A guide to maintain your practice
SADHANA- The struggle is real
In yoga, daily practice is called sadhana. Most people start establishing a sadhana by getting into asana (postures), the third limb of Ashtanga Yoga. But sadhana is simply your daily practice whatever that is asana, meditation, pranayama, japa or all of the above.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, better known as Guruji in the Ashtanga world used to say that 1% is theory but the rest of it, the other 90% is practice. It is of utmost importance to experience everything! We must struggle, fail, question, search within and start finding our own voice, finding peace within us and find our truth. That’s the purpose of sadhana. There is no real understanding if we do not experience it.
That said, why so many struggle to stick to their sadhana? It can be challenging to keep it up and it is especially hard if you do not have the environment that inspires you to do it every day. If you don’t have a community. But time and dedication is important to let the changes happen.
I have been practicing yoga for thirteen years, and for eleven of those years I had a studio to go to and a teacher to guide me. So the motivation and inspiration was there.
For the past two years I have been practicing at home and let me tell you… it was not easy to begin! I dreaded getting up and finding the incentive to get on my mat. I knew it was good for me but it was very hard. I felt unmotivated, weak and discovered I had an incredible imagination to come up with a million excuses to delay or even not do my practice!
How to overcome that laziness and the excuses is what I want to share with you. So, if you are in this situation, keep reading! I got you covered!
The key to maintaining a daily practice is to develop a habit! And now you are probably saying: “Well that’s no news, Patty. How do I do that?”
A habit, according to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary is “a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiological exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance”.
Basically, its a pattern you will follow every day and eventually it will be established as your routine. You’ll train your brain to do it by establishing these three components:
Are cues that begin the start of your routine (your practice). Over time, they will become an urge to practice. Without the trigger there is no habit but over time and repetition the link between the trigger and the routine gets stronger and stronger, which is exactly what you want! Sustainability!
The cues could be almost anything from a location, a time of the day, a sound, a previous pattern of behavior.
For you might be a pattern of behaviors such as: Get up, brush teeth, use bathroom and change out of your PJs’. Then, the routine should kick in = Do yoga practice!
This works for everything you’d like to create as your routine. Going to the gym everyday, practice yoga, do some tai chi, breathing exercises, meditation. Whatever you might chose.
Now the best part: The reward! It is simply that, something you give yourself to recognize you did a good job by doing your practice.This could be anything you like!
The reward has a psychological and physiological effect on you. It can be something as simple as a cup of coffee. This will train your brain to maintain this habit because you will be rewarded after. Eventually, it will become second nature and you won’t even need the reward but you might still want to have that nice cup of coffee! 🙂
“What do I do next?”
Repeat! Repeat! Repeat! You repeat everyday for a long, long time to firmly establish this into your life. And that’s it!
Trigger, Routine, Reward and Repeat. That’s how you establish a habit.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
Here are some of the things that I have discovered over time and how I have maintained my practice while practicing alone at home.
Time: The key is to practice everyday at the same time. Your body will get used to the time you do the practice and will eventually crave to do it at that same time everyday.
“But I have no free time” is a common thing to say. This might sound harsh but the reality is that we make time for things that matter to us. So, if your practice is important to you, reorganize your schedule, wake up a bit earlier, or go to sleep earlier. Take the time to organize yourself in a way where you do have the time to practice. Even if it is just sun salutations.
Place and atmosphere: Practice always in the same spot, same as the time, makes it easier for your body to get used it. You might want to consider preparing the space the night before.
Set some goals: Focusing on only one or two things like: your breathe or your alignment helps. You can focus on doing only the sun salutations, whatever might help you start that day. Once you start moving, endorphins will be released (the feel good hormones that are released by the brain that diminish pain and discomfort) and it will be easier to continue.
Take rest: In the Ashtanga yoga system we rest one day of every week and also on new and full moon days (no asana practice on these days). Giving your body time to recover is also important.
Throw guilt out the window!: “What happens if one day I don’t practice?” This is a big deal for a lot of people and let me tell you exactly what happens if you don’t….Nothing! Nothing will happen if you don’t practice one day for whatever reason. So, forgive yourself and move on. Pick it up the next day and that’s it.
Also, there are other ways besides asana that we can practice yoga. Hint: the yamas and niyamas. *wink*wink*
Ask for help: Its good when you involve the people around you. Tell your loved ones that you are trying to practice everyday. They most likely are willing to help you.
Avoid distractions: With technology right at out fingertips, delaying the practice is common. Whatever your distraction might be, recognize it and put it aside. It can wait an hour or so while you practice.
Ultimately, it’s about committing to your yourself and your sadhana. It’s about taking responsibility for it. It takes a lot of discipline and will power to establish a daily practice but with determination, devotion and the tips above I’m confident you can.
Tell me, what has worked for you to maintain your practice? Tell me on the comments below, I’d love to hear about them!