There was a time when practice for me meant getting up at 4.30am to run through 2+ hours of postures before beginning my day.
There was a time when I would sit for 40 minutes of meditation every day - sometimes twice a day.
But as the conditions of life shift and evolve, so does the 'shape' of our practice.
Right now - and particularly of late - the circumstances of life do not allow me the luxury or space to commit to this sustained level of ‘formal’ practice.
There will be a time I'm sure when this space will open up again, but in the meantime it's left me pondering - what does ‘yoga practice’ mean for me?
Certainly I like to move as often as I can - though my movement practice is a lot more explorative and unstructured than the formal systems I used to adhere to…and sadly less regular too.
It’s also a lot more opportunistic - taking advantage of breaks and gaps in my schedule whenever I’m able to...though it’s rare that I’m able to practice for more than an hour.
I do of course meditate and explore breath work when I can - though again these practices have to fit around the cadence of work and family life, rather than being the structure around which everything else is organised, as was once the case.
In the Bhagavd Gita Krishna outlines three forms of yoga to Arjuna: jnana (the yoga of knowledge or wisdom i.e. study of scripture), bhakti (the yoga of devotion), and karma (the yoga of action).
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali lists svadhyaya (self study) as one of five internal observances (niyamas).
And seva is the Sanskrit word for the art of selfless service that is believed to contribute to our spiritual growth.
I think a combination of karma, svadhyaya and seva is probably where the heart of my practice lies right now.
Life has thrown a lot at my family of late and so a big focus for me has been the integration of yoga practice into everyday life. Taking care of my family, showing up for my students and trying to maintain a sense of equilibrium so that I can be a decent human in my daily interactions with other people.
Because ultimately, yoga is whatever allows us to find a sense of flow and connection - to ourselves and to others…recognising that we are part of something bigger.
For some of us it’s making shapes with our bodies and sitting for meditation, for some of us it’s climbing, gardening or playing music and for some of us it’s caring for others and engaging in meaningful work.
Because the essence of yoga can be found not in what we do but the way in which we approach what we’re doing.
It can be found in the way we respond to what life throws at us - knowing that we won’t always get it right, but using those occasions to learn about ourselves and our patterns of reactivity…and perhaps finding more skilful ways to respond in future.
So whilst it can be tempting to give ourselves a hard time when we’re not able to take as much formal practice as we’d like, it can be helpful to remember that yoga is so much more than the relatively limited time that we’re able to spend engaged in postures, meditation and breath work.
The real work of the practice is how we then integrate that back into our everyday lives and how our practice can help us to meet the many challenges that life will surely present.