Yoga teacher, life coach and entrepreneur Tracy Johnson shares some hacks for finding your way back to the mat when life gets in the way.
During my training to become a yoga teacher, I remember my tutors telling me how difficult it would be to sustain my own practice once I got busy with running my own classes. I dismissed the idea at the time — if I loved yoga enough to want to teach it, why wouldn’t I make time to practise?
Now a year later, I’m finding myself scouring my diary for a free spot to get a session in, with coaching, nutrition and yoga bookings filling up my days. I’m so grateful to be busy with work after becoming self-employed. However, it has suddenly become a real challenge to prioritise my self-care, not to mention meditate and practise on a daily basis. As I’m sure many of us feel, after a long, tiring day all I want to do is sit, eat and relax. My lovely, rolled up mat sits accusingly in the corner of my bedroom, daring me to pick it up and put down Netflix.
Perhaps you’ve been having your own love affair with yoga, but lately things have gone off the boil. Whether busy with work, family, kids– it all starts taking its toll, even when we know that yoga is what we need in order to feel better. So what can you do when time and motivation to move suddenly become an issue on its own? Take these tips into mind for getting back to your mat.
1. Keep it short and sweet
If you can’t manage a full 90-minute practice, don’t fret. Even taking 10-20 minutes can allow you to get the full effect of a session or allow you to focus on particular muscle groups that may need a stretch. Bringing your attention to your mat and steadying your breath, even for a relatively short period of time, will let you reap benefits throughout the day.
When strapped for time, I find even 10 minutes of seated meditation can set a more relaxed and less frenetic tone for the day. I can notice that I react more positively to challenges that present themselves later on. I also usually sleep more deeply if I can manage to get in a short meditation before bed.
2. Find a regular time
Set a time each day which you can dedicate to your practice. Plug it into your calendar. You can also easily start creating new, positive habits and associations, such as rolling out your mat as soon as you get home from work to help you relax, rather than opening that bottle of red. Or perhaps getting up before the kids to give yourself a precious half-hour before the chaos begins. You wouldn’t leave the house without cleaning your teeth and getting dressed, would you? In the same mindset, we can start to adapt yoga into our daily routines.
An online platform such as Movement for Modern Life is designed to offer you plenty of options for home practice, even if your chosen time is 3am in your pyjamas! You can also commit to attending a regular class in your home town by buying a block of classes or term membership. Make sure that the studio is on your way home so you can’t make excuses.
3. Take your yoga off the matYoga isn’t just about asana, or poses. Take your yoga values such non-attachment, gratitude and non-harming off the mat and into your day. This is a valuable way to develop your practise in a much broader sense. The physical aspects of yoga are there to help you learn patience, acceptance and endurance, so bear this is mind. Take a mental step back when a co-worker annoys you, your spouse hasn’t taken out the rubbish or you miss the bus home on a wet and cold evening. Take a moment to think before you speak and say the wrong thing. Remember that yoga has also taught you how to breathe and calm your nervous system. Yoga offers a whole toolkit for managing the rigours of modern life. If you need inspiration, try reading Donna Farhi’s Bringing Yoga to Life or Iyengar’s Tree of Yoga.
4. Inspire yourselfThere may be a lot of negativity online, but it’s also possible to use social media in a positive light, for example by following your favourite yogis to gain inspiration. How about joining one of the many yoga challenges on Instagram or Twitter that you come across? I tried one where I committed to yoga every day for an entire month. It kept me on my mat as I had to Tweet my progress and be held accountable. While yoga and consumer culture don’t necessarily go hand in hand, sometimes a new mat, piece of clothing or something beautiful to add to your meditation area can be just what you need to give you a little incentive. Above all, though, listen to your body and don’t push – that’s “ahimsa“, too, by harming yourself. Some days, your practice just isn’t meant to be. Other days, you will benefit enormously from a little positive self-talk and encouragement to get on the mat. Don’t attach too much to your practice but do stay in the moment and enjoy every second when you do find your flow.
This post was written by Tracy Johnson, the founder of Brainbox Coaching, Empower Yoga Bristol and Stretch+Knead. She trained under Sally Parkes and is a 200 hour RYT with Yoga Alliance. Tracy blends her yoga teaching with confidence coaching and stress management to create a holistic practice, and runs her classes with warmth and humour. She is the author of a careers guide, Working in Science, co-author of The Coaching Gurus, and writes for publications such as OM Yoga Magazine, Globe of Love, Happiness+Wellbeing, MindBodyGreen and has been featured in the Guardian, Body Fit magazine, the Bristol Post and Cardiff Life. She is also a career and confidence coach, self-defence instructor and an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and is currently writing a book combining yoga with her coaching techniques for stress management. Follow Tracy on Twitter.