The Yoga of Showing Up

Confession time: I have been busy lately. So busy, in fact, that I thought I was still posting this on a Monday when it is, in fact, Tuesday. Yes, I have officially lost track of time and missed my self-imposed deadline while thinking I was maintaining it.

In light of living in the kind of busyness that throws tracking what day of the week it is out of my brain’s window in favour of tracking where I should be next, you may not be surprised that I haven’t been keeping up with my yoga practice like I should be. Not even “should” – I haven’t been keeping up with my yoga practice like I want to be.

Just like it’s so easy for politicians to cut funding to the arts when the economy gets rough, it’s so easy to let your yoga practice be the first thing that slips when life gets busy. No matter how much we talk about how essential it is to a balanced life, at the end of the day it just seems a little expendable, doesn’t it? When you weigh and measure all the things demanding a piece of your 24 hour day, sometimes preparing for the board meeting, going to work on time, writing that paper, or going to back-to-back-to-back rehearsals take the priority.

While I’m not about to advocate skipping work to do your yoga practice, I am about to advocate for shifting your expectation of what your yoga practice really is so that you can fit it in. You know the saying “50% of life is just showing up”? Well, let’s bring that to our yoga mats – and then, of course, find ways to take it off our yoga mats.

My instructor in yoga teacher training once told us that if we feel like we don’t have time for our daily yoga practice, we should simply do the following: roll out our yoga mat, stand at the end of it in tadasana, and then roll that sucker right back up and put it away. There. We’ve done our yoga for the day.

The truth of the matter is that once you get into tadasana, you’re probably going to feel silly about just putting your mat away and maybe you’ll stretch forward into uttanasana. Then you might step back into a lunge and lift your arm into a twist. Then you’ll need to do the other side to be even, and so it will go until you’ve followed your body through whatever it needs for a yoga practice that day. Suddenly, you’ve found the time for yoga that you didn’t know you had!

The most difficult part, usually, is getting over that initial hump of forcing yourself to show up. Once you get there, you’ll find it’s easy (or easier than you think) to make the space you need for a quick practice. You may wind up finding a whole hour of time, or only 5-10 minutes for some invigorating flow. Even if you don’t find any extra time and you actually just stand in tadasana for 30 seconds, you have officially shown up and taken a moment out of your day that is 100% for you, and that’s what matters the most.

This afternoon on CBC they were discussing just this concept – the topic was willpower and the speaker was talking about how we imagine a lot of activities (especially the “shoulds” like working out or cleaning) to be a lot harder than they actually are. We psych ourselves up for inordinate amounts of time avoiding something and telling ourselves how much work it will be. However, once we actually get there and do it, research has shown again and again that the task usually isn’t really that hard. In fact, it’s often even enjoyable. The hardest part is showing up.