to bring radical change in body, mind, and consciousness.”
  • Practice teaches awareness.  Yoga is a practice of learning to go inside and listen to what might be best on that day, in that moment.  It facilitates the gift of being present with the body, emotions, griefs, fears, and any other myriad of mental states.  No judgment.   
  • Practice prepares us for the “big” moments in life.  Mark Nepo in The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life says, “All the practice in the world can’t instigate enlightenment or revelation.  It can only make us ready vessels for when those moments occur.”  But they tend to occur more often when we practice.
  • Practice is being present with the process rather than a particular outcome.  This is not a satisfying notion for a Western culture dedicated to productivity and immediate gratification.  But practice is a tool for finding joy in the process.  And then being surprised by often unexpected results.
  • Practice is about evolution.  A yoga practice changes according to circumstances, emotional setting, and the body’s inclination.  Allowing it to evolve according to what is needed in the moment removes stagnation and depletion.  Change simply unfolds, allowing a new present to manifest.
Still not convinced?  Then sit back and make a routine of this Ayurvedic tea, considered a Rasyayana, or rejuvenative.  It’s especially beneficial before bed to help with restful sleep.  Enjoy.

 Soft boil the following:

4-6 oz. whole milk
3 threads saffron
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger (powdered)
¼ tsp. nutmeg

Remove from heat and add raw honey to taste. 
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