Last week I completed a one week Ayurvedic kitchari cleanse. Which means for one week I survived on a mono diet of kitchari- a simple dish of rice, mung dal, and spices to aid digestion. To make it more exciting, you can add a couple seasonal veggies or top it with some homemade chutney (although I got a little bit more creative with some of the toppings!). It’s not terribly exciting, but it does leave you satiated and helps reduce cravings. During the week, it’s also helpful to slow down, cut back on technology, and maintain a daily routine.
The day after the cleanse finished, my mom gifted me with a Costco pumpkin pie. Now, I must confess, I have a deep love of all things Fall, including pumpkin pie. Our house is currently decorated with an obscene number of cute little scarecrows, harvest themed dishtowels, and yes, pumpkins. Saying no to the pumpkin pie was challenging and I’m not going to lie, there is no more pie left (I didn’t eat the whole thing by myself!).
I mentioned that morning to my spouse, Michael, that I find an “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” attitude most helpful in maintaining discipline, especially when discipline can be challenging. In other words, if you are struggling to maintain a particular diet, having a gigantic pumpkin pie in the fridge is really going to push your boundaries. If you want to cultivate a certain quality of life, it’s important not to surround yourself with the things that create challenges, at least in the early stages of development. Instead, try surrounding yourself with the things you DO want to encourage, like healthy options in the fridge!
Recently, I’ve spoken to classes about Yoga being a discipline. This may be hard to understand, especially in the beginning when it feels really novel and exciting. There is oftentimes a bit of a “honeymoon” phase with the practice when learning feels quick and you see a lot of changes taking place. It’s easy to create an attitude of expectation that Yoga is all sunshine and rainbows. However, if you stick with the practice long enough, it is bound to be a bit confrontational. When the rubber really hits the road, that’s when you start to understand the discipline aspect of Yoga.
When things become difficult on your yoga mat or maybe you just hit a plateau, when the excitement begins to shift, you really have two choices; you can quit or you can stick with it. Now, of course it may not be a dramatic break-up with the practice. Although, sometimes that does happen, especially when we’ve injured ourselves or life circumstances have changed. However, ‘quitting or sticking’ with it is really a daily choice. We have a choice either to show up or to choose something else. That choice is really determined by our habits.
In Yoga, we call these habits “samskaras”. I like to think of samskaras as little grooves. If you’ve ever been to the top of a mountain, like Mt. Diablo, you can see these little grooves in the dirt where the rain water runs downhill. Every time it rains, the water takes the path of least resistance and travels down those very same grooves. Our habits essentially move down these very same grooves through our life. We are essentially the sum total of our life’s habits.
This essentially means that our Yoga practice and our lifestyle must support one another. If you really wish to take Yoga seriously and stay consistent, your life must be supportive of your practice. This is all under the assumption that you see the value of making Yoga an integral part of your life. This is much like our diet analogy. If you really want to take your diet seriously, then you would best make your life supportive of your diet.
Some things you can do to make your life supportive of your practice; for starters, carve out some space weekly for consistent practice. If you have a home practice, carve it out into your day and week beforehand. Same thing with attending a public class, make a plan to attend the same way you would plan anything else. You probably wouldn’t flake out on an appointment with your dentist or with a friend, right? Think of your yoga practice as an appointment with yourself. You are certainly as value if not more than any of the other appointments in your life.
Make sure that you get plenty of rest. The best way to rest easy at night is to be more prepared for the next day. Our day really begins the night before. Take some time to consciously organize your next day the night before. This way when you go to sleep, you feel prepared to take on whatever comes the next day. This will also prevent you from making excuses when it comes time to show up on your mat.
Be consistent with your eating habits. Ayurveda suggests that we eat three meals per day and that we make our lunch the biggest meal of the day. It’s often suggested that when you practice Yoga, you want to be as empty as possible. Generally, you wait 2-4 hours before you practice after a meal. This is not to say that if you ate recently, it’s an excuse not to practice! However, the more empty you can be before you practice, the more comfortable you will feel on the mat.
Ashtanga teacher, Richard Freeman, says that our yoga mat is the microcosm of the macrocosm of our life. Every time you step on your mat, you bring the sum total of all your life’s experiences with you on the mat. This will greatly impact how effective your yoga practice is. So, if you really want to make your practice effective, make an effort to make a life supportive of your practice. In turn, Yoga will greatly influence your life for the better! Patanjali defines Yoga as the process of stilling all Self-defeating, Self-limiting thoughts. Abiding in our Truest Self not only empowers us to live a life of meaning and happiness, but it allows us to then reflect that back into the world. I really believe that will make the world a better place, one person at a time.
Wes Linch was introduced to Yoga and Eastern philosophy over 8 years ago in a desire to know more about himself. He quickly discovered the benefits of Yoga far exceed open hips. Wes is a Vinyasa Flow instructor, having received over 700 hours of training through Yogaworks and Yoga Sol. He completed a 6 month mentorship with Mynx Inatsugu and continued to assist her for a year. In 2011, Wes received Shaktipat by Shri Anandi Ma and began studying a traditional tantric lineage called Kundalini Maha Yoga.