I love the practice of yoga because every single time I step onto my mat, I experience something completely unique. With Ashtanga, my practice looks similar from day-to-day, and of course I experience my share of consistencies and progress, but my body and mind always feels just a little bit different during each practice.
Some days, I show up on my mat and have to convince myself to complete just one sun salutation. Once I've done one, I can usually convince myself to do five sun salutation A's and five sun salutation B's. Before I know it, I've practiced every pose in the primary series and am ready for savasana.
The days that I get on my mat with no expectations are sometimes the days when I have my best practices.
For me, just showing up is half of the battle. Most of the time, I practice alone so there is no one there to convince me to practice. Even on the days when I practice with my teacher, I am the only one who can drag myself out of bed before the sun comes up. I hold myself accountable to show up because I know it's worth it. There has never been a moment in my life when I finished a practice and thought, "well, that was a waste of my time."
Because each day feels different, it's almost impossible to predict how my practice will go. For example, for the majority of my practice featured in the below video, I felt like I was going to die because I was incredibly over heated from teaching before my practice. In fact, I stopped recording before I was finished practicing because I had to step outside of the studio to catch my breath.
And of course, any person watching this video has no idea how I am feeling. Because the video is sped up, you can't see that I spend several additional breaths in every single downward facing dog because I am tired. You can't hear the internal dialogue of me convincing myself to continue.
Last week, I woke up on a Monday morning and felt exhausted. I had taken a challenging workshop the day before and my body was sore. I hadn't practiced with my teacher in over a week and had trouble convincing myself to get out of bed to go to Mysore. Eventually, I did get out of bed and made it to the studio to practice.
When I began my practice that day, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I had spent the past few weeks practicing mostly primary series to give my body a break from second series. The last time I practiced second series, it felt really awful. Out of frustration with my practice, I messaged my teacher, Caroline, to vent my feelings. As always, her response was exactly what I needed to hear.
Remembering her wise advice from weeks earlier, I decided to go for it and practice second series. I knew that eventually I would have to begin again, and what better time than right now?! I was sore and tired and had absolutely no expectations for my practice. I was just trying to make it to savasana.
I currently practice up to eka pada sirsasana (leg behind the head) in second series -- see the photo below. It's a pose that I never visualized myself in. It always felt like it would be unattainable for my body. Some obvious foreshadowing here...
After working through my entire practice, I made it to eka pada sirsasana. Caroline worked with me for about fifteen minutes in poses that open the hips and prepare the body for putting your leg behind your head. Finally, she looked at me and said that we should just go for it, so we did. She gave me the most incredible assist and I actually put my leg behind my head! First on the right side, then on the left. It didn't look pretty like the picture below, but it felt relatively comfortable which definitely surprised me.
What I love about Ashtanga is that it's difficult to feel any attachment to the postures because I know I will get another chance to practice them again tomorrow. It doesn't really matter if I can put my leg behind my head today because I know that I will show up on my mat tomorrow and try again.
When you feel unmotivated, just get on your mat. At the very least, roll it out. Practice something, even if it's just sitting and breathing. I bet if that's all you do, you will still feel happy that you sat down for a few minutes to breathe.
Show up. Do something.