The degree to which people value routine versus spontaneity is very personal. To some, having to do the same thing every day couldn’t be any more tedious and will strive to seek out the next adventure. Others seem to create a life that runs smoothly and happily like clockwork and that’s absolutely fine by them.
Yogis are not much different. There’s definitely a breed of yogi that is always seeking to learn and experience more in the yoga world. And with good reason. Once you scratch below the surface and develop a reasonably confident practice, you soon discover world of yoga is rich and broad – so much history, so many different styles to practice, different teachers to learn from, studios to try out, and that’s not even exploring your whole inner and energetic world that the more meditative or tantric aspects of yoga can reveal.
Then there’s another breed, indeed at least two mainstream yoga styles – Ashtanga and Bikram – that seek to practice the same sequence every day (albeit with progression to successive sequences over time). There’s certainly a huge pragmatic benefit to getting up early and getting your practice done before the rest of the day begins and practicing a tried and tested sequences that ticks many of the boxes in terms of a balanced, appropriate practice for your level without having to think. Indeed, the lack of thinking allows for a more meditative, indeed yogic practice, without worrying about what’s coming next.
The flipside to each approach, however, is easy to spot. The free-spirited approach to yoga can quickly descend into little more than yoga tourism. Any good yoga style requires dedicated practice to understand and benefit from it in any meaningful way. Also, not having any fixed time to practice (in amongst the general complexity of live) can often mean that practice gets deferred to ‘tomorrow’ indefinitely.
Meanwhile those who restrict their practice to just one style will not only be cutting out asanas, inspiration and lessons from other practices, they may even be risking injury through over-repetition of the same things, especially if alignment is not quite correct.
With that in mind here are a few ideas to consider if you’re serious about your practice and feel it might be time to readdress the balance:
1. Establish a regular time you can practice most days.
Even if it’s 10 minutes. Many people chose the morning, and that’s the traditional approach, but there’s a lot to be said for an after-work practice to wind down, a lunchtime practice, or even a gentle practice in the evening before bed. Whatever will get you on the mat regularly
2. Continue to go to new classes every once in a while.
This may be trying a new style, a different teacher, a retreat, or even another aspect of yoga such as chanting, silent meditation or pranayama. Workshops are a fantastic way to learn more about a style and ask questions. Online class providers such aswww.yogaglo.com can also be a way to dip your toe in the water with a new kind of class although there are obvious safety drawbacks to not having an experienced with you when you’re trying something new. Ask your friends which classes they like, check YouTube (Kino MacGregor’s YouTube channel is excellent), follow other yogis on social media, read and learn about the history and philosophy of yoga. In summary, keep your mind open, and maybe even try something you’re not sure you’ll like a few times just to double check!
3. Pick a class you feel works for you and stick with it.
By coming regularly to a class you will give the teacher an opportunity to get to know you better as well and provide you with much more personal guidance. Most teachers find this type of relationship rewarding and will be happy to advise ways you can practice at home or adapt your practice if you are new and still learning the ropes, or if you’ve been coming for a while and are looking for ways to progress and find new options.
4. Don't make excuses!
Our silly old minds play tricks on us constantly and are very good at inventing reasons not to get on the mat. Except in extreme emergencies, you’re probably not too busy, sick, or hungover to do SOMETHING – even if it’s sitting in easy pose with the eyes closed and meditating for a few minutes, or taking a few cat and cow stretches. Even 5 sun salutes every day can be really beneficial.
5. Explore other ways to add a new dimension to your existing practice.
Devoting your whole attention to one aspect of the practice like your breath, your gaze or the bandhas, for example, can be an interesting journey. Experiment with all the questions that might arise in your mind during a class. Here’s a few examples:
- Breath: What’s it like if you DON’T use ujayi breath? What if you inhale when you usually exhale coming into a pose, and vice versa?
- Gaze: How does gazing in one direction versus another alter the feeling of a pose? What’s a sun salute like with your eyes closed?
- Alignment: What happens you flex your foot in a pose rather than point it, or if you bend your knees vs keep them straight, or if you keep your feet hip width vs together?
Hope this helps, let me know how you get on!