ritual and yoga

Morning Rituals

Morning Rituals

I had a sad health incident in February which put me out of action for a month but was not life threatening. As a result, blood tests. Lots of them. And this is what they found: I have two separate kinds of gene mutation that make my blood more likely to clot than a normal person's.

It's likely they caused my troubles last month. And while it sucked to be unwell, I now realise it could have been so much worse

I seem to have been inadvertently protecting myself from ill effects by living a healthy life. So I thought I'd share my morning ritual, now that it seems so much more useful than it did before! 

Rice pudding for breakfast at a yoga retreat? Yes, thanks.

Confession: we don't do 'detox' style yoga retreats. Mostly because we believe in enjoying one's holiday, and it's hard to do that when you are hungry. 

Also because:

So it will come as no real surprise to you that our yoga retreats are somewhat about the food. Ok, a lot about the food. Sunday mornings on retreat in Ubud are my favourite: black rice pudding for breakfast! Yes, dessert for breakfast!

What, I've earned it, I did yoga before-hand.

I've even found a way to recreate the yum at home in Melbourne. This wonderful gal has a recipe for the good stuff on her blog:

Yum. I wonder if Karen or Suzy will smuggle some back for me from this year's retreat?


PS: 5 Ways Eat Pray Love Lies about Yoga in Bali. 

Building a yoga habit

Morning yoga has become a ritual for me. 

I roll out of bed and do a few yoga poses on my bedroom floor in my pjs. I do this every day, sometimes just for ten minutes. It doesn't always feel good, but it tunes me in to how I feel, and I am usually calmer afterwards. 

This habit has a significant impact on the rhythm* of my day, my productivity in my work, and how stressed I do or do not feel. 

Rituals and habits are closely related. 

I think of rituals as habits that give us a little space to find meaning, or to remind ourselves of it.  

The dictionary definition of ritual is “any practice or pattern of behaviour regularly performed in a set manner”, and there’s plenty written on how rituals can give meaning to events (even a study that showed that performing a short ritual before eating food increased the enjoyment of eating it!), and how the things we do repeatedly are who we become. 

(These two, on the relationship between personality and habit, and on how long it takes to form a new habit, are particularly interesting.)

What does this have to do with yoga? Well, yoga is a tool both for noticing our habits (in posture, movement, thoughts, emotions) and for changing our them so we spending more time with the ones that help us.

And, of course, yoga itself can be a habit or ritual. 

Do you want to build a yoga habit?

I’ve written here before about how a home yoga practice can be an antidote to Busy. It’s also a way of noticing things about ourselves and how we are in the world, and, potentially, to begin to build more helpful habits in other parts of life.

But how to start?

I’m going to give just one piece of advice.  

Start small. 

A small change is easier to do regularly, and to form a habit we need regularity. (There's a great post here on the Zen Habits blog about forming habits.)

So perhaps start just by standing for a minute (yes, just a minute) each morning or evening in tadasana with your feet at hip width apart, spine tall, face muscles softening.

Or, you might like to try just a minute each day of any of these simple postures:

Build a yoga habit

Pick a time of day, and do it each day at (or roughly at) that time. Be flexible though. If the time doesn't work, change it until you find a time that does. Then stick to it. And that one little change may lead to bigger ones. After all, from little things big things grow.

*A note: I prefer the word ‘rhythm’ to ‘routine’ because it’s a little more flexible and a little less mechanical (and hey, life isn’t always predictable).