My Yoga Journey: Struggling

A few weeks ago I set myself the challenge of practicing at least 10 minutes of yoga every day for the next six weeks.

I’m ridiculously stiff and sore and struggle with all but the simplest of poses, so although over my five and a half decades on this planet I’ve tried with good intentions on several occasions over the years to build a daily habit of regular yoga practice, my short-term lack of progress (coupled with my general impatience) means I always seem to lose my long-term motivation and give up before ever really getting anywhere.

So this time I thought I’d force myself to deal with my futile flakiness by writing about it in real time – not just recording my journey retrospectively if I’m successful, and furtively avoiding the subject completely if it all fades into obscurity. Instead I’m facing my florid fears of failure and am determined to record the good, the bad and the ugly as I go along, no matter what.

It all sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Ten minutes of yoga stretches a day is such a simple goal to set myself, and yet… I find I’m struggling with it. For the first couple of weeks all went well, and on some days I even comfortably managed 15 or 20 minutes at a time rather than the minimum 10 minutes I was initially aiming for, and I was feeling quite good about it.

But then I caught a bad cold and felt truly miserable for the duration, coughing and spluttering and aching feverishly all over, so I missed out a couple of days. Then when I went back to it, I found that as well as experiencing an expected stiffness again, my mind-set had completely changed and I was truly dis-heartened to feel I had already failed in my quest.

Since then, I realise my approach to my daily yoga practice has been decidedly half-hearted and I’ve really only been going throught the motions, not really participating properly in my own plan and even skipping the odd day here and there, as if externally I’m physically there on my yoga mat but internally I’ve emotionally withdrawn.

I feel like I’m no longer actively and positively pushing myself on through my resistance but am allowing a passive negativity to creep in, critical as ever, leaving me languishing in lethargy. That devastatingly destructive, ‘not-good-enough’ voice of old has been goading me into feeling guilty, reminding me how useless I am, how I never achieve anything worthwhile, and oh, how I’m seriously struggling to shut it up…

The thing is, I realise that critical voice is not just to do with yoga, it’s to do with life in general. So I can choose to listen to it and let it limit me, or I can choose to correct it by continuing to challenge myself and just keep on keeping on, regardless.

Life doesn’t always have to be based on huge dramatic all-or-nothing judgements, success can sometimes be measured on a stop-start continuum of small incremental gains and losses, and sometimes that means taking two steps forward and one step back.

What matters most to me right now, I think, is maintaining my forward momentum overall, always looking to be moving onwards and upwards within my troubled soul and nor looking back at what has gone before… 🙂

My Yoga Journey: Persistence

For the last nine days in a row I’ve actually succeeded in practising a little bit of yoga every day – woo-hoo!

I’d decided that ten minutes of yoga a day would be my minimum goal to begin with. Trying to do too much, too soon and ultimately giving up rather than risk feeling like a failure is one of my bad habits in life, so I wanted initially to set the bar at a realistic level for me at the moment and will raise it incrementally as my slow but steady improvement warrants it.

Ten minutes a day might not sound much but even so I do feel the stretch on stiff joints and flabby muscles and my persistence is starting to pay off already. The difference in how far I can bend and reach and hold every day is noticeable enough to keep me keeping on, so much so that on some days I’ve done fifteen minutes, and yesterday it was a full twenty minutes of practice.

My plan is just to carry on as I am in building the habit of daily yoga practice into my everyday life, based on the premise that doing something, anything, for however short a time on a regular basis is always far better than doing nothing at all. And hopefully soon enough my motivation to continue will come solidly from enjoying past results already achieved rather than relying on will-power and shaky future expectation… 🙂

My Yoga Journey: Progressing with Practice

So I have about six weeks to go until my 55th birthday, and have set myself the simple goal of practicing a little bit of (very basic) yoga every day until then to see how I get on. I don’t want it to be any more complicated than that – and I’m not setting myself a deadline as such, just an initial psychological marker to work towards to help gauge how I’m feeling about it, because the six week mark is usually around the time I would normally give up… So far, so good, but it’s very early days yet 🙂

My Yoga Journey: Perspective and Priorities

I’ve read so many times that ‘yoga is a journey not a destination’, but I must admit I’ve never truly got it before, not in my deepest core of being. It’s almost the reverse of everything I learned in my younger years – the primary goal is not necessarily to achieve the perfect pose at all costs, but simply to keep trying to improve on where you are, little by little, wherever that is on any arbitrary scale.

