Is Your Yoga Practise A Ritual Or A Habit?

~Photo by Sami Trabelsi~

~Photo by Sami Trabelsi~

How can we keep our personal yoga practise rich in ritual and not just something we do out of habit?

Both can be done without thinking.  Ritual, because we move away from the cerebral towards the heart of the matter, towards the stuff of our soul. Habit because we don’t need to think, we’ve done it so many times that we can let our mind wander where it fancies ( normally to the past or future ).

Ideally, ritual increases self awareness. It replenishes energy. It provokes gratitude for even the smallest thing. It reminds us of who we are.

Habit gets the job done. Habit is consistent. Habit is done before you pause and wonder is this even helpful for me right now.

Habits like brushing our teeth everyday are extremely useful. Habits can override laziness, keep our teeth clean and the toilet seat down.

Habits are not useful because they can also override the will power needed to give up a habit we no longer want. Sometimes habits used to be rituals but now are just us going through the motions.

Walking can simply be walking or can be a ritual in which we consciously breathe and take in our surroundings, letting our mind wander and pondering questions.

Yoga can be a habit or a ritual. I have a ritual of doing yoga first thing in the morning but it has slipped into being a habit many times.

I’ve made myself do yoga when staying in bed longer would have been the more loving thing to do. I’ve done dynamic yoga when what I really needed was yoga nidra ( yoga sleep! ).

The ritual became a habit in these moments because I was acting out of duty and not with self awareness.

Maybe you can relate? If so, what are your tendencies when you slip out of self awareness?

These moments are precious parts of our journey with yoga. They are lessons in which we learn a little bit more about ourselves and from which we can grow. So no need to fret!

Along my journey I have found the following ways extremely helpful in keeping the ritual of my practise fresh, ever evolving, alive. May they be useful to you too.

1.Create a specific space for your practise.

A corner in your living room where a yoga mat is ready to be rolled out in front of an altar of photos of loved ones. Maybe even a whole room dedicated to your practise.

And when you’re on the road? Bring your yoga mat. Bring a candle, something from home that brings a sense of ritual to you and take the time to set up a space wherever you are.

Knowing this space is waiting for you will support you to show up for yourself and often just being there will quieten the mind and help you move into your body.

2. Take a yoga class. With others. Live.

Practising yoga with others is completely different to practising on your own. There is a group energy that can be just what is needed to reignite your enthusiasm for your practise.

Moving and breathing with others can lift our spirit and remind us that we are not alone. We see others showing up as they are to practise being their best selves, being courageous.

Being guided by a teacher through a sequence that we don’t know can not only be inspiring but it also ensures we are eternal students, always learning, always practising.

Ideally, as the teacher holds the space and the time for us, we feel completely safe to explore the practise and to surrender to what arises for us in our practise.

3. Be compassionate towards yourself.

If you already have a personal practise that you show up for consistently it is important to remember that part of that practise is being able to tune in to your needs. Beneath the chatter of your mind, what is the quieter more intuitive voice saying?

Perhaps something like ‘it’s the first day of your period, go gently, just lie down and place your hands here’. Probably not ‘get to it! You said you were going to do a one hour practise today, do it! Period? Whatevs!’

As we listen to our intuition and allow ourselves to be adaptable, our practise evolves as we evolve, both on and off our mat.

4. Take a Break.

Sometimes we just need a break from yoga! Do something else. Allow yourself to miss yoga. Remember why you began yoga and what you get from it.

Notice what brings you back to the mat ( if you come back!). Appreciate the familiar poses again and renew your own personal intention for why you practise yoga at all.

5. Make gratitude part of your practise.

Express gratitude for your practise, for having the time and and space to practise, for loved ones who made it possible for you to practise.

Find gratitude for whatever comes to mind in the moment. Gratitude quietens the monkey mind and helps put things into perspective.

Let your practise reflect this life that was never meant to be perfect, or easy or constant. Instead let your practise be a ritual that brings you back to your humanness in this imperfect, often difficult, ever changing life.