You’ll often hear me saying to students as they leave, “Thanks for coming, it was good to see you - I’ll see you tomorrow.” Many times their response is filled with chagrin: “I have to (fill in the blank) tomorrow. But, I’ll be back on (choose a day in the near future.)”
You’re not a bad yogi if you can’t make it to class because work or family life get in the way. Practice should not be a duty, but should be done because you love it. It took me many years to work up to a 6 day a week practice. And, even after 18 years of doing Ashtanga, I continually have to make choices, and sacrifice the superficial, so that I can do the practice that I love - even if it’s just for 15 minutes of Suryanamaskar, 15 minutes of sitting meditation and rest.
Working full or part time, raising children, maintaining a strong, happy partnership, taking care of aging parents, going to school, taking care of pets, maintaining a clean and organized home inside and out, etc., etc. There’s a lot on our plates, and most of us don’t have a staff of nannies, gardeners and housecleaners at our disposal to give us the leisure time needed to practice. As modern householders, in a society that looks at yoga as a luxury, we all have huge demands on our time - so much so, that the idea of going to a yoga studio to practice for 60-90 minutes, six days a week can seem preposterous, selfish and frivolous.
So, I get it, six days a week is a hard recommendation to accept, and that’s why at AYN we ask that you practice a minimum of three days a week to join the Mysore program.
“Three days!?!” you might scoff, “I don’t even have one morning or evening to myself, let alone three!”
There’s some practical reasons we ask for this minimum of three days a week.
First, you will get less benefit and will not be able to learn the series if you arrive just once a week. We are creatures that learn best by repeating, and once a week just doesn’t hack it, frankly. Repetition a minimum of every other day - ideally, every day - makes learning and memorizing easier.
Second, your body will more quickly adapt to the rigors of the practice if you come to class more consistently. You will see your strength, stamina and flexibility increase at a far greater rate with three days of practice a week. With just once a week, you’re actually setting yourself up for an uphill battle, facing the same pain, tightness and depletion every seven days, vs. working towards a sustainable and sensible practice of doing fewer postures, more often.
Third, if you remember what you did in your practice yesterday, and do not need to be reeducated on it, you’ll become better at memorizing more and more chunks of practice going forward. PLUS, it makes it easier for the teacher to be available to all the students in the Mysore room if you come consistently - and remember consistently. I admit it, I find it frustrating when someone shows up just once a week and needs to be shown - again - what I taught them when I last saw them a week ago. Frustrated not for myself, because I love to teach and have learned patience, but frustrated for the students who come consistently and regularly and with dedication each day, but who will get short shrift because someone who is only dabbling in the practice shows up and needs most of my attention as a beginner. We are a community, and to support the community and our fellow students, serious Mysore practitioners should take responsibility to learn through regular and consistent practice.
So, that’s why starting with three days is our minimum requirement, and I feel it’s a reasonable one. Once three days is established, consider adding another day every six months or so, working over a few years to the six day a week practice.
While you may agree with the requirement and understand it, you may still feel you can’t practice three mornings a week, even though you love the practice. If that’s the case, just drop in to our Led Classes, and please do not feel guilty that you can't do more right now, because even once a week is a great start. Your life will open up some day, just as mine did, so that you can dedicate more time to it. Remember, practice should not be a duty, but should be done because you love it.
One thing you can do to help develop a more consistency is to begin to consider your practice as a spiritual or mindfulness practice vs. a fitness program. It becomes much easier to facilitate consistency and regularity when you begin to notice the deep inner connection to yourself that happens when you do your yoga practice. Sincere spiritual practice isn’t a leisure activity, something that can be done just one day each week while we avoid looking inwards the other six days. It’s a commitment to do what you can, every day, to become a more conscious, awake and loving human being.
(Next week, I'll offer some practical advice on how to sacrifice the superficial in your life so that you can find more time to do the practice you love.)