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Why I haven’t practiced yoga for five weeks. And why that makes me a better teacher.

Thursday, October 3, 2013 by Marianne Elliott

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I haven’t done any yoga for five weeks. Does that shock you?

I’ve been teaching people how to get into a regular practice of home yoga for almost four years. It’s my flagship program – the core teaching that underlies everything else I teach.

Want to be braver? Do more yoga, I say. Want to find your true purpose? Try adding yoga to your day, I suggest. And not just any yoga, yoga at home – yoga by yourself. Get on your yoga mat (or just get off the couch), I tell people, and start by paying attention to what your body really wants.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be yoga. There are other ways to cultivate the ability to be with yourself even when you don’t like everything about yourself, which is a way of saying: ‘Even when you don’t like every thought or feeling you have.’ There are other ways to build courage, creativity, curiosity, connection and compassion. But yoga is the way that works for me.

At least it works when I’m doing it.

But lately I haven’t been doing much yoga. I’ve been on the road now for a little over four months, and over the past five or six weeks, I’ve lost the thread of my home yoga practice.

Here’s why:

1. I wasn’t feeling great about myself

2. I got caught in the ‘all or nothing’ trap

3. The longer I left it, the harder it got to start again

4. I forgot my own 5 Top Tips

I wasn’t feeling great about myself, so I stayed away from my yoga mat. Sound familiar?

This is the core of it, really. And this is SO often the reason why we don’t get on our yoga mats, or meditation cushions. Because we don’t want to be present with what is really going on for us.

This book tour has been amazing, and exhausting. I’ll write more about it in the weeks and months to come, but suffice to say that along the way I’ve felt scared, vulnerable, exposed & humbled. Some days I felt like a failure. Not every day – by any shot – but some days. Some days I felt lonely, tired and far from home. Often I felt afraid.

These feelings are all part of life – they are part of the endless parade of thoughts and feelings that will make their way across the great sky of my life. There is no life without moments of loneliness, despair, fear or sadness.

What distinguishes an enlightened life from an average life is the willingness – and capacity – to be present with the full spectrum of life, and to meet all these thoughts and feelings with kindness. That’s what yoga is all about, for me.

But it’s not always easy. And about five weeks ago I started choosing to distract myself from the difficult feelings more often than I chose to stay with them, greet them with love, and then let them be – knowing they would change, and eventually pass away.

What that means is that I started choosing not to get on my yoga mat. I started choosing not to sit down and write. I started choosing not to meditate. I started choosing an older pattern, a pattern which has never proven to work for me, but which nonetheless has the pull of familiarity on it’s side.

I chose to distract myself, and then to beat myself up for choosing distraction over practice.

Here’s why this makes me a better teacher: because I know how easy it is to choose distraction over presence. And I know how hard it can be to choose to show up, day after day. It makes me a better teacher because I’m still having to learn this over and over again – and every time I gather more evidence about what works and what doesn’t work.

Here’s what I have to report from this recent experiment: my old pattern still doesn’t work.

The only way I know to find peace in the midst of difficult feelings is to gently turn towards those difficult feelings, and to welcome them (as Rumi suggests in this wonderful poem) with love. Yoga helps me do that. Which is why today I got back on my yoga mat.

And it’s why I hope you’ll join me for the last round of 30 Days of Yoga for 2013. We begin next Monday 7 October, and registration will close on Monday too.

Are you wondering how I got back on my mat today? Basically, I followed my own tips for restarting a yoga practice. Here they are:

1. Start now

2. Start small

3. Start where you are

4. Start with something you like

5. And above all, be kind

You can read more about each of these tips (and do some simple exercises to find your best place to start) in this free workbook – 5 Top Tips to Start a Yoga Home Practice: Why Kindness is Key (click the link, and then choose ‘Download’ from the ‘Media Actions’ menu)

You can also listen here to the recording of a class Anna Guest-Jelley and I gave on starting a home yoga practice last year – learn a bit more about our 5 top tips and hear our answers to the most common questions we get on this topic.

And if you want more support to get your home yoga practice started (or re-started, as in my case) please consider joining me for 30 Days of Yoga starting Monday. Here’s what Brigitte Lyons says about her experience with 30 Days of Yoga:

Like so many others, I struggled to establish a consistent yoga practiced for nearly a decade. If you have wanted to establish your own yoga practice but failed to find a teacher who could design a program suited to your present needs and abilities, you can’t go wrong with Marianne. Marianne’s 30 Days of Yoga program is simply the best money I’ve ever spent. And it’s ridiculously affordable for the value it provides. – Brigitte Lyons

Let me know if you have any questions or fears about getting started with home yoga through 30 Days of Yoga – everything about this program is designed to make it easy, fun and gentle to get started – but it’s very natural to be a bit nervous and I’d love to help ease any fears you might have.

And if 30 Days of Yoga is not for you – or this is not the right time – I hope my recent experiment, and these five tips, help in some other area of your life. In my experience they work just as well for any healthy habit you want to start, and for any courageous change you want to make in your life.

May you be well, happy, safe and at peace.

Love,

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