Meditation, breathing practices, relaxation exercises, postures, reading spiritual texts—these are a few yogic techniques that can enrich our lives as well as our practice. But if you are like most of us, you are already trying to squeeze too many activities into your day. So how do you find a way to cram yogic techniques in too?
You don’t. If you try, yoga will become just another source of stress, and you’ll turn your back on it. The trick is to make space for a few practices at a time, and when you do, you will find that the practices themselves will create the time and space you need for them.
Take hatha yoga, for example. A regular, mindful practice of the postures and the breathing practices reduces the need for sleep. So do many of the other changes in lifestyle that come about gradually as our commitment to yoga grows. As whole, fresh foods replace processed foods and our diet becomes light and nourishing, as we cultivate the habit of breathing deeply and diaphragmatically, as we become skilled at reducing the stress in our lives, we find ourselves waking up earlier in the morning and—wonder of wonders—waking up feeling refreshed instead of exhausted.
Early mornings were made for spiritual practice. The phone is silent, the kids aren’t tugging at you, nobody is going to knock on the door, and best of all, your mind is quiet and your nervous system calm. Concentration and meditation come more easily at this hour. So does contemplation. And this is the perfect time to experiment with longer relaxation exercises and maybe even try some of the more time-consuming breathing practices.
So don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to squeeze a bunch of new practices into your life. Start slowly and you will find that as you make time for yoga, yoga will make time for you.
Deborah Willoughby is the founding editor of Yoga+ Joyful Living and president emeritus of the Himalayan Institute