1. Practice first thing in the morning.
I utilize 2 strategies to support my commitment to an A.M. practice: I strategically position my yoga mat so that it's the first thing I see when I spring or haul myself out of bed in the morning. It can be rolled up if space is a challenge, but more potent if it's unfurled. I also have photos of the Iyengar family positioned within sight. In one photo, BKS Iyengar is staring directly into the lens and I make sure we lock eyes until I can feel him telling me to get out of bed and GET TO IT! Once you are well established in your practice and the vibration of yoga is strong in you (young Jedi,) you will feel compelled to practice! The Borg said it best: It gets to the point where "Resistance is futile."
2. Remember that Yoga has 8 limbs. See Yoga sutra 2.29: Yama/Restraints, Niyama/Observances, Asana/Postures, Pranayama/regulation of breath, Pratyahara/Bringing the senses inward, Dharana/Concentration, Dhyana/Meditation, Samadhi/Deep absorption. I have a commitment to a daily asana practice to maintain a certain sense of ease, strength and mobility in my physical body. I am also practicing yoga when I study the yoga sutra's, sit for meditation etc... This is all Yoga. Each limb brings different challenges and joys to my life, but time can be an issue. I ask myself: what is my priority on this particular day?
3. 15 minutes will do it. In fact, one pose will do it! I still have days where I have to drag myself on to my mat like a petulant child, fueled to stay there only by will. I stand there until something comes to me. I take it one pose at a time. I've never regretted a practice session. Some are better than others, but I'm always better in some way for having done it.
4. Name that obstacle. Yoga is an act of self care. Why not practice? What is in your way? Illness, Misperceptions, Dullness, Mental Laziness, Doubt, Cravings, Instability, Failures, Negligence? (See sutra 1.30). Often naming what is in the way lessens it's grip.
5. The solution! In the yoga sutra's we are given Abhyasa and Vairagya (practice and detachment) as a way to lessen the grip of the aforementioned obstacles. Define what practice means for you, but be unattached to the outcome of your labor. Some efforts yield results quickly, others over time. Expectations can lead to disappointment, doubt, laziness....
6. Have long and short term goals to keep you motivated. In terms of your asana practice, if you only do things that are very hard for you, it could become discouraging. It took me 20 years to be able to practice padmasana/lotus pose with some ease and still on one side, it feels impossible. This is in the category of a long-term project for me. Think about what comes easily to you, what is moderately challenging and what feels impossible. Keep the flames burning in all 3 categories and celebrate small successes in your practice. If you are in class and you notice someone can very easily do something that is hard for you, practice delighting in the success of others. (See sutra 1.33) This has been invaluable to me in terms of longing for things that I can not currently do....
7. Try planned and unplanned practices. Some days I feel my way through practice. I do one pose and ask myself what would feel right next. Other days I google "Iyengar Yoga Sequences" to print and follow. Most often I think of a challenging pose I want to work on and write down all of the poses (in theory) that might get me there. If I'm unsure, I get right into the pose and see what is missing. What parts of me need more freedom, strength and or awareness to be there?
8. Take a weekly class and take notes afterwards. I always leave class with some new inspiration. I try to think of some action my teacher shared that I wasn't quite clear on that I want to work on at home. I try to remember the sequence and repeat it on my own.
9. Make a commitment to daily practice with a friend and check in. A simple text can do it. You'll each have ups and downs but chances are you won't both be down the same day.
10. Read "Light on Life" by BKS Iyengar. This book has changed my life. When I first started reading it, I had a highlighter and a plan to yellow out the really inspiring material. I had to give this up when I looked back on the first chapter and every word was bright yellow. There are times when I lie down with this book opened up on my chest, eyes closed, just trying to soak in the goodness. Seeing this book makes me want to practice. Find that book for you.
Some other ideas:
- If you don't have time for a long practice session, break it up into several mini practices throughout the day
- Print out some Iyengar Yoga sequences from IYNAUS (https://iynaus.org/sites/iynaus_files/pages/HomePracticeSeq_L1.pdf)
- If you practice Iyengar Yoga and love the ways that props can make a pose more interesting and challenging, then I recommend any of Eyal Shifroni's books on Amazon. Sometimes I pick one pose to work on and there are always 4-5 different ways of working that can make a pose you have done hundreds of times feel new again.
Lastly, just do it until you love your Yoga practice so much that it becomes an indispensable companion for good living.