Confession time. As I write this, I’m going through a phase where I have only managed to get myself on my mat at home once a week. This is a hard thing to admit as a yoga teacher in training…especially since I put forward some pretty sound top tips for getting on your mat just a few months ago!
It is no coincidence that during this time I have also been busy at work with new responsibilities, with lots of yoga coursework to submit and an anatomy test to prepare for, so I have been quite stressed and overwhelmed. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of time that I need yoga the most, as I know all too well from my yoga therapy course last year. I know that making time for my yoga practice will make me feel calmer, resilient, and able to give more. But when things get busy and stressful I still sometimes lose my self-discipline. And self-discipline is a form of self-care.
This is a common pattern for a lot of us – we are least likely to take proper care of ourselves when we most need to. So why is it so hard to actually do the things that are good for us?
I don’t have time!
When we’re stressed, our default state is ‘fight or flight’. Our bodies and minds are on high-speed high-alert, and focused on external things like meeting that deadline. If this goes on for a while, we disconnect from our bodies, and forget that it is valuable, or even possible, to slow down because we’re so focused on how much we have to do. My brain knows the theory: that stopping and doing some yoga will help me cope better with these pressures, and even become more productive, but my default stress response sometimes takes over and I get sucked in to this preoccupation with time and the need to stay ‘on the go’ to keep on top of everything.
It won’t do any harm to miss a day.
Alongside the excuse of being too busy sits the notion that missing a day of practice won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. And it doesn’t, if it’s really just one day. But as we all know, one day rolls into the next, and once you’ve found a way to justify avoiding something once it makes it all the easier to do so again the next day!
A glass of wine / bar of chocolate / takeaway pizza is what I need.
When I’m stressed and overwhelmed I sometimes sink into immediate and easy ways to pick myself up. That has definitely been the case over the last few weeks. After a hard day at work and a long commute, I get home, slump on the sofa, pour a glass of wine, and watch Big Bang Theory on Netflix. Even though I know that getting off my bum and doing my yoga practice will make me feel ten times better.
I’m too tired.
This one usually goes alongside hitting snooze in the morning or reaching for the takeaway menu in the evening. “I don’t have the energy to do yoga today” says my pesky brain, even though I am fully aware that moving my body and working with my breath will give me such a yummy energy, even when I’m at my most tired.
Ultimately, I think these excuses come down to two main factors…or rather two little devils that sit on my shoulder. One tells me I can’t really legitimately be as busy as I claim to be if I can make time for yoga…so having ‘no time to do yoga’ proves to myself and others that I’m busy and important (hello ego!). The other tells me, albeit indirectly, that I am not worthy of taking the time to take care of myself and that other things or people are more important.
Thankfully my resolve is strong enough to get me to my weekly yoga class and to get on my mat for a long practice at the weekend, so it could be worse. But this isn’t exactly the yogic lifestyle I know I need in order to be happy and healthy, or the one which I would like to be role-modelling for my future students.
It’s the spring equinox, a time of renewal, so it’s a great time to make changes. And maybe that’s why I’ve written this now – to get it out in the open, let go of these patterns, and start afresh.