Home practice: A gift to yourself

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

 Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time”

-T.S. Elliot

I have practiced yoga and meditation for most of my adult life.  Most of the time it has been in the company of other people in classes I attended, retreats, teacher trainings, and classes I taught.  Although a home practice has always been something I have aspired to, I have never been able to remain fully dedicated. It’s always seemed easier to practice in a pretty room or overlooking a stunning nature view.  My living room with all my life’s clutter just hasn’t seemed as appealing.

The problem in my opinion has been my perspective around my home practice.  I believed that I SHOULD have a home practice.  Should is almost always the voice of the ego.  It’s that judgmental inner voice that tells you all the ways that you aren’t being the perfect Self that you ought to be.  Don’t get me wrong I have had a home practice but looking back the reasoning behind doing it was more out of ego than out of dedication to myself.  I was a yoga teacher so I SHOULD practice at home.  I just did a vipassana so I SHOULD continue this practice.  I want to become more self aware so I SHOULD do this…etc.  I am sure most of you can relate on some level.  Even if the thing that makes you tick isn’t yoga or meditation, often times the things that make us feel the best for some reason are the hardest to get ourselves to do, especially alone.

I usually find really good excuses not to practice.  Need to spend more time with the boyfriend.  Need to do laundry.  Too tired.  Already ate breakfast.  And then when I don’t do it, I don’t feel that great about myself.  It’s kind of this self sabotaging circle I’ve created.

A real shift happened to me around New Years this year.  I had decided that for my New Years resolution that I would take refined sugar and flour out of my diet.  After about a week I started to think about this resolution…boooooring!  I mean how many times have I restricted my diet that way?!  Too many for me to count!

A sweet old man I used to teach yoga to told me that I was the most amazing teacher he had met but I was too self deprecating.  At the time I totally disagreed with him  but his words have stuck with me and I have reflected on them many times. Turns out self-deprecation is rooted in perfectionism and self hatred.  I totally have a tendancy to restrict myself from pleasure and be way too hard on myself.  And yes sugar and refined flour are yummy devils but to say never to them is a little over the top. I wanted to stop the cycle of taking away from myself and move towards giving.

Thing is as a new mom I had been feeling beyond depleted and felt like I had pretty much mastered the art of giving.  You never really understand how much a mother gives to her child until you become that mother.  It’s all too easy to expect your partner or loved ones to supplement that depletion and it is nice when they can give to you in that way, but at the end of the day we need to learn how to nourish ourselves.  Tough lesson for me.

I decided that the way that I would give to myself this year would be by dedicating myself to my home practice.  I wouldn’t let time be an excuse and if for some reason I missed a day I wouldn’t throw in my cards defeated but rather start back up the next day.

It has been the best gift to myself.  It’s a time in the day where I reconnect with my body and my breath.  I feel like me rather than mommy (even though they feel inseparable now).  I usually practice anywhere between 15-45 minutes and have been doing a shortened Ashtanga practice.  I will prop Sage in his Baby Bjorn bouncer in front of my mat and let him watch or sometimes wait until he naps.

I realized that self nourishment and dedication to something you believe in are two values that are important to me.  They are things that I want Sage to grow up with.  The best way for him to understand is to watch me doing it.

For the first time in my life there is no “should” in the sentence when I think about my home practice.  It just is or it isn’t.  I think that when you are truly ready for something the “should” walks out the door.

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Ways to start a home practice:

-Don’t wait for the “perfect” opportunity, it won’t likely come.  Just start that day

-Set goals that are easily achieved.  Even if you practice for long periods with classes, start off slow and just do short amounts at home

-If you miss a day or two don’t beat yourself up. It isn’t called a practice for no reason.

-If practicing yoga get books or dvds to inspire a sequence and repeat that sequence so that less thought is put into that aspect of the practice and you can focus your energy on your breath and being mindful.  I’ve really enjoyed Ashtanga Yoga by David Swenson

– And last, remember you are doing this for you.  If it’s not something you enjoy doing then it’s worth evaluating the reason why you are doing it.

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