Sometimes I Can't Do Yoga Asana

There aren’t a lot of feelings that compare with the one you get while you’re in savasana at the end of a cathartic yoga class. I remember the days when I would walk into the dimly lit room at my favorite yoga studio near the ocean in southern California, roll out my mat, and wave hello to some of my classmates that were also regulars. I knew how privileged I was in those moments, and I still miss those classes. I loved the familiar smells of the studio, the soft music in the background, and the people at the front desk who quickly learned my name when I first moved to town. It was a home away from home. I realize now it was just me coming home to my own body and the studio and my teachers were making space for that.

Then I moved to a new town where the closest studio was 20 miles away. Not impossible, but also not the most convenient, so I decided to build up my home practice. I learned over time that as much as I love the convenience of practicing at home, there is something sacred about walking into a space dedicated to such a spiritual practice that is hard to replicate at home.

In March, the pandemic began and the idea of practicing in a studio every once in a while became a no-go for the foreseeable future (and is still a no-go where I live).

Right now, I’m in the middle of my fifth move in two years. I don’t have a ton of space to practice in my living room due to the stacks of boxes occupying every square inch. I have a number of deadlines (work and personal) that are leaving me exhausted by 7PM, and the thought of squeezing in a long yoga practice makes my heart race with stress and nerves. Asana became another thing on my list of things to do, which is not how I used to feel about my practice.

No matter how much routine I try and build into my life (gotta balance my Vata Dosha), there are inevitable phases of chaos and overwhelm. This is when I practice being gentle with myself and I explore the several other branches of yoga.

Before I do that, I consider what are my non-negotiables. What do I need in order to have a healthy body and healthy mind? Once I establish my non-negotiables, I see how yoga can help me attain those things. Here’s an example of what I need in a day, what my routine looks like without overwhelm, and how I adjust my routine to phases of chaos.

My Daily Non-Negotiables

  • Coffee (but not too much)

  • Water

  • Movement

  • Time with my thoughts to reflect, or to plan

  • Spiritual Connection

  • Quality time with my husband

  • Vegetables

  • Grains

  • Chocolate

  • Conversation with another human being

During Non-Overwhelm

Morning Rituals and Routines (I wake up at 5:30, so this list looks long but it’s actually when I have the most free time in my day)

  • Tongue scraping/oil pulling/brush teeth/vitamins and Vata skincare routine

  • Hot water with lemon and a cup of coffee with my husband before he leaves for work

  • Oatmeal for breakfast

  • A long walk with my dog and a podcast

  • Facetime my mom and/or my sister

  • Daily devotional and meditate for ten minutes

  • A morning yoga practice, dry brush, abhyanga, and shower

Evening Ritual and Routines

  • Go for another long walk with my dog Finn

  • Make dinner and enjoy with my husband

  • Chocolate in some form (usually ice cream, but sometimes homemade brownies or cookies)

  • Creative project of some sort (embroidery, painting, writing)

  • Read

  • Listen to my favorite poetry podcast with my legs up the wall to relieve pressure in my legs

During Overwhelm

Morning Rituals and Routines

  • Tongue scraping/oil pulling/brush teeth/vitamins and Vata skincare routine

  • Coffee with my husband and read through a devotional

  • Bagel for breakfast

  • Walk Finn and podcast

  • Quick shower

Evening Ritual and Routines

  • Walk Finn and listen to a podcast

  • Make and eat dinner with my husband

  • Eat Oreos while watching a show

  • Journal and Meditate in bed before I fall asleep

At the end of both of these days I still am able to get what I need in order to meet my non-negotiables. In order to do that I needed to figure out what those non-negotiables were in order to meet my daily needs. Knowing that I need to move my body means that when I have more time, I can get in yoga asana. If I’m pressured for time, I get my movement in the form of walking my dog. At the end of the day I still make time to meditate, but I trim down on some of the areas where I know I can still get what I need by changing it slightly. Rather than 20 minutes to meditate and work on a devotional in the morning, I’ll do a short 5 minute mediation and a quick prayer before bed. My spiritual needs are met, but I’m being gentle on myself knowing that one day, I can go back to my lengthier practices.

A few of the other yoga practices include dharana, svadhyaya, and pranayama. These are all things that I can practice throughout my day, even if I can’t practice asana. Dharana (concentration) can be practiced while I meditate. Svadhyaya (self-study) is something that I can do through journaling, either before I go to bed, or during a lunch break. Pranayama (control of the breath/life force) is something that I practice all the time. Whether I’m stressed, angry, sad, or in pain, I know I can use my breath practice to help bring me back to a sattvic, or balanced, state. This is especially helpful when I’m overwhelmed.

I love asana.

I also love other yoga practices.

So I invite you to consider what your non-negotiables are and see where yoga might show up in a way you might not have expected.

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