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27 Days Away From The Answer To Everything (Day 15 of Yoga Journal’s 21-Day Challenge) January 25, 2011

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 21-Day Challenge, 40-Day Challenge, Books, Changing Perspectives, Fitness, Health, Mantra, Meditation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Movies, Philosophy, Science, Texas, Twin Cities, Yoga.
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Day 15

“Neti, neti!”
– Ajatsatru describing the nature of the divine and telling Gargya how not to meditate. Often translated as, “Not this, not this.” (The Brihadaranyaka Upanishads)

My housemate and I have discussed the wisdom and reasoning behind which videos have been repeated during Yoga Journal’s 21-Day Challenge. I think I understand the reasoning, and I even appreciate the wisdom. Neither one of us, however, has been very interested in repeating the “Fun Flow” which appears on the first day of each week. Last night I went to bed thinking I would get up early and combine the Elise Lorimer video with another video. Or two. I even thought, since I was off, I would catch up on the audio streaming meditations featured during the challenge. Monday, however, turned out to be a good day to pay the piper.

As I mentioned yesterday, all the late nights and running around comes at a cost. Today was cold (yes, I know, that’s Minnesota in the winter) and since I had a day off I decided to catch up on some much needed sleep. I know plenty of people who wake up like clock work, even on their day off, and view a midday nap as a mortal sin. These people also tend to think of waking up at 9:30 AM as sleeping in. I am not one of these people. So, when I woke up this morning I thought nothing of putting off my very ambitious plans for the day and staying in bed to finish reading a book. I have no shame; I’ll even admit to taking a nap. In fact, I barely got out of bed to eat. I probably would have switched from pajamas to yoga gear and back again if a friend hadn’t asked me to go out for dinner. Like I said, today was the day to pay the piper – and the piper was very well paid.

Once I finally came out of hibernation mode, I sat for 5 minutes and then decided I wanted to complete a video practice and the 18-Minute So Hum Meditation before I left the house. I didn’t have the time or the inclination to do the 45-minute video sequence, which I also skipped last week. I used the 15-Minute Morning Sequence as my substitution. Granted, it was no longer morning – not by a long shot – but Kate Holcombe says this sequence could be done in the afternoon if you need a little energy. All in all, it’s a very light practice and it does a good job of clearing the cobwebs that linger in the brain after sleeping. Or napping. You could also do all or part of this sequence in your office instead of grabbing that fourth cup of coffee. Or that second doughnut. Think of it as continuing the momentum of a good habit.

Today was a day when I could have easily skipped a physical practice all together. There are a variety of reasons why someone might take a day away from asana. “Ashtang-is” may not practice during certain phases of the moon. Some traditions recommend not practicing at all during menstruation or at least not on a woman’s heavy flow days. Then there’s days, like today, when you’re tired. I firmly believe in listening to the mind-body-spirit. Yes, we have an odd way of communicating with ourselves. The mind-body has a tendency to send messages like, “I’m hungry” when it’s thirsty. Or, it doesn’t commit to doing an inversion because you might fall. In both cases, however, the mind-body is doing it’s job: it’s protecting and nurturing the case that holds the spirit. Sometimes, taking a complete break is a great way to protect and nurture. It creates balance. Sometimes, however, what we need is a little cross training. My overall practice is very active (yang), so occasionally doing a restorative practice (yin) – like the ones presented by Kate Holcombe – can be a nice alternative to not practicing.

Not practicing is not an option when you’re in the middle of a challenge like the Yoga Journal 21-Day Challenge, which creates a new habit or routine through momentum. Having made a commitment to the process, as opposed to a goal, you find a way to make it work, one day at a time.

During January, we see a lot of new faces at the gyms and studios, because people have made New Year’s resolutions. Some of those faces become familiar. Some, however, disappear after a few weeks. Most of the latter group tries committing to a goal, which rarely works. I’m not saying that visualizing the goal can’t be helpful. It can, in fact, be super motivating. You still, however, have to take the first step. And then, you have to take the second step. And so on. It’s easy, after all, to give up on some lofty idea that may never happen. Fitting into a different dress size; not smoking after 20 years; keeping in touch with friends who’ve moved; and spending quality time with our family are all things we’d like to do, but if doing it were so easy, we wouldn’t need the resolution. We’d just do it.

And that’s the key, the answer to everything: just do it. Then keep doing it. Instead of making a resolution, make a sankalpa (determination promise): a commitment to the process that brings you closer to your goal.

One of the goals of doing Yoga Journal’s 21-Day Challenge is to help people develop a home practice. Unfortunately, some people – even people with a regular practice – have to get passed the idea that having a home practice is a lofty goal. This becomes a little like the Upanishads conversation between Gargya and Ajatsatru. A home practice doesn’t have to be a super complicated sequence or even a simple 2-hour one. It doesn’t have to be a series requiring a lot of space and props. It doesn’t even have to be something you do at home, per se. It could be one pose; done every morning before you go to work, every afternoon before lunch, or every evening before bed. It could be a peak pose you do after every class you take at a studio or gym. The important thing is to find something that works, and to keep doing it – to keep practicing.

My housemate and I are not the only people who have expressed preferences about a particular sequence or teacher. We’re human, it happens. But, like so many people, we’ve both made a commitment to the process. So we’re finding ways to make it work. We’re finding what works for us, as individuals – which is a great reminder that, traditionally speaking, a personal practice should be as unique as the individual who practices it. The beauty of this challenge, the sequences, and these teachers is that people have the opportunity to try different styles, at different times, and to really see what’s going to work long term. By focusing on the process, we focus on the practice. Ultimately, the process becomes the goal. That’s the practice.

~ Be well, and be great ~