Why do you practice?

Hi friends! Hoping this note finds you well. As I mentioned back in January, establishing my personal practice up here in Northampton has been more challenging than I imagined it would be. I still struggle with my time on my mat, largely I think, because my schedule is lacking the structure it had before. When I was living in NYC, even though I was getting on my mat for my personal practice, it was always guided by the fact that I was teaching at some point in the day. As you know, all of my classes came in some way, shape or form from my personal practice, and that demanded me to bring awareness, clarity, and intention to those practices. And, even though I’ve been carving out time at night for practice it somehow is still not feeling like my practice.

In reading through Judith Lasater’s A Year of Living Your Yoga, one of my go-to books for inspiration, I realized that a lot of the problem is due to a lack of clear intention when I practice, and putting more stock in the practice’s ability to heal and change me, rather than my own ability to heal and change.

One of her entries in the book is: “The attitude that you bring to the mat will shape your poses.” Upon reading this it dawned on me that often I get on my mat just to get on my mat because I said I would or because I should, and I expect that by the end something miraculous will happen. And yes, sometimes just getting on my mat and moving around works, and I end up feeling better afterwards. But most times I meander, get distracted and fall down the deep rabbit hole of “Why am I practicing?” “What’s the point of this practice?” “I don’t know what I’m actually exploring right now.” And the list goes on. It hit me that I’m bringing a lot of confusion, despair, and even a lack of awareness to my mat, expecting my practice to focus me and fix everything; to make me feel whole; to make me feel empowered and centered. Guess what, it can’t – at least not without me intentionally meeting it halfway. Yeah, it can help to loosen up my hips, ease my hamstrings, and even open my chest. But without the intention to gain clarity, to let go of despair, or to fine tune my awareness, I won’t truly notice and reap the benefits of the release in my hamstrings and the quieting and centering aspects of forward bending or the opening of my heart.

If I just bring, for example, despair to mat - while yes, I’m acknowledging where I am and being honest and meeting myself there – chances are I’ll just sit there with despair and not do much of anything. But, if I get on my mat with the simple intention to notice the feeling, to open to it, to experience it and even acknowledge the desire to shift it, then I have somewhere to go; something to explore. That can inform my practice towards maybe a restorative heart opener, deep breathing, or even some wild backbendings to open my heart even more. By noticing the attitude with which I’m practicing and clarifying an intention for my practice, I create the possibility of channeling and using the practice to shift the energy within me toward something more positive. No longer am I putting the burden for change on the practice and the poses; but rather I’m giving some of the power back to me to change the energy of the poses and the energy within me.

I share this with you because so many of you over the years have inquired about creating a home practice, or have mentioned how difficult it can be to maintain one. This is really the first time I’m consistently struggling with this, and in sharing this struggle, I hope it might give you some clarity and support. And, remember, every time we get on the mat doesn’t need to be revolutionary, life changing and inspiring. But ideally we should have some clarity as to why we are doing what we are doing – even if what we bring to the mat is the intention to simply enjoy moving and being in our bodies. That’s a huge reason to get on the mat and play.

Quick Bliss Tip 1: The next time you get on your mat take a moment to see where you are: Are you feeling scattered? Unfocused? Stressed? Happy? Bubbling with excitement? What do you want to do with that information? Do you want to shift it? Do you want to harness it? Do you want to maintain it and bring it into your practice? Begin to move from that place of information, awareness and intention.

Quick Bliss Tip 2: Judith Lasater suggests that before you begin your yoga practice that you do something you really love (baking, singing, playing with your kids or pets, gardening…). And then she suggests noticing how that activity affects your joy and bringing that joy to your mat. From there observe what happens to your practice.

Happy practicing everyone! Sincerely, email me and let me know if this resonates or not, and if it does, how it’s affecting your practice.

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