Sunday, June 6, 2010

Get on Your Mat! No Excuses!

Balasana pose in Hatha yoga, commonly known as...Image via Wikipedia

When I was in yoga teacher training, I did a research project on Sadhana. Sadhana is discipline. It is systemized spiritual practice with the intended goal of attaining some higher realization. A yoga practice, if done in a regular, disciplined way, can be Sadhana.

At the time I wrote my teacher training essay, I was struggling with my personal practice. Balancing family, work and teacher training homework was challenging and, thinking there was no time to practice, I left my mat rolled up day after day.

There are three aspects of Sadhana: choice, commitment and aspiration. We choose what we want our practice to be. It can be as simple as spending one minute a day in child's pose (Balasana), and still our minds will come up with reasons not to. Commitment is how we overcome our minds' excuses. Commitment is just sticking to the schedule.

Of course, doing the same thing on a regular schedule doesn't make it a spiritual practice, otherwise we'd all reach enlightenment by brushing our teeth every day. Aspiration is the thing that changes routine into Sadhana. Aspiration is the conscious intention behind our practice.

Why, you ask, am I revisiting my Sadhana essay now?

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I've been struggling with triathlon training of late. I couldn't get into the rhythm of my training plan. I had lots of excuses. At the end of May, with only a month until my first triathlon of the season, I panicked - and did nothing. I told myself it's only a sprint, so I could muddle through at the back of the pack (again). I was in serious need of a kick in the butt.

Not surprisingly, my personal yoga practice wasn't getting any attention either. I had lots of excuses for that, too. But yoga, being what it is, always calls me back to my mat when I need it the most. Inspired by a session teaching power yoga to a good friend, I picked up the Ashtanga book I've had for years but had never really used. There was one dog-eared page - the page with the beginners' practice schedule. Perhaps I knew my future self would need it one day. The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 a.m. for 15 minutes on my mat. The day after that I was back on my mat again. After four days I had to get up at 5:30 because I was adding more poses and needed the extra time. I've gone 14 days without missing a day.

(Which is 7 days longer than I kept it up while I was working on my Sadhana essay.)

It only took a day or two for the yoga practice to affect the rest of my day. With just 15 minutes on my mat my energy level went up. I was getting much more accomplished during the day, was more alert and present when I was teaching and, lo and behold, I suddenly wanted to train. Not only did I want to train, but I made time for it. Even through the crazy holiday weekend when it seemed like my calendar was booked solid, I did all my scheduled workouts.

After waking up at 5:00 a.m. this morning feeling refreshed and ready to get moving, I had a good session on my mat then went out in the pouring rain and ran 9 miles. And I felt great afterward.

Sadhana. Yoga's kick-in-the-butt. No excuses.
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