This is one of the golden Ashtanga rules that usually scare away people who are relatively new to the practice. As rigid and strict as it may sound at first, daily practice is a game changer when it comes to building a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some of the reasons:
- Daily Ashtanga practice offers several health benefits; stronger immune system, better digestion, faster metabolism, better sleep, greater capacity to focus and stay calm in difficult situations are among the most important. With a daily practice these benefits will not take long to manifest; it is a matter of a few months or even weeks depending of course on the individual and his/hers lifestyle.
- What you do every day defines who you are. This is where the transformational power of the practice lies. It can not only change your body and improve your health, it can also change aspects of who you are. If it is inertia and laziness you are struggling with, the daily practice will make you more energetic. If you are someone with low self confidence, seeing the change after only a few weeks or months will make you believe in yourself and your capacities. If you are an overachiever the practice will humble you and show you the beauty of not always having an end goal to achieve. For these big changes to happen, you need to put the effort every day.
- The less often you do it, the easier it is to lose momentum and the harder to build discipline. No matter how much you enjoy something, if you do not do it often enough both your body and your mind forget and the effort you will have to put to motivate yourself next time will be significant. This is how lack of motivation sneaks in and kills all the previous efforts.
- The more often you do it, the less dependent you are on feeling motivated. At some point a shift happens and you just don’t question the practice anymore which makes things a lot easier. The practice itself becomes your motivation. The familiar warm feeling of bliss and joy keeps you going. In what initially looks like a rigid set of rules you will eventually find freedom from any need for external motivation.
- Your daily practice will help you navigate life’s difficulties. There were times in my life when my yoga practice was the only thing that kept me going, the only thing that would put a smile on my face. When things get tough it brings relief to know that you can spend these sacred moments with yourself every day, no matter what is going on in your life. It is interesting how things shift. Instead of you needing motivation to do your practice, it can be that your practice helps you find motivation and courage to face whatever it is that scares you or brings you down. It will also show you that struggles do not last forever and help you come to terms with the impermanence in life.
Now here are some practical tips on how to build and sustain a daily practice:
- Start with a short practice that realistically fits your schedule. It is better to do a shorter practice every day than a longer one once or twice a week.
- Try to practice at the same time every day, preferably in the morning when your mind is still calm. It sets the tone for the day and you can feel the benefits of the practice the rest of the day. Body thrives on routine. Practicing at the same time every day will also help you build a sleep and eating routine that is beneficial for you.
- Start a practice journal where you can write your goals, breakthroughs, struggles. Take some time to describe your feeling after practice, the benefits you notice, all the small and big changes in your body and mind. Putting these things into words will help you realize many things that can otherwise go unnoticed.
- Congratulate yourself. This is important. You are doing something valuable, taking time for yourself and your physical and mental health and this is something to celebrate. Be proud of yourself, not only for your achievements but also for the simple fact of showing up every single day.