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30 days of yoga: What now?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 by Marianne Elliott

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I first discovered the power of committing to do a new practice every
day for a defined period of time when I was living in Afghanistan. I'd
been having a really difficult time dealing with some of the suffering
and injustice I was seeing every day and my anxiety levels
were going through the roof.

I'd dabbled in yoga and meditation and knew that both practices had
helped me find a solid, calm space even in the midst of the most extreme circumstances but my practice was erratic and the effects were fleeting.

I knew I needed more of that
kind of practice, more often. So I made myself a promise that I would
sit down and meditate every morning for 21 mornings. I committed to
myself to sit for at least ten minutes every morning.

Some mornings I sat there for the entire ten minutes struggling
against the practice. Some mornings I spent ten minutes chasing after a mind that was out the door and off on a stroll along the
street outside. I would lead it back into the room only to find
a few moments later it had wandered out again.

Some mornings I looked
over at my clock every thirty seconds, convinced that ten minutes must
surely have passed. Some mornings I spent the whole time singing
to myself, catching myself at it, settling my mind back onto the breath
and then realising that I had somehow started singing again without
even noticing.

On all those mornings I repeated two simple mantras to myself.

The
first was 'just hold your seat'. What that meant to me was that it was
enough, for now, that I did what I had committed to doing. It was
enough that I sat for ten minutes every morning, repeatedly returning
my attention gentle to my breath. As long as I held my seat, no matter
what kinds of joys, frustrations or sorrows arose, I was practicing
something important. I was learning to resist the temptation to distract myself from discomfort. I was learning to hold my seat.

My other mantra was 'you are not doing
it wrong, you are doing it'. I knew that there were profound depths of wisdom and subtle
layers of insight to be found in the practice of meditation. I knew I hadn't even scratched the surface. I knew I was still missing some of the most important truths about meditation.

But I
was a beginner and for now what mattered most was that I practiced. I
knew that if I listened to the gremlins who whispered in my ear that I
was wasting my time because I probably wasn't even doing it right, I
would have toppled off the cushion in defeat on the first day. As long
as I kept showing up and kept holding my seat, for now, I was doing
enough.

After 21 days I realised that those moments had become an integral
part of my day. Some days they didn't feel like a battle or a chore.
Some days I felt myself lean back into the spaciousness and peace that
– apparently – had always been there waiting for me. After 21 days I didn't want to stop.

So here is what I hope might have come from the 30 days of yoga. I hope is that your 30 days of yoga might have given you a
taste for the practice of taking a little time every day to reconnect
with your breath, with your body and with the place within you that is
a source of peace, love, compassion and joy.

If you started with me on 15 January then you are coming to the end
of your 30 days. If you started later, it doesn't make any difference
because the point, now that I can be totally honest with you, is not to
practice yoga every day for 30 days. The point is to make space every day to practice yoga.

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4 Responses to "30 days of yoga: What now?"

  1. Emily Perry says:

    ah, yes: i think that is what happens with a practice like this: you realize that your everyday is so much better with yoga in it. thanks again for such a lovely (almost) 30 days!

  2. Laura says:

    Practice has come to mean anything that lifts the status quo, including practice, but many other things. There has been a lot of work around food and changing physical space, and letting go – a few emerging suprises that have been challenging, but ultimately ok. for some reason avoiding time on the mat. now I think its really time for practice to mean daily practice and creating / filling spiritual space with yoga and breath… Thank you Marianne – love and hugs 🙂

  3. Swirly says:

    I have been resisting a comment on this post, because I feel like my practice fell apart during a particularly hectic couple of weeks, and that I was failing miserably at creating a consistent yoga practice. I am making my way back into it, however, and think this might be the real test…because it is tempting to say, “I failed, so why keep trying.” But instead I am picking up where I left off, and this time around am not putting time constraints on myself. In other words, I went on a huge hike yesterday and then did about ten minutes of yoga stretches, and I’m letting that count as my yoga practice. So this might not become a *daily* practice, but at least an *ongoing* practice. Thank you for your guidance!

  4. @Emily – You are awesome. Thanks for participating in this process with so much enthusiasm.
    @Laura – Whenever I really commit to my yoga practice there are things that comes up. I guess that there is a process of unpeeling or unravelling underway. I hope that the breath carries you through any challenges that may be arising.
    @Swirly – an ongoing practice is a great way to look at it. I also remind myself that when I walk on the beach or wash the dishes with *all* my awareness that also becomes a practice of yoga.

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