Yoga has been a part of my life since 1999…that’s 18 years! I’ve been teaching for 15 of those years, since 2002. That’s a long time, right? People frequently ask me about my yoga practice, and that’s cool. It’s great to know people want to know what I do and how I do it. But you want to know a secret? I totally freak out when people ask me these questions! Seriously, I’m not kidding!
You are probably wondering why in the world I would freak out when people ask me about my yoga practice. Allow me to explain.
The way I practice has changed a good bit over the years. At this point in my life, my practice is about where I can make time for myself and being mindful of how I feel. I have to get a bit creative with how and when I practice due to many reasons…I’m a wife, a mother, a dog owner…I work a full-time job, while teaching yoga and indoor cycling part-time. Oh, and there is that pesky chronic illness that I have, which constantly saps my energy and causes me muscle and joint pain. So when it comes to my yoga practice, I do what I can. Sometimes it’s a solid 75 minutes of movement, but sometimes I literally sit on my mat and focus on meditation for 5 or 10 minutes. It’s all yoga to me, as long as I am being mindful of what I’m doing.
When I first started pursuing my yoga certification, I was told by every teacher that if you’re going to be a good teacher, you need to practice yoga every single day. Back then, I was practicing a more vigorous vinyasa style of yoga. I wasn’t sick yet, so I had the energy to do those vigorous and powerful practices. Did I practice every single day? Ummm…well, this IS a confessional post, so I will tell you that I did NOT.
At least, I didn’t think I was. Because back then, I thought that if I wasn’t getting on my mat and sweating it out to a vigorous and powerful practice, then I wasn’t practicing yoga. Now I know different. As my life has evolved, my yoga knowledge has evolved. Which means my practice has evolved.
However, if you follow yoga blogs like I do, or if you search out yoga things on social media, you might run into the same thing I do, which is second-guessing yourself. This is because everywhere you turn, there is some yoga challenge out there, or some weird and crazy new style to try. You’ve probably seen it…30 days of handstands, 108 days of Sun Salutations, Naked Yoga, Beer Yoga, Goat Yoga, take a picture of yourself in a new pose each day…you get the idea. And if you let yourself, you can start to beat yourself up when you see all this stuff out there and it seems unattainable to you.
Here’s where my confession comes in. Are you ready for it? I’m proud of my practice, so here is my open and honest account of what the practice of a busy person, who happens to have a chronic illness, looks like.
I never finish 30 day challenges in 30 days.
I love to sign up for all kinds of challenges that are time-boxed because I always think that if I commit to one, it will hold me accountable and suddenly I’ll be amazing at whatever it is the challenge is targeting. I’ve signed for so many yoga challenges over the years, and I look forward to getting an email each day that breaks down what I’m supposed to do that day and usually has some wonderful words of wisdom and inspiration. In all honesty though, I make it through the first several days and then life steps in. Something will come up with one of my daughters, or there’s an emergency at work, or I simply have a bad day in terms of my illness. When that happens, I must adjust my expectations. I have made peace with this and rather than feeling like a failure, I give myself permission to do the type of yoga that suits my mood and needs on that day. Whatever challenge I am doing will still be there when I am ready to step back in, and that’s comforting.
I have been known to practice yoga in my pajamas.
Like many people with a chronic illness, there are days when it takes every ounce of my energy to get out of bed and force myself to walk among the land of the living. A girl’s gotta make a living after all, and I rarely get the opportunity to skip work or doing day-to-day things just because I don’t feel good. On weekends, sometimes I allow myself to spend a whole day in my pajamas if it’s been a rough week. And when that happens, I go into my yoga room, roll out my mat, and incorporate a gentle or restorative practice…in my pajamas. On other days, I really want to squeeze in a quick yoga session before I head out to work, so I pick a quick practice from YouTube before hopping into the shower. I figure it like this: it is more important to show up on my mat and practice in a way that suits me and my lifestyle.
My practice is often interrupted.
When I practice at home, interruptions are standard. I have a dedicated yoga room, and I always shut the door when I go in to practice. But inevitably, one of my dogs will decide it is a good idea to sit outside the door and sniff really loud, or cry for me to open the door. If I open the door, they join in with me, licking me and falling all over me in the process. When I go into my room to meditate, I announce to my family that I just need 10 minutes to meditate and to please not interrupt me. Do they listen? Nope! Every single time I try to take that measly little bit of time for myself, I get, “Mom! Blah blah blah!” Or “Honey, can you blah blah blah?” Seriously! I’m just asking for TEN minutes, people!
I don’t feel guilty that my practice is not perfect.
I used to beat myself up when I couldn’t get that vigorous practice in, or if I skimped out on a challenge I’d signed up for. But you know what that did? It made me miserable, and that’s not what yoga is all about. More recently, I’ve come across more articles that encourage people to do something each day, even if it’s only a short breathing practice. All of a sudden, I started to feel like maybe I’m not so bad after all, because I definitely AM doing something mindful each day, and that counts. I show up on my mat (or my bed, or a chair) when I can and how I can. My yoga practice is truly part of my life, so it evolves as I evolve. I am not going to spend my time stressing about doing yoga differently. I practice yoga to make me feel good and keep me healthy inside and out. Yoga is not about beating yourself up and about feeling guilty about not doing things the way everyone else does. It is about going with the flow and what you learn during that process.
Fellow readers, what are your secrets and confessions? Tell me in the comments!