Nearly 5 months after all studios officially closed nationwide, the world of yoga is nowhere near where we left it. Sadly, many yoga studios did not survive Covid-19 and those that did are operating at a country-mandated much lower capacity. Some states have already closed studios back down again. Perhaps the biggest fall of all, however, is that of many yogis themselves, myself included.
My SI joint hurts and my stress level is much higher than it needs to be. Why? Because I have let outside circumstances beyond my control alter my yoga practice. Can you relate? Many of us today are so lost in the the decision of where and how to practice yoga, annoyed by the deficits of each option, that we are barely getting to our mats at all. We all have our own reasons for our lack of the commitment we once had,
Here are some of mine.
I miss the studio, I miss the heat, I miss my fellow yogi teachers and most of all, the yogis themselves. I used to practice 3-6 times per week as well as teach 10 classes, often demoing sequences. Now, I am teaching 3 classes per week and haven't stepped on my mat to take another teachers class in a while. (Most of my favorites are no longer teaching online.) I was moving with my classes but not practicing myself beyond sequencing. In other words, not fully living what I teach.
Why would I even admit that? Two reasons. First, I am human and second, I don't think I am alone. What I have been missing in my own practice during this time is consistency. It doesn't matter if we have practiced for two months or 20 years, we need to keep showing up. Yoga is not about mastery of a posture, it is about practicing and breathing into that same posture over and over again as we become stronger and more comfortable challenging our body and our mind. It only works if we keep showing up.
Like so many others, while I relish at the idea of a home practice, when I actually step onto my mat, my mind has trouble settling in. It's easy to give up after just a couple of attempts to practice at home. The animals are climbing all over me, the laundry has to get done, bills have to get paid, and the list goes on. However, this is where the yoga comes in. We need to do what we can, when we can. And, like everything else we practice in life, eventually it gets easier to block out the surroundings, connect with our breath, and find the beauty of a home practice.
At first, we may step off our mat many times during a living room practice as we deal with distractions. Then, we may eventually only step off just a few times. One day, we may find the patience to stay the whole time. That is what practicing does, it makes us stronger. We may also have to let go of our defined class duration. Fifteen minutes of yoga every day will go much further than an occasional hour. Most importantly, we need to remember the why of our yoga. Why did we start and why did we stay?
Our whys never really seem to change much. Whatever we were dealing with when we stepped onto our mat the first time, we are dealing with in some form now. Yoga is our checks and balances. To stop our practice and expect the benefits to linger on forever is like cleaning our house and expecting it to stay that way. No matter how "elevated" we become, we still need the actual practice of yoga to continue to reap the benefits.
Remember the feeling you had after the first yoga class that clicked in a big way for you? Maybe the teacher said something that was like a light bulb turning on or an old pose was introduced in a new way that spoke to you. Do you remember the time(s) you went in to the studio after a really bad day and you walked out with a new sense of clarity? Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself, "Oh, THIS is what my core feels like?" Do you remember when you realized that yoga makes your life so much better? Yoga didn't go anywhere but some of us have chosen to distance ourselves from our practice because "it isn't the same."
If we no longer feel comfortable enough to practice at a yoga studio, it's understandable. If we are also choosing not to practice anywhere else, we are simply attaching the power of yoga to location and atmosphere rather than breath, intention, and consistency. It's important to recognize the roots of our practice.
Yoga has been around for at least 5,000 years, long before studios or mats or streamed music. Yogis of generations past would be confused if they knew the strife many yogis and yoga teachers are in right now. They would probably remind us that society has changed but the tradition of yoga has not and in reality, we should all be finding a tremendous amount of comfort on our mats during this time.
Since my commitment to get back on my mat every day, my body has begun to heal. My mind has grown quieter, more confident, and focused. My path is becoming clear again. Yoga mirrors everything in life. The more we put into it, the more we get out of it. Yoga serves us not by where we practice but by the act of practicing.
The world has changed, your yoga practice doesn't have to. Do yoga.