How much is too much? What is not enough?
I recently had a student ask how often they should practice. This is a tough one. The system says six days a week.
But what do we mean by practice? Sure, there is your set of postures. This we all know is 1/8 of the pie.
Anything that brings you closer to discovering your purpose, living fully is practice. Why are we practicing? To gain Samadhi – a oneness/union, freeing ourselves from the illusion that what we feel and identify with is NOT actually reality. So we are using this Ashtanga system to move our body around with elaborate, sometimes tiring, shapes so that our mind can chill out. Training that membrane to focus so that you keep identifying with its desires.
Barbara Stoler Miller translates the Yoga Sutras, “Tranquility of thought comes through the cultivation of friendship, compassion, joy, and impartiality in spheres of pleasure or pain, virtue or vice” (I.33) Hmmm. Compassionate friendships and impartiality to whatever life dishes. Not identifying with labels of pleasure or pain…
So do I think a physical practice is important? I certainly do. Taking care of your body keeps you actively participating in your life. Just from a physical perspective, yoga has made me feel strong and given me more energy. But it also does so much more than that.
Do I practice six days a week? Yes, most of the time except for my menstrual cycle. Those six days are not full throttle. It would be an excellent way to get injured if I did. I don’t do all of my set poses every day. My senior teachers have said that fewer postures executed with concentration is better than a zillion with a distracted mind. Two days a week? Not quite enough to see behavioral and physical benefits. If you’ve had a lull in practice (we all have) and you’ve fallen a bit off the discipline path you might notice yourself getting frustrated because you can’t remember the sequence or you have to dial it wayyy back. But who is to say? But honestly, discipline has its limits. I’m not here to sacrifice my friendships due to physical practice or staying up late with Derek to watch a movie (fall asleep on the couch.) I also know though that if I’m slacking off too much than I get cranky and sluggish. Equanimity is a forever project.
I also happen to be a person that only runs when being chased. I enjoy the postures for their strength building on their own and then pair some counteracting exercises for maintenance. If you enjoy other physical disciplines than five or six days a week of intense practice is not so realistic or for that matter, healthy. You can practice that focus while running or spending time with your kids. There is a reason that family time is called seventh series because it is harder than any of the other six.
How do we measure if our practice is working? Michael used to give the example that if you notice yourself staying calm in the Whole Foods line when someone in front of you is paying in change, then it’s working.
A few personal examples: Seeing more strangers in passing with eye contact, not pinching fat around my body, reading about God/Universe/Cosmos, taking a long walk outside in the cold rain
A few ways I know I need to make an adjustment: Panic attacks, restricted or overeating habits, rigidity in making plans (IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN THIS WAY!), taking people or things for granted
This is an ever-evolving list! I encourage you to think of your own patterns and assess what is working or not. After all it is the most cliché time of year to do so with us rounding out 2018 :)
So with that: we will not longer be observing Moon Days at Ashtanga Nation. We will also be adding a Sunday Led Primary Class at 10:00am with our lovely Julia Cho start date TBA. This means you will need to determine your own rest days and what works best for you. The moon is actually a pretty good guide for me but I also happen to work at the studio ;)
Get your physical practice in when you can but keep up the active self-discovery and participation up daily.
Happy Holidays and New Year to you!