yoga ritual

How to tell when enough is enough


I do yoga every day.

When I tell people this, they often look at me in wonder, and I’m pretty sure they’re imagining that I spend an hour a day standing on my head, or doing 108 sun salutations every morning.

Nope. Some days I do five minutes. Nothing more. I only stand on my head rarely and I probably only salute the sun once a week.

This is enough. This still counts as doing yoga every day.

Once I finally got it into my head that one minute of yoga as often as I'm able is better than, say, three hours of yoga once a week -- that is, regularity is more important than the length of any given yoga session -- doing yoga every day became easy.

Image via the fabulous  Breanna Rose

Image via the fabulous Breanna Rose

So how much is enough? How often is enough? How dynamic a practice is enough? Is simply lying on the floor really yoga?

Here’s the thing: whatever you’re doing, it’s probably enough. Truly.

Yes, there's always more you could be doing, but just because there’s more, doesn’t mean you’re not doing enough. (This is also true of life more generally.)

Here are some specific signs that you might be approaching (or have gone beyond!) 'enough':

  • It’s difficult to breath relatively calmly

  • You feel exhausted (either during or after the practice)

  • You feel more than a little anxious (either during or after the practice)

  • You find yourself wanting to avoid altogether starting your yoga practice or going to class

This applies to individual yoga poses too. Yes, not every yoga pose will always feel like the most blissful place to be, but you want to feel like you can cope with where you are.

Because when we're coping with where we are in a yoga practice, we can build up the strength and flexibility to move on—either to something more, or just something different. If we're not coping, building anything is awfully difficult.

This is true of other parts of life too, of course, and those signs that you might have gone a little beyond 'enough' are pretty good ones to watch out for off the yoga mat too.

The other thing to remember is that 'enough' changes, on and off the yoga mat. It depends on what's going on in your life—and what's enough for you might not look the same as anyone else in the yoga class or in your life. And that's okay.

So take a mental load off (and a physical one too, if you like): you're probably doing enough.

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).