I joked with my husband the other night as he massaged my weary shoulders, “No one understands what it’s like to be a yoga teacher. How exhausting it is.” Even as the words left my mouth I began to laugh at how ridiculous I sounded. Though not a pick-and-ax job, teaching yoga still requires preparation and a measure of energy to arrive fully present and able to teach in a meaningful and clear way. Often preparation for class comes at the expense of my own practice focused on my own needs. Thus, I had looked forward to Thanksgiving holiday to rekindle my personal practice, but instead I found myself driving gravy boats and stuffing to and from loaded tables, washing dishes and decorating a Christmas tree. Before I knew it Black Friday became Cyber Monday and there I sat at the computer wading through refrigerator ads having mopped up the remainder of melted ice from the kitchen floor. My vacation was absorbed in domestic tasks, as my body and mind contracted with density, the muscles shrinking and hardening into familiar knots in the pearl strand of my spine. I deny myself the the pleasure of yoga at my own peril. My lack of dedication eclipses my view of the inner self, leaving me in the dark, cold and alone.
If we look to the Yoga Sutras we know that it is only through steadfast practice that we still the fluctuations of the mind. (YS 1.13) Long, uninterrupted, alert practice is the firm foundation of a calm mind… (YS 1.14) Wisdom is gained though steady, dedicated, attentive practice. (YS 1.14)
Time is so precious. We never have enough of it in a day for all we strive to accomplish. Age views life through a different prism, throwing new light on the “To Do” list. With a sharpened focus on mortality the ticking clock demands quality and value from it’s endeavors, and clearly yoga practice meets this criteria, yet life itself continues to get in the way. How often have I heard students say, I’ve wanted to come for weeks, I’ve just been so busy“? Many of us are trapped in a cycle of endless doing, dragged through life like a dog on a leash, from one meeting or errand to the next. Battling the senses is not easy, much of our activity is pleasant and makes us feel successful or good about ourselves and our lives. Indeed our lives should be full of worthwhile and fun activities, and preparation for teaching is important, but when I devote time to my practice, be it stretching the body in asana or watching the mind in meditation, or having a rendezvous with God in prayer, I set the foundation for all of the other activities in my life- meaningful and mundane. When I ignore or postpone this time I slowly slip into darkness and lose sight of the path ahead.
The way out of a slump takes effort, persistence, and most of all willpower. For me the answer is to remain vigilant, keep a sharp focus on what is important and let go of meaningless activities. Most of all never give up precious practice time, no matter what! Mental and physical health are developed through consistent practice. These sustain me and keep me balanced and kind when I deal with others. My stomach may need a refrigerator that works, but my mind and body need study, meditation, yoga, and fresh air to stay sane. Staying committed to regular practice is the hard work.