Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Day 229

Good, solid, happy practice today. I was on the mat by 5:30 a.m., felt strong and reasonably flexible considering the early hour. My shoulder feels fine these days, but my right wrist has been sore lately, so I've been very mindful of it in my Chaturangas. I keep my fingers (of both hands) spread wide, keep the wrist crease in line with the front edge of my mat, root down through the heel of the thumb. I'm sometimes very lackadaisical about my hand placement, but not anymore. It's been feeling better, though.

Handstands have been fabulous lately. I come right up, no fuss. It helps if I don't think, just 'do'. I don't even think about cookies anymore. ;-)

I nearly fell asleep in Savasana - I think this may be a first!

Today, I wanted to address some questions I've received via comments and email.

A few weeks ago, a reader wrote to me asking about tips to keep organised. And in the comments, Surya asked these questions:

Do you do any restorative yoga (yin yoga) as a compliment to your ashtanga practice?
When you teach do you practice with your students or just talk throuh/show the asans and assist the students?
If you practice with your students how do find the energy to do both your ashtanga practice and your teaching practice?

In essence, all three of these questions boil down to energy: where you find it, how you build it, how you choose to use it.

As a teacher, I know that my students all learn in different ways. Some are visual learners while others are more responsive to verbal cues. In my classes, I often demonstrate poses for my students. But I don't feel it's necessary, or advisable to do a yoga practice with my classes. When demonstrating a pose, I come into it about 50%. That's about right for most of my beginning Hatha students and it's easy for me. Students who are more advanced are not going to need a visual cue to tell them how deep to take a pose - they're already familiar with the poses.

I only demo something once. That means that I will usually do one sun salutation with my students. Then I teach verbally and observe during the rest. I teach one side of a pose, then wander around giving adjustments (both gentle physical adjustments and verbal cues) during the second side.

If I didn't conserve my energy in this way, I would be exhausted by the end of the day. Today, for example, I'm teaching five classes.

I do my Ashtanga practice six days a week, with additional breaks for the new and full moon, and my monthly 'ladies holiday'. My absolute favourite form of Yin or Restorative yoga is not to practice at all! ;-) However, during a long break or the last day of my ladies holiday, I will sometimes do a very gentle Hatha practice or a longer restorative yoga practice. I don't have any experience with Yin Yoga. I believe that Restorative Yoga (as taught by my Teacher H) is very good for me, as it forces me to slow down a bit and I find that the practice itself builds energy.

Put simply, staying organised is about priorities. As a rule, you'll have time in your life for things you perceive as priorities, things you're truly committed to. There's absolutely no shame in foregoing your yoga practice because your child takes priority (or your favourite television show, or a good book, or your career) as long as it's a mindful decision.

In a nutshell, when something is a priority, you make time for it by:

1) Doing it first: I'm a big fan of to-do lists - they work for me, though I know they don't work for everybody. Yoga is the first item on my to-do list. I find that I'm more likely to keep my commitment to yoga by doing my practice first thing in the morning, before I need to start balancing other priorities.

2) Doing it mindfully: It's far easier to maintain my commitment to my practice when I do it mindfully. Those of you who read this blog have witnessed what happens when I lose that mindfulness in my practice. Here's my mantra: “For the next hour-and-20-minutes, there is no place else I need to be, nothing else I need to be doing.” Repeat, as necessary.

3) Doing it consistently: Anything done consistently becomes a habit. Habits build momentum and momentum is a great help in keeping on top of your priorities. When I'm able to build the habit of early morning yoga practice, it becomes relatively easy to keep my six-day practice without feeling overwhelmed.

This carries over into other areas of life. My apartment is organised, because I make tidiness a priority. I do the dishes as soon as I've finished eating, I do the laundry, wash the floors, clean the bird cage, on a schedule (consistency!). When the closets get messy, I add an item to my to-do list to clean them. When I sense that I'm accumulating too many 'things', I go through and purge them. I use a calendar and schedule reminders for things I'm likely to forget, like meetings, workshops and bills.

Yoga doesn't have to be *your* priority. Perhaps, at this time in your life, your child is a top priority. Putting someone else, like a child, first is a wonderful yoga practice in of itself (a la Eknath Easwaran). Being mindful while spending time with your child is the best way to remain present. Being consistent in your care and interaction with your child will enhance the relationship.

In terms of staying organised, I could break this down more specifically and tell you that I always put my keys on a hook by the door when I come inside (so they won't be lost) and I always do my bookkeeping on Mondays, so by tax time the work is done and I'm able to simply hand everything over the accountant. But these specific strategies are different for everyone. Certainly, my sense of 'being organised' will look very different from yours.

Put simply, I view good habits of organisation as a way of conserving energy. Every time I lose something, or miss an appointment or forget to pay a bill, or damage a relationship through carelessness, I expend needless energy in worrying. And nothing saps energy like worry.

So, in a nutshell: Decide what your priorities are, and be uncompromising in your dedication to them.


Yogamum said...

Your advice is SO good and clear. I haven't been good at prioritizing the asana practice lately (but I'm not upset, because it has been an unusually difficult time). I wrote a note to myself: doing it first, mindfully, consistently. I hope to keep that in mind as I reprioritize my life.

yogini said...

Thank you, thank you for taking your time to answer my questions!

I have been to a yoga workshop for 6 days and it has given me a lot of energy and helped me to be very focused when I have been with my babyboy! Hopefully I can keep up 4-day per week practice at home now. But we will see. Baby first! ;)

Also thank you for your advice regarding being organised. I will keep that in mind as I am trying to become more organised in order to save energy.

Surya said...

Thanx so much kaivalya!