Today I did something that has the potential to revolutionise my life.
I set an alarm and deliberately got up before my three year old son.
I wanted to be up by 6:30am and I wanted the early morning peace and quiet to do my yoga practice.
This is a huge break-through for me.
Once upon a time, I effortlessly arose before 7am and spent a couple of hours on the computer writing, often getting my day’s work down before 9am.
I loved this – it made my days spacious and free because I’d already met my obligations. Yoga practice could happen anytime after that – morning, afternoon or evening.
However, when I got pregnant with Samuel, early mornings became a thing of the past as sleep become a luxury.
Three years on and sleep is still a luxury, but I crave those early morning hours again. I’ve been thinking and talking about getting up early for a few months. But as we all know, there’s a world of difference between talking and thinking about doing something and actually doing it.
Here’s what made the difference.
I committed to a new Forty Days of Yoga using five sun salutations as my anchor.
My practice, while always consistent, has been mostly yin-style floor asana, meditation, pranayama and Yoga Nidra for the last year or so. I haven’t had the energy for regular strong asana, and often found myself getting light-headed and dizzy if I attempted it. However, things have changed. Something inside me knew that while floor asana may have been the right practice for me last year, I was ready to move back into a stronger asana practice.
I wasn’t balancing myself with my practice anymore, I was in avoidance. And the best way to deal with avoidance is to head straight into it. So I made a commitment that I would start my daily practice with five sun salutations no matter what.
That was eight or nine days ago and I’ve been loving it. At first, my body felt stiff and strange, so long had it been since I’d done full, standard sun salutations. But there was also a delight in that stiffness and strangeness as body memory flooded back in the joy of strong asana.
Once upon a time, I thrived on strong asana. It matched my personality type and made me feel strong and powerful.
However, at that time, it wasn’t always balancing me out. It was often feeding the fire of what was, rather than tempering that fire. I needed to learn softness. I needed to learn how to yield and melt and let go. So began a two year focus on mostly floor asana.
Until now, and this new Forty Days of Yoga anchor.
Choosing an anchor for my practice helps to give me consistency and something solid to measure my shifts and changes against.
Choosing something like five sun salutations to start my practice also gives me a full body warm-up and prepares me for what may follow. I’ve been surprised to find myself going into floor backbends and inversions like shoulder-stand and plough. These aren’t often regular parts of my practice. I see how moving into avoidance helps trigger a chain reaction that opens us into many different things.
The most surprising thing though has been a strong rising desire to start my practice earlier – before my son gets up.
I have him 24/7, except for the hours when he’s in childcare and I work, four part-days a week. This meant that I had three days f practice with my son hovering and playing near-by. No, not near-by on top of me – at times kicking my mat, throwing stones on my mat and generally annoying the hell out of me. I found myself getting so angry – which is of course the antithesis of what we think yoga is.
Leave me alone and let me practice!
And I remembered another reason why I haven’t had a consistent strong asana practice the last few years. I can practice slow floor asana late at night when my son’s in bed, but I don’t want to do strong asana then as it energises me too much. Practicing strong asana around my son is frustrating and annoy gin and I don’t get that solid focus I love. It makes me want to scream.
I know I know, it’s all part of the practice, go with it, observe the anger rising, work with it, that’s your practice,
Got it. Doing it.
But… yes, but… I still want to have at least half an hour all to myself to do my practice, uninterrupted.
Cue early morning plan. I’ll set my alarm and get up before Samuel so I can practice.
6:30am. Alarm goes off. Only a hint of a thought arises about staying bed. I’m up and about. I’ve done it. I’ve started a new pattern in my life.
The practice was delicious. Maybe 45 minutes long or so. I felt amazing afterward. Even better, I had time to start an article before sorting our Samuel’s breakfast.
By the time I started work at 10am, I’d been up for three and a half hours. I’d done my yoga practice, I’d written the start of an article, I’d spent time with my son, we’d gone for a walk along the river… wow!
Now, it’s 3:05pm. Im sitting at the local cafe in the sun enjoying a decaf soy latte and chocolate brownie. My day has felt infinitely spacious. There’s been a completely different quality to it than normal. Normally, I’m trying to fit so many things in those six hours when Samuel is at childcare – write articles, send emails, make phone calls, deal with business, have lunch, do my practice… I cram it all in and it feels forced.
Today, the minutes loomed large and open. I was measured and calm as I took time to choose how best to use my time next. I’ve written two 1000 word articles and 1000 words in response to an interview on my book.
All because I choose to go towards the avoidance and make sun salutations the anchor of my practice.
All because I choose to shift my day and get up at 6:30am to practice.
All because I constantly listen to my life and respond to it’s ever-changing nature, tweaking it as I need to in order to create more delight, more spaciousness, more inspiration and more love in it.
This is conscious living. This is yoga in action. This is my life.
This is the power of committing to Forty Days of Yoga.
It’s been a week since I wrote this, and I’ve been up every day except Sunday before 6:30am. Even on Sunday, I still finished my morning practice before 9am. It feels amazing. Some mornings I’m even getting in a 90 minute practice which feels like total luxury and a real gift.
Everything I wrote in Forty Days of Yoga is about fitting yoga in where you can, and recognising that yoga does not have to be just asana, or even any asana.
Applying that philosophy to my life over the last four or five years has meant I’ve had a consistent daily practice. Now, that consistent daily practice – done in a myriad of ways – has evolved into something else. The something else is what I tell readers in Forty Days of Yoga to let go of as an ideal, or standard.
Your daily home yoga practice does not need to be an early morning 90 minute asana practice.
The paradox is… I’m living proof that letting go of that idea might very well take you right around, completely unexpectedly, to that very place.
Not because you impose it from the outside because it’s what you’re meant to be doing.
But because the desire and yearning arises naturally from within because that’s where you’re at and what you need.
When the conditions are right, the seed begins to grow.
This seed is about to flower.