I think that my practice is in quandary.
Generally I adhere to the idea that speaking about one’s practice is, well, bad practice. And if anything this blog is testament to it’s that I tend to resort to abstract language to capture practice related thoughts and feelings. But in this case I feel the only way to work through this quandary is to write about practice, in all its mundane glory.
So, I think my practice is in a quandary. At first my brain wanted to write ‘in a rut’ – but no it is more a sense of uncertainty and loss of purpose I feel. I wake up and feel like I don’t want to practice. Most of the time I wake up and feel ‘I don’t want to get out of bed’ but the difference is I also would feel ‘I really want to go to practice’, and so the desire would win over my tiredness. Now without the desire, more often than I would like I remain glued in my bed, paralysed almost, as my mind battles with itself, debating the appropriate course of action.
It has taken me a while to realise that my inconsistent practice of late is not so much a matter of motivation and laziness, but that I have lost some of the excitement for practice. I am not especially motivated by being disciplined for the sake of it. I have maintained a regular early morning practice because I wanted to practice. When people – friends and those who I live with – would express awe, surprise, or incredulity at my daily routine, it was hard to communicate to them that the sacrifices were easy when going to yoga was far more exciting to me than the other activities on offer: mid-week drinking, heavy evening meals, and even, spending time with friends.
It has been over ten years now since first discovering ashtanga, and about eight years of regular early morning practice. Mostly I respond well to a routinised schedule and having the structure that a mysore practice provides has been greatly beneficial to me, in terms of making me more focused and organised in other areas of my life. Most importantly, it means that out of each day I have carved some time for myself, despite the other inevitable stresses that work and London life have to offer me.
At the same time, the routine (coupled with full-time work and daily commuting) has also often felt punishing and utterly exhausting. Then, if I fail to maintain this disciplined schedule, a sense of complete failure. For me, this is when I struggle. Because yes, yoga practice is about sadhana, and also a source of necessary physical exercise, but most importantly, in my view, practice should be enjoyable. I don’t feel that yoga was designed to make me feel guilty for having a much needed lie-in.
I feel my body is actively resistant to encouraging this sort of sense of shame and self-hatred. As a child and young person, discipline was forced upon me. Caring duties meant often broken sleep and waking up at 5.30am from an early age. Living through that means that now as an adult, with no dependents, I want to prioritise freedom and flexibility, and taking care of my self. And so my desire to practice is only maintained if practice remains in accordance with what I need to do to take care of myself.
It is a delicate balance, which I am now belatedly realising. When I am exhausted I am out of balance, and not going to practice is one way of remedying that through getting rest. I recognise as I write that I need to more effectively use practice as restorative rather than something that depletes me. I also realise just how many anxieties are caught up in the simple act of yoga practice; how many expectations, fears, disappointments, hopes. In this way the practice happening in my own mind connects with the mood across the wider community. Recently, more than before I have had to individualise my practice in order to best manage thoughts and feelings on the socio-political climate of ashtanga. Perhaps in doing this I have become more preoccupied with individual failings. Perhaps the meaning behind everything has felt more fragile, and the purpose has got lost.
Writing here again after so long is a way to draw myself out from my individual thoughts, bring my practice into the open, vulgar as it is. Shame has no place in yoga practice and though I don’t really know what I want from my practice anymore, I won’t feel ashamed of my uncertainty.