Experiments with daily practice 

I started a daily yoga practice in 2006 and have practiced every morning since (with a few medically necessary exceptions).

I started my daily practice when I spent 2 weeks away from my wife and son for the first time since he was born in 2000.  I had moved back to California to start my first law firm job and the family would follow me two weeks later.  Finishing law school at almost 40 years old, with a profoundly disabled son and no saving, the pressure to succeed at my new job felt intense.  And I was worried about my wife and my fragile son thousands of miles away.

I had been doing yoga for a year and had already seen how it could help with stress and anxiety.  Yoga teachers, articles and books had praised the importance of daily practice.  So when faced with this new stress, I decided to start my own daily practice.  Since then my morning practice has become like an anchor for my self: it is the foundation for my mental and physical fitness and allows me to start each day with a little more clarity and focus.  Like all aspects of yoga, just having a morning practice of asana is not enough — but it sure helps with the rest of the day!

And it’s not as hard as it sounds.  Here are some key tips:

  • You don’t have to go to a yoga studio class every day — that’s too expensive, too time consuming and if you are not careful, can be too stressful on the body.
  • Set a minimum time though.  My minimum is 20 minutes of asana and 12 of pranayama.
  • Podcasts and online classes are great!  And there are a lot of 20 minute ones!  Yogadownload.com has a 20-minute podcast with — as of today — 100 different 20-minute yoga classes.  I also use Giamtv.com – but there are tons of them out there.  It helps keep it interesting to find new classes to try.
  • Don’t always practice at home though — working with a teacher is important. I try to go to at least 2 and often up to 4 classes at a yoga studio per week, but when I started 1 in-person class a week was enough.
  • For me, it’s important to get the yoga out of the way before anything else in the morning — at first, because I might not do the yoga if I ran out of time, and now because I am so used to yoga as my first step of the day that I do not function or communicate as well until after my practice.  But other people I talk to prefer a noon practice or one in the afternoon.  You need something that works with your body and your rhythm; but something that you can fit in at the same time every day.
  • One great thing about practicing daily is that you don’t have to push hard on every practice — feel ok about doing a slow restorative class occasionally, or even spending 5 minutes each practicing cobbler’s pose, shoulder stand, bridge pose and shivasana.
  • Come up with your own favorite routines and practice to your favorite music, but don’t let them become so routine that you lose your mindfulness– make sure to always keep your mind on the poses.

108 salutations for the equinox

Today as on every solstice and equinox I celebrated the change of season with a morning practice of 108 sun salutations.

I first learned of this practice at Inland Yoga in Riverside California, where they had a 108 sun salutations class every solstice.  I did it that winter, in 2007, and have done it pretty much every season since.  Google shows many websites discussing the practice and I’ve heard of a fee others doing it too, but I don’t know if there is any special reason for the practice other than as a way to mark the passage of time.  If you have more information on the background please let me know!

I like the practice both as an excellent ritual for remaining mindful of the passing of the year and as a great workout for bothe body and mind. 

It takes me about an hour. It’s important not to rush it both so you pace yourself and so you can remain focused on the movement and maintain proper alignment.  So I set aside an hour and a half just to keep from feeling rushed.  

The first few times I tried this, I lost count a lot.  Apparently that’s one of the reasons Buddhists practice 108 mantras- to make sure that at least 100 are done :). But now I say the number our loud as I bend forward into uttanasana.  That seems to help but I still lose count sometimes.  Not today though!  It was a beautiful, calming and refreshing practice today and I’m grateful to have the time and health for it.  Happy Spring!