Discipline and Ashtanga Yoga are best friends. The practice IS a discipline and it requires discipline to experience any results. But I am not always a discipline enthusiast (at least not any more.)
Punishment comes to the forefront of my mind. Weighing and fearing the results of not having self-control or motivation. When I was younger, it was the fear of ending up in Hell but now it comes through fear of not being good enough.
I used to look at exercise as penance for food intake or simply something I had to do in order to be perceived a certain way, no-nonsense and driven. Discipline to me meant hard work and sacrifice.
There needs to be a balance for sure! Is it important to show up on your mat as often as you can even for just a few minutes? Well, of course. I’ve been known to say, “I hate skiing!” but the truth is I had my one and only experience skiing at night in college. Can I actually say I’ve fully experienced skiing? I have made zero effort to go again. If you try Ashtanga a few times or stop it and try to jump back in where you were, you can’t expect to have it change you all that much.
We all have a limited amount of time and dedicated energy to put towards things; to put toward relationships and interests. If practice starts stealing that energy from those things rather than giving you more energy (i.e. through mental clarity or self awareness and purpose) than it’s time to reduce the amount of postures or time that you are practicing. You’re not going to have a boyfriend or girlfriend if you’re not going out on that date. If that is something that is important to you, then allow physical yoga practice to take a back seat. (Sorry I keep using dating as an analogy but the truth is I’ve decided that I would either teach yoga or manage online dating profiles.)
I used to practice in the morning BEFORE teaching. This was starting to impact my energy levels and also my marriage. I just had less physical energy and less time to spend with Derek in the evenings. I had to ask myself WHY was I practicing so early when I could try and find time elsewhere. Was it because Sharath says I should? Was it because many teachers do? Neither of those really made sense to me when I thought about it.
There is an Ashtanga Community joke that there is a secret “Ashtanga Police” that will come and arrest you if you are seen fudging the vinyasa count or adding in a little play here and there. I am not a fan of this idea as I enjoy researching poses in ways that are not “traditional.” So come arrest me
But that brings us back to necessary discipline. Losing motivation is an honest part of continued ANYTHING. My now afternoon time slot alone can be tricky. It’s easy for me to lose the sacredness of practice; to slack, get bored or to lose focus. So I try to see Michael Joel Hall, Cory Bryant and Georgia Gerstein to have some oversight and surround myself with others . Sometimes I'll throw on a Led Primary to get me moving or some Vedic Chanting because it reminds me of the feeling I get in India. All of this to remind myself that practice is not a place where I should fear the outcome.
It is a place where I can find God in me. It’s a place where I can use my body to experience a quietness. A place to offer whatever effort I have to God/Universe/Fill in the blank.
The moral of the story is I strongly suggest not being that yogi that won’t have pizza on a Friday with friends because you won’t bind the next day. Also, though not being that yogi that skips practice because you only have fifteen minutes or are too tired so you might as well not do it. Every little bit counts! Manage your energy for things and people you want to be with. Let practice be something you look forward to and makes you a better all-around person.
AND I promise I am not trying to police you if I check in because I haven’t seen you in a while. Rather, I am here to help motivate you, even if that means you are practicing at home or in an airport lounge.