It appears to me now that the active movement in real time is almost the end in itself, while the static measurement of the result of that movement (however satisfying that temporary little victory of the final pose may be – not that I have yet experienced that thrill), only the by-product of the practice. Overall it’s the ongoing effort that counts; the keeping on keeping on is what matters most regardless. Yet I can see that’s the point at which historically I give up…

I can see how in the past I’ve always set my intended yoga goals as reaching the perfect pose, and have measured my success (or in my case, mostly failure) against achieving (or not) that specific defined goal. I thought I had to achieve this pose or that pose in its entirety, reach over this far or bend backwards that way, all or nothing, win or lose. So I’m beginning to understand how completely I need to re-calibrate my priorities – accept that a successful yoga practice is one where you just do yoga, whether you do it well or badly, and the only real failure comes from not doing it at all… 🙂

My Yoga Journey: Patience and Productivity

In general I don’t consider myself to be the most patient of people – I try stuff, and if I can’t do it well enough for my liking or see any productive progress within a relatively short space of time I tend to give up. I suppose looking back I grew up in a world where it was always solid results that were rewarded, not ineffectual effort. Life felt measured by a binary opposition of pass or fail – effort that led to results was considered a profitable means to an end; effort that led nowhere was considered a waste of time.

I’ve kind of internalised that productive vs unproductive equation somewhere down the line and sometimes it simply gets in the way of life. I mean, that’s exactly how I feel about yoga (amongst other things) – I try, I don’t see any immediate results, so I all too quickly lose heart and feel like I’m just wasting my time. But I’m beginning to appreciate that this one-size-fits-all approach to all difficult challenges in life is decidedly counter-productive, so I definitely need to start to change the way I think about effort before I can try to find the satisfaction I’m looking for…

My Yoga Journey: Psychology and the Perfect Pose

I’ve dabbled around the edges of yoga on and off (although way more off than on) with no lasting success for the last forty years – since my mid-teens. Being an introvert, group classes are not for me so I’ve tried to teach myself (with the help of whatever current medium comes to hand) as much as I can.

I still have a couple of illustrated how-to books from the late 70s and early 80s where the step-by-step photographs demonstrating the breakdown of do-or-die correct positioning show everyone as skinny and lithe and proudly holding the perfect pose like a bunch of double-jointed circus acrobats. I would always try my best to copy them, inevitably fail dismally and after a while would give up, disappointed, disheartened, and dissatisfied.

I also have a much later book describing yoga practice for women as a changing constant throughout our whole lifespan with a much softer, more inclusive approach, showing real-life practitioners in the full poses but also providing far simpler alternatives for those who may be struggling to reach what always seemed to me to be the desired end goal. I certainly did a bit better with that book, but still my initial enthusiasm waned all too quickly, and my interest disintegrated once more.

And now of course there’s You Tube with a never-ending supply of yoga videos to actively explain the putting together of poses and accommodating every kind of nuanced preference for practice. Again more recently I have tried several times to really get into it, dipping in and out of different teaching formats and more relaxed attitudes to instruction but always it feels like something important eludes me, and I’ve never been able to work out what it is that consistently holds me back.

Somewhere deep down inside I know I must want to do yoga, because this start-stop half-hearted pattern of paddling on the periphery has continued on and off throughout my life. And here I am today, a few weeks short of my 55th birthday, feeling fat, flabby and unfit – and thoroughly fed up with myself. I feel like it may be time to try yoga again, but this time look at the psychological factors lurking behind my inability to achieve what is obviously a long-held life goal… 🙂