People frequently ask me how often they should do yoga, and for how long each time. “How much do you practice?” they ask. What a rich question.
The obvious answer – one I’ve heard in workshops and teacher trainings – is every day. When students ask me, that’s what I tell them, that they should try to practice every day. But, I add, practicing every day doesn’t necessarily mean going to a pranayama and asana followed by meditation.for a class, or even rolling out a mat for a one-hour home session of
What they must ask themselves, I say, is what it means to practice yoga. If getting up a little early and sitting on your porch wrapped in a blanket listening to the world wake up yokes your awareness to your consciousness, then that is practicing yoga.
My partnerand I recently had an experience with this. On Jan. 1, we felt like doing yoga together. He said something about wanting to do more yoga this year; I said something about all the so-called “30-day challenges” going on around the New Year; and somehow it was settled: We’d try to practice together every day for a month.
We succeeded, and not just in the obvious sense of doing some kind of yoga every day for 30 days straight. We beat really bad odds. Peter’s ankle was still in a cast following a break and surgery in early December. We were both on medication recovering from bronchitis. His kids, who live with us part-time, went back to school in mid-January, restarting our family’s 5 a.m. wake-up ritual after the holiday hiatus. It was a crazy month.
A couple times, we found ourselves at the end of the day without having practiced; we would drag ourselves into our home studio and start the timer for a pre-bedtime meditation. (Every time we meditated that month, we increased the time by 15-30 seconds.) Peter went through physical therapy and got his plaster cast changed for a walking cast; our asana practice evolved along with his fibula. The month of yoga became an exploration of what we could do. What we couldn’t do rarely entered our minds.
Almost another month after the end of our experiment, I’m still processing the full meaning. Part of it is this: There is time for yoga every day – not just the kind of time it takes to gather gear, change into a certain outfit, drive to a studio, spend an hour and a half in a class and drive home. Or, maybe that same amount of time, but spent practicing another way. Maybe, instead, just five minutes of breathing mindfully at your desk during the most stressful part of the day.
That’s not to say classes aren’t important. They are. It’s not to say setting aside large chunks of time to tackle challenging breath and body work isn’t meaningful. It is. The point is, the more often you are practicing – regardless of the circumstances – the more time you’re spending discovering your true nature, and the better you’re getting at being yourself.
That’s not something I want exactly twice a week for 75 minutes. I want it all the time, as often as possible.