Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

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I could feel it building up over the course of the last few weeks, packed as they have been from the time I woke up, dressed, fed myself and the kids, then ran around like a crazy person trying to find matching gloves. The morning routine culminates in me shoving the kids out the front door and then saying 'let's go' 50 times as we walk the five blocks to school and try to make it before the bell rings. It's safe to say, we were in a rut. I was crabby, felt uninspired and short on time, and more than once I wondered if this was all life was about - a series of routines that fill up each day.

You may now be crying out, 'No, no! life can be so much more!' But I maintain that life is, in many ways, a series of routines. The key is figuring out how to move your routines beyond ruts.

And, as my son has been known to say, we just do the same things every day. Routines are important because they allow us to fall into rhythms, to be able to navigate the world more efficiently. Just think if you woke up every morning and spent 20 minutes contemplating how to spend your time before leaving for work or school. Routines ensure that certain important parts of our lives (eating, sleeping, brushing teeth, exercise) will not be forgotten in the midst of the busyness.

But there are routines and then there are ROUTINES.

Last night I was listening to Glenn Gould's exquisite take on Bach's Goldberg Variations, and it occurred to me that life is much like a theme and its variations. Your daily routines are the theme, the consistent base from which you move forth, but within that context there is almost infinite room for flourishes, for creativity, for variations on the theme. The fact that these variations are all tied to or grounded in the theme makes them all the more meaningful.

Lately, I've become more aware of my own routines on the mat. While it's good to have expectations - I will get to yoga class a couple of times this week, I will do a few poses at home or at work - it's less helpful when these routines manifest in the exact same way every time.

When I pay attention, I can identify the points in my own practice where I go on auto-pilot, almost automatically transitioning through a sequence of poses (Hello, Warrior II - Reverse Warrior - Side Angle - Triangle!). Because my typical sequence has felt good in the past and I don't have to think about it, it feels safe and easy to fall back on it. But lately, instead of just diving back into Reverse Warrior, I've been trying to sequence a different pose in next, challenging myself to break out of my yoga rut, and choose a variation on the theme instead. It feels so fresh, so good!

Mix it up on the mat, let go, and see how good it feels to be freed from the routine-ness of your routine. You may feel a little unhinged at first, like you're skipping out on your homework. But yoga is about letting go of attachment and living in the present moment, so hiding behind routines and expectations for asana practice is not really practicing yoga at all. Have your routines and leave them, too. Find a way to exercise both discipline and freedom simultaneously. And let your routines move beyond ruts to become beautiful variations on a theme.

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