Articles Tagged with: daily practice
Why do we practise?

That is a fundamental question. It’s my belief that, if we can formulate a succinct answer to this question – something that we can sum up in one or two sentences – it can go a long way toward helping us maintain our motivation through both good and bad times.

Let’s tease this out a bit…

There are many reasons that people practise yoga so I’ll just list a few here. Some of them will resonate with you and others won’t:

  • To cultivate or maintain a healthy body
  • To cultivate or maintain a healthy mind
  • To increase the likelihood of living a long life
  • To gain a degree of self-awareness
  • To be part of a community of practitioners
  • To achieve mastery over the body
  • To achieve mastery over the mind (and decrease mental chatter)
  • To achieve certain yoga postures for their own sake or for the feeling of accomplishment it brings
  • To challenge oneself on a daily basis
  • To get that amazing feeling that you always get after practice
  • To look good and have a beautiful body
  • To gain recognition from our peers for being advanced in yoga postures
  • To feel empowered by taking responsibility for our own well-being
  • To gain a sense that we a growing and learning throughout our lives
  • To benefit those people close to us by improving our mood/attention-span/awareness/compassion etc.
  • To maintain our sense of identity as somebody who practices yoga
  • To live up to the expectations of others
  • To simply enjoy the feeling of doing the practice

Personally speaking, I am willing to acknowledge that every one of those (to a greater or lesser degree) has acted as motivation for me to practice at some stage during my journey with ashtanga yoga (except for maybe the ‘recognition from our peers’ one). There is no doubt, though, that each of these factors (and I am not pretending that this is an exhaustive list) takes on a different weight depending on the different circumstances that come along throughout our lives.

So I do think it’s worth reviewing this list and adding anything else that feels relevant to you. Then try to really figure out what it is that is currently motivating you to practice. Try to distill it down to one sentence if possible. For example, “I practise because I have noticed that on days when I do practise I feel better, I am more motivated at work, I have more energy, and I am nicer to my co-workers (or at least able to deal with their problems more easily).”

Remembering why we practise is often all we need to get us to actually do it.

And the next time you’re just about to hit the snooze button in the morning or order that take-away in the evening instead of going to practise you can remember that one sentence. Maybe it will help you to get on your mat and maybe it won’t but it’s worth a try, right?

Some days we need every trick in the book to get us to roll out that mat, but we all know that we have never, ever regretted doing it. So I say if you need extra motivation, or even to trick yourself into practising, on any particular day then do whatever it takes.


How much should I practise?

The recommendation of daily practice in the ashtanga yoga tradition can be difficult to follow.

I have been very lucky over the years to share a house/marriage/life with another very dedicated practitioner. It has been easy to be a good influence on each other with regard to practising every day (it’s probably just as easy to be a bad influence on each other too, but we’ve been lucky so far that it hasn’t really happened). I have to give a huge amount of credit to Suzanne for keeping me on the path of daily practice over the years. Who knows where I would be without her.

I did give up ashtanga yoga though, completely and utterly, in 2009. I was really struggling with a chronic knee injury that never seemed to get any better and I decided that that was it, I’d had enough of this ashtanga yoga stuff. It was just making it worse, and I was sick of getting up so early to practise, and I wasn’t “getting anywhere” with it, and I was just fed up. “That’s it, I’ve had it with this ashtanga yoga”, I said. I told everyone I was giving it up.

I lasted three days before I was back on my mat.

I suppose I had taken for granted what I was getting out of this practice on a daily basis. It was only when I stopped practising for a few days that I realised how much I enjoyed it.

Since 2013, when our first daughter was born, my practice has changed a bit due to more severe time restraints and also many sleepless nights (we had another daughter in 2015) but I still manage to get on my mat almost every day and do what I can.

I was forced to take three months off practising in 2014 when I suffered from a rather large herniated disc in my lower back (L5-S1 for those of you who like the technical details) but I was itching to get back to practice that whole time. When I was finally able to start practising again – starting with just one or two sun salutations and building from there – it was such a joy. Like my experience in 2009, I suppose you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

But what I really want to talk about today is the daily requirement of practising.

I know just as well as anyone how hard it is to get on your yoga mat, especially when you have a family/job/injury/illness or anything else. That is why I have really come around to the realisation that the idea of the “Daily Minimum” is a very good thing.

I have heard of David Williams talking about the daily minimum in relation to practice, and as far as I know (although I’m open to being corrected on this) it came directly from Guruji.

The daily minimum is defined by David Williams as being three surya namaskara A, three Surya Namaskara B and the last three finishing poses (yoga mudra, padmasana and utpluthih).

That’s all.

It takes less than ten minutes.

I have found that, even on days where it seems like I couldn’t possibly practise, that the daily minimum is possible. I have often found (and this is the beauty of committing to doing at least the daily minimum every day) that after doing a few sun salutations I will often – but not always – find the energy to do more than I had planned.

I would very much recommend that you try to commit to the daily minimum each day.

  • Don’t be disappointed if, on deciding to do the daily minimum that you don’t actually end up doing any more than that. Be happy that the daily minimum is enough that day.
  • Try to cultivate an awareness of whether you are building energy or using up energy through the practice. If you can become adept at becoming aware on a physical level of this (your mind will often give you conflicting advice and excuses – be it to stop or to keep going) that is the key to deciding how much or how little practice to do each day. To really become good at this takes a long time.
  • If it is not possible to practice on any given day at your regular practice time then don’t make the excuse that you can’t practise that day. You can find time for the daily minimum at some stage. You can.

I think for those of you who are toying with the idea of committing yourself to daily practice (and it is that time of year after all right?) then this could be a very useful psychological tool to use to get you on your mat every day. The rest will just flow from there.

If you have any questions, or we can support you in any way let us know in the comments below.