I like to say that I practice yoga at work. For 12 or 18 months, I was consistently putting down my mat at lunchtime and getting in a good asana practice. It felt great and strengthened my teaching; I felt proud that I was pretty regular about my personal practice. As the phrase says, however, pride goes before a fall, and I’ve fallen off the wagon for the last year or so. I make plans; I mean to take the time; I want to practice–but something so often interferes. More accurately, I let things interfere. Yet each time I do manage to practice–and now I give myself permission for that practice to include yoga nidra or something else less asana-rific–I am amazed anew at how I feel afterwards. I might feel taller, calmer, more confident, stronger, better rested, or tuned into another of a host of benefits. Despite the fact that I encounter this lesson again every week or two, I clearly haven’t learned it yet, since it remains a challenge to get my mat out. Some days I feel guilty–about not practicing and not learning my lesson–but other days I remember that my path right now, my practice, includes encountering this lesson over and over as I work on getting to my mat. I am grateful too that the lesson comes with such a positive reinforcement.
My practice dilemma brings several yogic principles into focus. Non-judgement, related to ahimsa (non-violence, towards self in this case, leading to a greater sense of peace): rather than feeling guilt, noticing my reluctance to practice or avoidance of the mat and sitting with the observation instead of telling a story about my apparent failings. Truthfulness (satya) and self-study (svadhyaya): what is it that is really keeping me off the mat although I used to be so regular? Contentment (santosha): a sense of contentment with, even gratitude for, whatever practice I do have, rather than chasing some ideal or picture of perfection. Self-discipline (tapas): remaking the commitment to practice and following through. So to varying degrees, my daily lunchtime decisions give me a chance to encounter or practice half the yamas and niyamas, along with a reminder that yoga, and life, are all about the practice, the journey–not achievements or destinations. Even on the days I don’t get my mat, I can still practice part of yoga’s eightfold path.