Willingness, interest, even commitment may not be enough to get you to follow through on something that you pledge to do. For many of my students, this is a resolution to get to the yoga mat (or get to the gym) every day. Many yoga studios offer encouragement for a steady practice with cheaper multiple class cards, big discounts if you come every day for a month, or make it to a set number of classes in a set number of days. This can be a good jump start to your own practice, and the inclusion of yoga in daily life, but it is not always possible to get to the studio routinely for classes at the appropriate level at accessible times. Family life, work routines, unexpected circumstances, travel, there are so many reasons why a one-directional commitment to the yoga mat can seem impossible to meet.
I love yoga and have no question at all that practicing yoga is good for me in just about every way I can imagine. Even so, there are days when I just cannot seem to make it to the mat for my own practice. I can manage to check my email, but not get to the yoga mat? I certainly cook and eat every day, but I don't get to my mat every day? Am I meeting my commitment? I say yes, and deepening my practice continuously as I go along by allowing my practice to be inclusive, and acknowledging honestly when I do, or don't, direct my attention to my practice.
I see my commitment as an interplay between intention and action. When I fail in my commitment I make excuses, offer explanations, and oftentimes weave complicated emotional tangles that can take a lot of energy to untangle. I can hold myself accountable and let myself off the hook at the same time. Very confusing!
Through my yoga practice, I've come to accept my commitment as my intention. I no longer see my yoga practice on the mat as a requirement or duty, or hard and fast rule related to meeting expectations or achieving a goal. I see it as a discipline based in intention, offering a wide range of possibility for practice and exploring it as an ever enriching and unpredictable experience. I hold myself accountable for acting upon my intention, allowing this action to follow its own path, even if it includes not getting to the yoga mat in a particular day. In yogic terms, Tapas, discipline, is a practice well worth exploring, delving in to the concepts of intention, commitment and practice.
One handy tactic I have used with real impact is a paper sign-in sheet. Sounds a bit simplistic, but all I have to do is sign in and I'm present with my intention. I sign in honestly, noting my practice that day. I use symbols that designate my yoga teaching, philosophy and asana study, meditation (both sitting and walking), mat practice, chair practice, and when I take classes taught by others. I have a symbol for no-practice that represents a day when I have not set aside time for a focus on practice in any of the above activities. The marking of these actions offers me direct connection to my commitment, encouraging me to rev up the engines of my practice if I feel strong resistance to saying "no-practice." I find I can make a little more space in my day and focus my attention. The days I write "no-practice" are very few, and are no condemnation of my intention. They reinforce my exploration of my own journey, that which distracts me, or requires my attention, the choices I make.
I don't judge myself when I sign in, I feel encouraged, and sometimes inspired.