Yoga in the morning.

I’m rethinking my idea of yoga. I think it is better to do it every day, rather than just once a week at a class. I also think it is better for me to do it first thing in my morning routine rather than at the end.

I hear it is best to do yoga before having breakfast. This would certainly take care of my need to get my morning started but not be in the way of my husband. Our day overlaps by about thirty minutes and if I go into the kitchen where he is it is a little chaotic. I’ve discovered that it is best for both of us if I don’t try to start my morning in the same place where he is trying to finish his.

As an alternative, I’ve been bringing my Kindle into the bedroom to write during that time, and while I may still do some of that, I think that doing yoga then would be good too.

I’d been leaving yoga for the end, just after my shower. Somehow I was running out of time and I was either rushing through the poses or just skipping them entirely. So that isn’t working. When I had been making time to do it I’d also been doing an example of “Praying in Color” and that was good too. In the past several months if I’d done either they were done as a sort of afterthought.

If I do them first, they are done. No excuses.

I like how I feel during the day if I’ve done a little yoga. Things seem to go better. I’ve actually found myself sort of checking in with myself. Did I write? Yes. Did I do yoga? Yes. It is like taking a multivitamin for my soul. If I’ve done it, I feel better.

Now, do I feel better because I’ve done yoga, or because I’ve done something I feel is good for me? I don’t know. This has long been something I’ve wondered about. Is it the activity that matters or the commitment and discipline that matters? Sometimes I think what helps me the most is intentionally living my life, rather than just drifting aimlessly through it.

This is part of why I write. Writing keeps me awake. Writing means I face things, rather than running away from them. Writing means I don’t hide behind the unknowing, behind the questions. When I write, I dig, and when I dig, I learn. I start to uncover, and recover, the truth, and with it, myself.

Writing is yoga too, like that. Yoga isn’t just poses. Yoga is a way of thinking. Yoga is sticking with it and working through it. Yoga is leaning in and being patient. Yoga is trying. Yoga is sometimes just showing up, bored and tired, but there anyway. Yoga is finding the center calm. Yoga is better lived off the mat. Yoga is being awake in the moment.

So why wouldn’t I do this every day? Why wouldn’t everybody?

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Practice

What is a “practice”? You may have heard this word before and wondered. People these days will talk about something that they do as being part of their practice. Your practice is anything you do mindfully and intentionally.

In the same way that you have to practice playing piano to get better at it, you have to adopt a practice for life to get better at it.

The interesting part is that there is not just one way to practice. Anything you choose mindfully can be your practice. You can have several practices and they can change over time. You don’t have to keep the same one. In fact, when your practice becomes stale is a good time to reexamine it. It may be time to change it. It may also be time to stick with it and dig deeper.

There are just as many practices as there are people. Gardening can be a practice. So can walking outside. So can painting, drawing, and writing. Eating vegetarian, or raw, or local can be a practice. Being part of a group class at the Y is just as valid a path as exercising at home alone to a video or making it up yourself.

The only constant to a practice is that it must be intentionally chosen. It can’t just be something you do because that is what you’ve always done. It can’t be something you do when you are bored. It has to be the exact opposite of an addiction.

How do you pick a practice?

First, think of where you want to go. If you don’t have a goal, you aren’t being intentional. Now, your practice may be the goal. You may find yourself opening up and growing just by adopting a practice.

A practice is like a map that gets you there. If you want to go to Cleveland and you have never been there you’ll either ask someone who has or you’ll get a map. The same is with a practice. Ask people who are good at what they do and enjoy it. Ask people you admire, either friends or experts (the two can be the same thing) what they did (or do) Read a book or twelve. Pray for guidance. Ask God/Source/the Divine to show you what direction you should go.

Then pick something and do it. It will be awkward at first. Give it some time. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, try something else. You can’t get there if you have on the wrong shoes. Sometimes the practice works for someone else but it doesn’t fit you. That is normal. It doesn’t mean you are wrong. It means the practice is wrong for you.

Your practice may be to fully participate in your religion. Practice doesn’t have to be something new, it can be something old. You don’t have to take up a new habit or hobby. You can just do what you already do, but more mindfully.

You can find enlightenment through almost any path. Even doing a jigsaw puzzle can teach you a valuable lesson. Being open and childlike is essential. If your practice becomes like a job, then it isn’t a practice anymore.

It helps if your practice helps others. Sure, you need some inward focus too. You can’t help others very well if you are broken. If you are off balance and you try to catch someone else who is off balance you will both fall. But a practice that is all self-focused will be tight, like a flower bud that isn’t open. Flowers are made to open and be delightful. So are we.

Yoga out in the wild

If you want to get some strange looks, do tree pose in the middle of the hardware section of Lowe’s.

It isn’t like I was doing warrior three or pigeon. I’d chosen a pose that was fairly normal, something that is recognizable as a yoga pose. Sure, it isn’t a normal place to do it, but it is a normal yoga pose. People who don’t do yoga would know it was a yoga pose.

I’ve not been able to practice yoga properly in a while because I’ve sprained my wrist. I’m having to rethink everything. I don’t know a lot of poses, so not being able to use my hands has cut down my already small repertoire to very little.

Plus, I’m kind of bored with yoga.

I’ve noticed I’m making less and less time for it. I’ve noticed that I don’t look forward to it. The weekly class isn’t a challenge anymore. The music and the moves are the same. Even animals in a zoo get different activities every now and then to keep their interest.

Sometimes I think that I’m using all of this as an excuse to not do something I know to be good for me. But then sometimes I think that maybe there is more to yoga than the poses, and I’m tuning into that. Why keep practicing something when you’ve learned the lesson?

Now, sure, I need to stretch. Every body needs to move. And balancing poses are good not only for the body but the mind.

So there I was, doing tree pose in Lowe’s. We’d already looked at a stove and some cabinet handles. Things need to get replaced every now and then in older houses. My husband had gone off to look for something else and left me with the cart. I was getting bored and had already checked Facebook and my email. In all reality I wanted a nap but I knew I couldn’t get away with that.

I’d pulled the cart out of the smaller aisle to not be in the way. I decided to take my coat and hat off because I was getting hot and that was contributing to my lethargy. I was alternating between wanting to be ignored and wanting to stick out. This is a fairly normal space for me to be.

I was standing behind the cart to not be too obvious. I had my hands in prayer position. If I’d wanted to really not stick out I could have left them down. Or I could have done mountain pose or forward fold.

I even announced what I was doing, quietly, but I said it, so perhaps it wouldn’t seem so strange. No luck there. The clerk in the window replacement section sort of glared at me and shook his head. He had a glum expression on his face the whole time anyway, so maybe he’s just somebody who can’t handle individual expression. I can tell he represses himself a lot. He’s faking being something he’s not, and it makes him stiff.

Maybe that was the reason I did that pose right there and then. Maybe of all people, he needed to see someone being different.

Who am I kidding? It was fun to be weird. It was fun to be childlike. I did it for me first. If someone else got a benefit out of it, cool.

I think I’ll do it again. Some of my favorite pictures in yoga magazines are when people do their poses out in the real world and not on a mat. I love it when they match their pose to whatever structure is around them. Now I’m going to go on a quest to find places that fit the poses. Then I’ll have to convince my husband to not only not laugh at me, but to also take a picture so I can share it.