Over the past few days, we’ve been asking you through Instagram Stories what motivates you to or demotivates you from practicing yoga. What started as small post to interact with you, has inspired me to write this blog piece in hopes that we can help each other maintain our home practice. I’m going to list below some of the comments we’ve received and humbly share some advice on each:
1. A couple of people mentioned that seeing progress is something that motivates them. Yogi Farah AbdelAziz mentions, “Every day, I see a little progress, and every practice makes a difference. This is what really motivates me to get on my mat.”
One of the reasons I love Ashtanga, other than the discipline, the philosophy and so much more, is the idea of that set series that we keep repeating. To some people, they find it boring. To me, it’s grounding. Plus, it helps me see progress very clearly. Now as good as progress can be, I have to remind myself not to be blinded by an end goal and lose touch with the experience of “getting there”. Yoga poses aren’t just for the body to do something special, they’re for the mind and spirit to benefit as well. Instead of focusing on the progress you’re doing or want to do, think instead of what this pose is awakening in you? How does it make you feel? Do spinal twists make you angry? Do backbends suffocate you? Listen to your emotions, allow poses to remind you of real life situations and how you can apply what you do to maintain the pose to what you can do to maintain your composure in real life.
2. Yogi Mai Mansour mentioned that she prefers group practice saying, “I don’t know why I’m not practicing at home. I prefer classes.” And Aalaa ElKhashab added what motivates her, “If there’s an outdoors class, that’s always fun!”
There’s no going around this. Home practice is pivotal in maintaining a consistent practice. As yoga teachers, our job is to get you to maintain a home practice and only come see us occasionally, not dependently. Teachers give you great guidance, they push you further, they help adjust you and so much more. If you can go to class every day or at least consistently several days a week, then by all means do. But that’s rarely the case with most of us and so the days we can’t go to class, we need to practice at home. Home practice isn’t just good for maintaining a consistent practice though, you can really learn a lot from it. Think of why you prefer group classes or outdoor classes. Is it a comfort zone of yours? Is it to feel part of a group and not alone? Understand your reasons and address them. Push yourself to practice at least once on your own, you can be a great teacher to yourself as well.
3. One thing that can keep people off their mats is injuries. “I went too hard on my practice to be more fit and more flexible that I hurt myself and I’m now recovering,” says Sarah Mustafa.
So many of us have fell victims to trying too hard. The great thing about yoga, is that it allows you to work within your own limits. Slowly and steadily, you push your boundaries and do more, each one of us at our own pace. Of course, sometimes we get carried away and push a little too much. I’ll share my story honestly, in my second or third year of practicing yoga, I was finally able to jump from downward dog to a seated position and I was so excited that I kept doing it again and again even though my arms were starting to give out. I ended up breaking my small toe. Yes, that actually happened. Instead of listening to my body and marvel at what it can already do, I pushed it too much. To borrow from yogi Mariam Zaher, “I think my biggest motive is self-discovery. I’m a really curious person and it’s very rewarding when you dig deep into the workings of your body and discover that your body is capable of so much more than you give it credit for. As for what keeps me from practicing, sometimes I have off days when I’m so out of tune with my body and I just don’t feel it so I don’t force myself to practice and I take a break because I don’t believe in pushing things when they’re really just not working out. Other than that, nothing can keep me off my mat!” I personally wouldn’t have put it in better words.
4. Now the most common issue that many of us face is what we think is lack of time. Yogi Heba Foda says, “What keeps me from practicing is lack of time and sleep. Other times when I am away from the mat for a while, my mind tricks me to procrastinate and even during practice that I need to stop and get out of the pose for a break.”
What I love about this comment from Heba is how she knows that her mind is tricking her and that she’s not actually tired or doesn’t have time. Just like it’s important to know the different between pushing through a pose and stopping if you’re in actual pain, you need to know when your body actually needs a break or if it’s faking it. To combat procrastination and fake tiresome, take small steps. Here are a few tricks from Yogi Mariam Diaa:
Commit to a short practice (20-40) minutes, instead of being intimidated by a super long intense practice.
Have a set space for your home practice. Make it as easy and as inviting as possible, maybe even keep your mat rolled out so you can just hop on.
Add to that having a set time for practice as well. It makes it easier to become a habit and part of your routine.
Get rid of any expectations for how your practice should be. Accept where you are and simply flow.
“Accepting that every day is different and that it is okay if some days I only do easy poses, was crucial for me keeping up my daily practice.” – Mariam Diaa
Yogis, I hope all this helps you come closer to maintaining your home practice or start one. I want to thank everyone who sent a comment of any sort to contribute to this collaborative article. I also look forward to going live with you on Instagram every week during Ramadan and share some yogic values with you as well as a weekly challenge.
Love & Light.