I’m just going to say it: I am fed up with the “yoga every damn day” mantra. Along with the insta’d images of one armed handstands and beachfront backbends, I feel like this is just another way to yoga shame.
I’m willing to admit this may be projection on my part. But, for every day I don’t get on my mat — and let me tell you, between the holidays, a new puppy, and a blizzard, there have been MANY of those lately — I can’t help but feel this hashtag is directed squarely at me. What I read into it is “If you were a real yogi, you wouldn’t let anything stand in your way of a daily practice.” I hear that familiar chant of “bad yogi, bad yogi, bad yogi” in my head.
Am I alone in this? Am I the only one who occasionally allows life — and, if I’m honest, plain old Kapha laziness — to get in the way of stepping on my mat? Somehow, I don’t think so.
Here’s my opinion (and this is why I started a blog in the first place – to broadcast my opinion as much and as loudly as I want to): I don’t think you need to be on your mat every day to experience profound benefits from yoga.
Now, Patanjali would disagree, I’m sure. There are many who believe that rigid routines and discipline are fundamental tenets of the practice. And I get that, I really do. But that will never be me. So does that mean I am a yogic failure?
I’ve been practicing yoga for the better part of 20 years. Never, in all that time, have I been an everyday practitioner. If I get on my mat three or four times a week, I am stoked. If you’ve read this blog before, you already know about my ongoing struggle with meditation. But meditate I do, several days of the week. But certainly not every day. Some weeks it’s not even most days. And pranayama? Oh boy – don’t even get me started on what an occasional breather I am.
Modern life sometimes requires that we focus on things other than our practice. There are times that I prioritize practice over almost everything, including spending time with people I love. But will doing more sun salutations and inversions get me closer to enlightenment than experiencing connection with other human (or canine) beings? If making a living and keeping a roof over my head means I have less time and energy to get to the studio or even roll out my mat at home, should I feel like a failure?
If you’re a householder — as opposed to an ascetic hanging out in a cave on a mountain top — and life never interferes with practicing the eight limbs on a daily basis, I want to know your time management tricks.
Some days (many days) I make watching Bravo Television (or, as I refer to it, the ninth limb) a higher priority than practice. But you know what? Practicing a few times a week for the last two decades — sometimes, oh the shame, even missing an entire week or two — has still had a remarkable impact on me. It’s helped me to cultivate a far greater reserve of compassion and patience. It’s opened my mind and broadened my horizons. It’s introduced me to a community of incredible people. Pretty powerful despite not doing it #everydamnday. Maybe I’d be a lot closer to enlightenment at this point if I did practice daily, but, in this lifetime anyway, I’m doing what’s reasonable for me.
In my teacher training, we were told about the importance of “meeting people where they are;” I think that’s an invaluable piece of advice. For some people, the discipline of practicing #everydamnday is necessary. For others, it’s stifling. I don’t think there’s one approach that will work for everyone. That’s the beauty of yoga to me – there is a way it can work for anyone. I don’t see emphatically proclaiming everyone should do yoga every day as meeting them where they are. Just because it works for you, doesn’t mean it works for me.
So, I don’t do #YogaEveryDamnDay. But it is so much a part of my DNA at this point, that I would like to think I am living my yoga every day. Its impact is lasting, so even on the days my feet don’t touch the mat, I’m still better for the practice. If on some days your yoga is watching inane cable television next to an adorable puppy on the couch, that’s OK. Whatever shape your practice takes, I certainly won’t judge you. And, in my opinion, nobody else should either.