By Erin Austin
“I want to practice yoga more, but I just can’t seem to find the time!”
How many times have we said this ourselves or heard it from others? Countless, I’m sure! We never seem to have enough time, and practices that benefit our health and well being often bear the brunt of that deficit.
In order to cultivate a regular practice, we have to reframe our idea of what constitutes yoga. A fairly rigid view is common: a 60-minute (or more) studio asana class. While this absolutely is a practice, it is not the end-all be-all.
When we expand our view of what yoga is, we release some of the stress of the “I’m not practicing enough” mindset, and our practice becomes more regular by default. Here are some tips to get started:
Yoga studios are wonderful for so many reasons, but they’re not necessary for a practice. Why not attend a studio to the extent your budget allows and complement that with a home practice? At home, you can practice almost anywhere! I’ve practiced on my front steps and on my kitchen floor, and I have a friend who practices in a closet! While traveling, most (North American) hotel rooms have a space that’s big enough for a mat.
2. Time frame
Don’t have time for a 60-minute practice? Don’t let that stop you! A 10-minute a day asana practice, every day, is more valuable than hitting a 60-minute class “whenever it fits”. If the idea of a free form practice at home is a little scary at first, and if you’re wondering where to start, try this: Child’s Pose, Sun Salutation A, a balance pose, an inversion, and Savanasa. You choose the breath counts and the number of repetitions.
If you’re changing up the location and the time frame of your practice, likely, you’ll need to reframe your idea of a teacher. Your new teacher might be in 2-D (e.g., YouTube, on-demand classes from your studio) or he or she might only be a voice, as with a podcast. There are endless options, many of which are free! I also challenge you to seek out teachers who were raised in the yogic tradition, namely those of the Indian subcontinent and diaspora, such as Kallie Schut or Susannah Barkataki. (And never forget: Your own body counts as a teacher too. Listen to it.)
4. Just. Get. There.
Put your mat out at home. Like, roll it out and keep it there. It’s almost like you can hear the mat beckoning you to hit that first Child’s Pose each time you walk past. If you simply get to your mat, your practice will take care of itself. It might be five minutes, it might be ten. Then again, it might be two hours! But getting there is more than half of the battle. The next step is to let your body and breath do whatever feels right to do at that time, on that day.
5. Yoga > Asana
Yoga consists of eight “limbs”, only one of which is asana, or the physical poses associated with yoga in the western world. You are still doing yoga when you practice pranayama (focused breathing), for example…and you can even do that while driving! Or what about the practice of meditation? That, too, is (another limb of) yoga. Take time to study the eight limbs, and see what resonates with you.
A mentor of mine once told me, “If you practice yoga 1-2 times a week, you’ll change your day; 3-4 times a week, you’ll change your body; 5 or more times a week, you’ll change your life.” Everyone I know with an established practice agrees that this is true. Yet not a single one of these people restricts what that means.
So make a plan: What might your new practice look like? What could you try? What sounds interesting?
Then start today.