My Year of Daily Yoga
A little over a year ago, on a day in mid-November, I decided to do something in addition to getting regular acupuncture and taking my herbs to help my moods. I made the commitment to myself to meet my yoga mat once a day. Even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day. (My daily home practice is between 5-30 minutes a day.) It doesn’t matter when I do it, just as long as I do.
While I could do acupuncture on myself every day since I am an acupuncturist, it’s not the same as when someone else diagnoses and treats you. I do needle myself sometimes but mostly I let my acupuncturist Prajna Choudhury do that. And I take my herbs daily. Yoga, Tai Qi, and Qi Gong are ways we can help our own energy flow more smoothly.
I feel euphoric when I leave yoga class and everything that comes later in the day seems to line up and go smoothly. When I do yoga at night, I sleep better. It’s the same feeling I get when I get up off of the acupuncture table.
Doing yoga every day is a little like a prayer or a wish, a little like meditation, and a little like exercise. I am not very bendy but I am more flexible than when I started a year of daily yoga. And that flexibility is not just physical. I feel like I’m more capable of handling things that don’t go according to plan. I am making more room for joy in my life.
Our yoga teacher Dawn Adams meets us wherever we are that day. (A lot of us are over 40 and not very bendy). Dawn is kind, calm, patient, funny, and smart. She ends every class with a few moments of gratitude. Dawn introduced us to Loving-kindness meditations which I now incorporate into my daily yoga practice. I’ve been taking yoga with her for about six years now. And I go back every week because of everything I just said.
I have tried other yoga classes – like when I visited my brother last year and he took me to the hot yoga class he attended. It was really just an exercise class. And I felt like I was going to die of a heart attack and/or heat exhaustion right there on the mat.
Afterwards, my brother asked me what I’d thought of the class. I told him that it was like a shot of espresso and the class I usually go to is like chamomile tea. Most weeks, my husband and I go to yoga class together, put our mats next to each other, and at the end of class, we hold hands in savasana. It’s one of the best things about Tuesday mornings.
My daily yoga practice is whatever it needs to be that day. Last year around the winter holidays, I had a cold but still wanted to do my daily practice. Cheryl Fenner Brown chimed in that Yoga Nidra was a good thing to do during stressful times. From her website:
“Yoga Nidra is the tantric practice of divine sleep, a profoundly relaxing way to ease the mind into a state of restful awareness. The practice of Yoga Nidra will provide a quiet refuge from everyday stressors and promote balance in the mind and emotions. You will be guided through the process of setting an intention, body awareness, breath awareness, the experience of dualities, visualizing the mindscreen and image visualization that uncovers the quiet calm center where our inner wisdom and true nature reside.”
When you practice Yoga Nidra, you lie down in savasana and listen to a guided meditation. Piece of cake, right? It is extremely restful and can also energize you for the rest of the day. Cheryl helps you set a “sankalpa,” or intention, that you say to yourself during the meditation when prompted. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating (because I’m just lying down listening to Cheryl’s voice) but when I’m done doing Yoga Nidra, I don’t feel that way; I just feel peaceful and balanced.
Somedays when I can’t think of what to do for my home practice, I pick up the Yoga Deck by Olivia H. Miller. I saw this deck at my friend Nikki’s house several years ago and she gave it to me. Typically, I shuffle the deck and pick three cards. Some are asanas, some are meditations, and some are breathing exercises. By picking a few cards, I get ideas for other things I want to do that day. (And while writing this, I found out that there’s a Yoga Deck II which I’ll have to check out.)
I don’t feel I can finish this post without talking about cultural appropriation because I’m a white woman in America practicing yoga. I took this post to heart and it made me think about why I do yoga. I approach practicing yoga the same way I approach practicing Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: with respect. Here is one of the challenges raised in “How to Decolonize your Yoga Practice”:
In addition to asana we need to understand, practice and teach all 8 limbs of yoga: yama or ethical conduct, niyama or personal practice, pranayama or working with the breath, pratyahara awareness of the senses, dharana, meditation, concentration and insight, dhyana or being present with whatever arises and samadhi, or interconnection with all that is.
s part of my personal spiritual practice, I strive to do these with all things in my life, even if I didn’t learn them by the same names.
I know yoga is not about what you wear or how you look. This photo shoot was more a celebration of accomplishing this yoga challenge I gave myself. I thought about getting funny yoga t-shirts (and looked at lots of them) but decided none of them were right.
It was Dawn who suggested I do the photo shoot in costume and I ran with it. These clothes express more about who I am. (Yes, I have been known to wear those bloomers to yoga class, but not the Victorian dress.) Because I was a bit nervous about being photographed doing yoga, Dawn went over some of the poses with me before the shoot. I’d previously only ever seen one cellphone pic of me doing yoga with my hubby.
This year of daily yoga was really just about doing yoga every day. Here are some yoga things I want to do over next year:
- go to a class taught by my friend Laura Malouf-Renning (She teaches at Niroga & at Leela)
- go to a specifically “body positive” yoga class
- go to a chanting class
- do a week of sun salutations
- do a week of moon salutations
- focus on a few specific poses and work on them towards a goal of flexibility
(This list will grow and change.)
I was going to list a bunch of links to articles about creating a home yoga practice, but instead, I’ll point you to my Pinterest board called “Calm inducing life affirming stuff” which has lots of pins about yoga.
My husband has asked “You’re gonna keep doing daily yoga after your challenge is over, right?” The answer is unequivocally, “Hell yes.”
Today is Day 387, and counting.
Photos by the amazing Chloe Jackman of Chloe Jackman Photography