Although I love yoga and have been practicing for 13 years, I am not here to tell you how wonderful it is and how you need to do more of it.
I *am* here to tell you about the value of having some sort of practice. I define practice as “What you do with regularity, even when you don’t feel like doing anything else.” I firmly believe that incorporating some sort of practice, or activity, into your normal routine – whether it’s yoga, running, knitting, cooking, walking, drawing, cleaning, or anything else you can absorb yourself in – is one the best ways (if not THE best way) to help you feel a little calmer, a little clearer, more able to deal with whatever life brings.
Scientists estimate that the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those 60,000, I’d wager that only two or three are actually worth listening to. Having a practice gives your mind just enough activity to keep it occupied so that you can start to hear the voice that comes from somewhere much deeper than your mind – your innate wisdom. Whether you call it your gut instinct, your inner voice, or your women’s intuition, we’ve all got it. We probably all have stories of very specific times when we actually heard it loud and clear. The problem is that for the most part it gets drowned out by those 60,000 other thoughts. Doing your practice is like giving a hyper kid a Rubik’s cube – suddenly things get a lot quieter.
When you start creating space in your life for your intuition to rise to the surface, the inevitable dramas we all experience lose some of their power to rile you. Your life won’t magically turn into a fairy tale. But bumps in the road—whether they’re small, like traffic, or big, like losing your job—won’t have as much power over your state of mind. When you have a bad day, if you have a practice, you’ll know exactly what to do to help yourself get back on track. How many people can say that?
Here are some tips for figuring out what your practice is going to be and how to make it a part of your life:
What makes you feel better?
Is there something you do that always makes you feel better – even just a little bit? It could be something formal, like a yoga class, or something you do on your own, like gardening or knitting. Anything that makes you feel more relaxed is a great candidate.
What’s calling to you?
If you can’t think of anything you’ve already tried that’s a good practice candidate, is there something you’ve always told yourself you’ll do when you’ve got a little more time, money, or moxie? Anything that’s been making your ears perk up when you hear it mentioned in conversation? If it’s something you don’t know how to do yet, start by just familiarizing yourself with it. You don’t need to be a master – that’s why they call it practice.
What can you feasibly fit into your regular life?
You may feel at one with the world on the ski slopes, but if you only get to go skiing once a year, it ain’t a practice. You don’t have to do something every single day, but you want to be able to do whatever it is that soothes your soul on more days than not.
Whatever you choose, you do not have to do it for 2 hours every morning for it to “count.” Beware of using whatever you do to feel better as an excuse to feel worse. (I’ve been down that road, and I can promise you, it’s not fun.) If you choose gardening, watering for 10 minutes counts. Some days you’ll be able to do more of your practice than others. That’s ok.
Some practices are for emergencies only
I had a very deep chocolate chip cookie practice once. I went through a capital-T, capital-B Tragic Breakup that had me chowing cookies like my life depended on it. Yoga also helped me make it through that particularly rough spot, but even it couldn’t convince me that getting out of a bed was a good idea. Only the siren call of chocolate, butter, and sugar could do that. Luckily my dependence on cookies started to wane along with my heartache.