The Magic of Showing Up
Often practice is really hard. Not even what you do, but showing up and doing it in the first place. To make time, to find a quiet space in your home where you won't be distracted, to find the motivation, to find the discipline to choose your practice over the many other priorities we have going on. We know what’s “good for us” but it’s so hard to do it sometimes in earnest.
All my anxiety of the past three months has finally come to peak lately and my own practice has suffered a lot. My business has suffered recently too. At the beginning of quarantine, there were so many expectations like “I’ll have so much time for yoga!” and “I can use this time to really launch my business!” But it hasn’t looked like that at all. Lately, it’s been a struggle to even unroll my mat or open social media.
What has been immensely helpful is advice I got from one of my teachers recently. Shari Friedrichsen is an incredible teacher and I am part of a training with her right now. I reached out and expressed these concerns to her. She said doing just one thing is enough for today. Even if it’s savasana. And tomorrow, do just one thing again. A pose, breath work, a guided relaxation, read about philosophy, whatever. Just one thing. Yoga heals. Soon, she said, I'd have the strength from that one savasana per day to do two things. And then more. It was a beautiful reminder that I really needed to hear and I was so grateful.
Yoga always heals us, all we have to do is show up. Show up broken, exhausted, distracted, sad, in pain, inflexible, confused, whatever. Just show up today any way you can. Stay even 2 minutes. Yoga will do the rest. Just show up, that’s it, and the magic will happen. It'll be small at first, but it will be there. It may not seem like it's working today but it is. You may not feel the effects today after you're done, but they're there. Small but growing. Present and true.
The second important part of the magic of showing up is not judging the results. I would often judge myself if every practice I did at home wasn't a full 60 minutes, didn't include a bunch of twists, pranayama, headstands and all the rest. Then what I realized was that on my most burned out days, that burned me out more. My regular teachers who are also amazing, Julia Kress and Sarah Guglielmi, stress doing yoga within your capacity during every single practice they teach. They shared that even if the only thing in your capacity is rest, do that. You'll get so much more from working with the grain than against it. The only thing we need to assess is what our capacity is on a given day, and be kindest to ourselves when our capacity is lowest. Action without judgment of the results is the idea of non-attachment, which is one of yoga's biggest and most important philosophical lessons.
When you show up, it may be a struggle during the entire time. Recently, I've had days where I sit in meditation and 3 minutes is all I can muster before I'm completely agitated and frustrated. During those whole 3 minutes, my mind races and I can't be still. It's easy to count this as a failure; I definitely did on those days. But it wasn't. Still, those 3 minutes were worthwhile. The thoughts were racing because they needed to be seen and heard before my mind will be able to quiet. I gave them space in that 3 minutes to run their course and to let them pass. After some time, those thoughts will all pass and will all have run their course. Then, I'll be able to again sit with the quieter side of my mind. Those 3 minutes also reminded my spine and my body of the posture and kept the muscle memory alive so next time, I can be more comfortable in my body in the meditation space. Showing up is so important.
I've also had days recently where I get into savasana and within a couple of minutes, I fall asleep. Even though we aren't supposed to fall asleep in savasana, it's like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. You can't achieve enlightenment if you're struggling to make your basic needs met, like your need for sleep and security. What I needed those days was so much more fundamental than a systematic relaxation in savasana. It was sleep. And looking back, I'm glad I let myself have that time. It was so ripe for judgment, but thankfully I have amazing teachers who shared this insight with me, and it's made all the difference in my practice. My practice that day was to sleep, so the next day, I'd be more rested to do one more thing.
It's the hardest step to show up some days, especially when our mental health is suffering. Especially when our world is the most upside down. But the magic occurs not based on what you do, but just by the act of giving yourself and some time to yoga's healing. I work with college students as my day job and I love teaching yoga there too. I always tell students that on the days when you're too busy for yoga - that's when you need yoga the most. Even if it's 10 minutes or 3 minutes. Whatever time you can find just being available for your practice will be well spent. It will give you the strength to do even a bit more next time.
Most of us who are yogis or healers or energy-sensitive are really good at caring for others, but we often struggle to take that same good care of ourselves. I wouldn’t think twice telling a student who’s going through something similar to take a nap instead of a heavy vinyasa class or use kindness to themselves and just spend some time in savasana. But when it comes to myself, I needed to hear it from my teacher to accept it. I needed permission to take care of myself, and I had to go to the very top of my yoga connections to find that. So I'm asking you to do the same. Be kind to yourself, but show up any way you can. Work within your capacity when you get there. It's the fastest way to getting what you want and need. Pushing and creating more tension only sets you back in yoga. The path forward is compassion.