Breathing in I calm my body. Breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Varying or mixing up our yoga practice is hard on the ego.
You might be this close to nailing eka pada rajakapotasana (one-legged king pigeon pose) with your regular teacher when the substitute teacher, not only doesn’t include it but throws in baby crow instead.
Perhaps the flow you expected didn’t happen. Maybe you fumbled and lost your balance for the first time in weeks.
3 years ago I was extremely close to mastering the headstand that regularly came near the end of class. One day we were instructed to come into shoulder stand instead.
My Ego got loud that day. Instead of a practice that quieted the mind I was continuously, subconsciously, anticipating a crowning moment of perfection and success; cultivating a practice based on attaining a goal. I wasn’t happy.
“What the heck, this is for babies,” grumbled Ego.
“Hey,” murmured Mind.
“What do you want”?
“Are you calm”?
“Oh shut up. You don’t understand how irritating this is. I’m so ready for headstand.”
“So you’re prepared but things aren’t working out your way? Is that all”?
“Well yeah- Actually shoulder stand hurts my elbows I wonder why?”
“Why don’t you pay attention to those new sensations rather than focus on things you aren’t doing”, suggested Mind.
Here’s one argument for repetition: I can’t relax or even think about quieting my mind if I don’t know what’s coming up.
If we rely on knowing what comes next; routine, repetition; we short change ourselves of the essential part of a yoga practice; being in the present moment.
Rather than be irritated by change, we can choose to explore the feelings and sensations of that irritation.
Another argument for taking the same style or class every time: This is what I like and I’m sticking with it. Let’s explore that thought for a moment. Have we tried other classes, teachers and styles with an open mind or are we taking a quick taste with our noses plugged?
Every time I visit an old friend we go to her hot yoga studio. Not only can I not keep up with her, but sweat appears in embarrassing areas.
“Oh my gosh, Look at me”, whines Ego.
“Just breath”, suggests Mind.
“But I can’t stay in tree pose with my foot continuously slipping down my leg. It’s too friggin hot.”
“What’s the real issue here? Is it that your neighbor is flowing through the practice with joy and ease and you are collapsed on your mat”?
“Well, I am a yoga teacher, I should be able to do this.”
“Why should you? It’s not what you are used to, but you are used to breathing. Practice noticing what you feel and enjoy the moment, then be quiet.”
Last argument: I need to lose some steam. I need to sweat.
The same could be said for: I need to chill out.
What we need is balance in our lives. Are we perfectionists in our day to day life? Let’s try something unknown. Are we mellow? Try something more strenuous. Type A? Add some B classes.
It’s a good thing to challenge ourselves in our practice. What happens between the Ego and the Mind when we hold a Yin pose forever. Does being upside down in an aerial swing really make us sick or is it the newness of the sensation that is uncomfortable. Are we cultivating a quiet mind when we only attend intense flow classes or is it so the Ego can say “I’ve still got it”? Do we stick with mellow classes so the Ego can admire its ability to nail most of the postures? Do we say “I do not like green eggs and ham” or “I’ll be darned, that was interesting/easy/boring/torturous. Perhaps I’ll try it again.”
What gets the boost when we try other classes?
If the Ego gets a boost then we are “doing” yoga; if your Mind gets a boost then we are practicing yoga.
(Apologies to Dr. Seuss)
We do yoga on a boat.
We do yoga with a goat.
We do yoga in black lights.
We do yoga in pink tights.
We do yoga slow’s molasses.
We do yoga busting asses.
We do yoga upside down.
We do yoga on the ground.
We do yoga on a hike.
We do yoga on a bike.
We do yoga here and there.
But can practice yoga everywhere.
Namaste- Beer Yoga? What the hay?
You can read more about Alexandra Langstaff’s views on life and yoga at her blog