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How I tricked myself into daily practice

How I tricked myself into daily practice

By Kimina Lyall

What is it about home-alone yoga? I’m a grown-up, right? There are lots of things I can do every day, all by myself. I can eat. Shower. Brush my teeth. Check my emails. Even cuddle the friendly next door cat. These little daily tasks come easily, effortlessly almost, and I achieve them no matter what else is distracting me. But get on my yoga mat? Now there’s a tall order.

It seems to be not an unusual one. Lots of my friends, who have been regularly attending yoga classes for many years, admit they still fail in their aim for daily practice. For me, there’s been the usual excuses: I’m so busy, I’m so tired, I wouldn’t know what to practice (after all, there’s so many asanas to choose from!), I don’t have all the props …

Every now and then I have managed to get myself into a little routine. A few sun salutes, a forward bend or two, followed by a quick handstand. Or I might play for a few days with list I found on Facebook: the top ten yoga poses you MUST practice every day, or the Tibetan yoga routine or "five minute yoga". These bursts of resolution are generally short-lived. Some days, if I am honest, the thought of unrolling the mat itself is just too much of a stretch.

About six weeks ago I decided to trick myself. One night, before I went to bed, I rolled out my yoga mat and placed it right in the middle of my room. When I got up the next morning and began stumbling towards the coffee pot, I got a little shock when I saw it lying there, quietly inviting. I stepped on it, and immediately straightened into Tadasana. Which led to a salute, and then some standing poses. Before I knew it I was rolling up the mat half an hour later.

I did the same thing the next night, and the next. Then I started to lay out some props as well. A blanket, a belt, a block. I realised I was giving myself a choice each morning: use this stuff, or put it away. So far, every day, I have used it.

Why has this approach worked where others have failed? I suspect it is about intention. With my little evening ritual – brush teeth, turn off music/computer/television, roll out the mat and props, I am setting an intention to practice in the morning. I guess it is like when I do the grocery shopping. I am setting an intention to cook. When I set my alarm, I am setting an intention to get up and go to work. When I write my friends’ birthdays in my calendar, I am setting an intention to call them on that day.

Come to think of it, intention is alive inside the asanas, too. When I lack the strength and control to lift my spine upwards in shoulder stand, or hinge at my hips in Uttanasana, or press the four corners of my feet to the floor in Tadasana – I focus on intending to do so. 

The effort, it seems, is always in the intention. Who would have thought that would be enough?

Kimina Lyall is a Melbourne-based writer who has rolled out her yoga mat on and off for ten years. She is the author of Out of the Blue - Facing the Tsunami.

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