What are you putting off that would deepen your yoga practice?
Is it to clean up your diet? To devote ten minutes a day to meditation? To stop bed-texting and devote time to reflecting upon the day’s events? To work on a certain pose on a regular basis?
Rather than putting it off indefinitely, consider committing to a new level of practice for a 40-day period, starting on Lent, which starts tomorrow.
Whether you are Catholic or not, Lent gives yogis a wonderful opportunity to recommit to their spiritual practice, knowing that others around the world are doing the same thing. This collective consciousness is a powerful aid.
For Lent, you can make a commitment to take on a new practice or give up an unhelpful habit for 40 days.
This practice is part of the yogic observance of tapas ,or purifying austerities. Tapas falls into three categories: austerity, worship, and charity. It can include practices to be taken up or habits to be given up.
What you choose to do for Lent should be something that is reasonable given your particular circumstances. It should also be somewhat challenging. Usually, we have an idea floating around the back of our minds. If that is the case, write it down and visualize how it could be put into action.
Remember, it should be appropriate for your particular stage of spiritual practice, and that yoga is, ultimately, about authentically wanting to clean up your act.
Once you figure out what your commitment will be, write it down, sign it, and put it into practice for your own spiritual unfoldment.
It is best to write down the vow that you wish to keep for Lent. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to follow through. Include the steps you will take to accomplish it. Sign it and give it to someone you believe in. (If you skip this last part, you are likely to fail.) Then, keep quiet about it and do the work.
If you do not have any ideas, here are a few places to start:
. Give up a bad habit that is not serving you, such as bed-texting, having a glass of wine before bed, eating junk food, gossiping, or spending time with people who bring out the worst in you.
. Spend five minutes a day reading the Yoga Sutras or other scripture
. Keep a daily spiritual diary, and write down your practices and how well you kept (or didn’t keep) yama , yoga’s ethical foundation. For more ideas, read Swami Radha’s 1996 book, Time To Be Holy.
. Repeat a certain number of rounds of mantra each day, using a mala (a 108-bead rosary used for meditation). “A rosary is a whip to goad the mind towards God,” said Swami Sivananda in his book Japa Yoga.
. Develop a home practice. Resolve to do 20 minutes of asana, 12 rounds of pranayama , asana , and/or 10 minutes meditation each day. Or promise yourself that you’ll go to class a certain number of times each week. Learn more here.
. Give up eating meat. If this seems too drastic, consider going vegetarian once a week (for more info, visit meatfreemondays.com or vrg.org).
. If you are not yet ready to deepen your yoga practice, perhaps there is something in your life that needs to be resolved first. Consider diving into that project you’ve been avoiding, such as putting your finances or house in order, or clearing out a practice space in a bedroom or corner of the living room.
. Consider volunteering once a week or through selfless service or Karma yoga, which should be performed without attachment to results. For example, resist the urge to brag about it or put it on your r é sum é . For ideas, visit chicagocares.org or volunteermatch.org and read Ram Dass’s 1985 book, How Can I Help?
. Take a weekly smartphone fast, or practice silence once a week. Or vow to eat a meal in silence–no TV, no talking, no texting or reading–once a day or once a week.
. Give away one object you no longer use each day or week. Give the items to charity, or post them on freecycle.org.
. If you have a tendency to run behind schedule (i.e., you are always late), vow to arrive five minutes early to each of your appointments.
. Put the Yoga Sutras into practice. Read Yogi Cameron Alborzian’s book The One Plan: A Week-by-Week Guide to Restoring Your Natural Health and Happiness . And do the exercises.