Updated: Apr 17
I have an alarm set on my phone. The label is “go to yoga” and it’s set for 15 minutes before my favorite yoga class. This gives me time to drink a glass of water, pull on my jacket, find my mat, and walk the 10 minutes to Passyunk Avenue and the yoga studio.
This lack of wiggle room is intentional. If I set the alarm for 20 minutes before class, I would have an extra five minutes to finish an email or read one more news story or scan another page of job ads — and the chances increase dramatically that I will be distracted and fail to walk out the door, a triumph of the digital over the physical.
The Hard Part is Over: You Made It to Your Yoga Mat.
“You did it. You’re here. The hard part is over: you made it to your mat.” Almost every yoga teacher I’ve known says this or something like it near the start of class, and for me it serves two functions. In the moment, it is a reminder that I am indeed here, on my mat, ready to practice. I have put this time aside for me. This is a cue to settle in and be present.
It is also a reminder that, yes, getting to my mat is difficult. Even doing at home yoga is a challenge. There is my mat, curled up in the corner, and here I sit, typing on my computer. When I get up for a cup of tea, I walk right past it. I know I can do yoga at any time, and so any time somehow turns into not right now. The matter of getting to a studio, for an in person class, poses opposite challenges. It is on someone else’s schedule, and I have to actually get there. On the one hand, this is even harder, but at least once I’m out the door, the likelihood that I’ll actually do it increases dramatically.
I love practicing yoga. I enjoy the actual experience and I feel the benefits throughout my days and nights. My mind and body are stronger and more peaceful. I am more whole in myself, less a duality of body versus mind. I face mess and misery with greater equanimity. My body hurts less, and I sleep better. Really. All of it.
Why Is Going to Yoga So Hard?
So why is it so hard to get to yoga?
What is my time for? It is for chores, work, making dinner, playing with the cats, swimming with my daughter, keeping up with the news, sleeping. Much of my time is already assigned. There are things I need to do, and most of them are for the direct benefit of others. I pack lunches, haul laundry down flights of stairs, draft case studies, troubleshoot webpage designs, show up for meetings, school my face into various expressions of polite interest. I am a mother, a wife, an employee, a friend.
When I take time for yoga, I am taking time for myself.
I really loathe the facile encouragement that all of us, parents in particular and mothers with an especially evil vengeance, are bombarded with to “take some me time.” The rhetoric of self-care drives me wild. Take a shower! Make time for a trip to Target without the kids! If, in addition to taking care of everyone else, you’re not taking care of you, you’re not doing it right.
We are all trying so hard to do it right. I try so hard to do it right, all of it. Taking care of me turns into another item on the list, and the list is already too long.
Yoga Gives Me Myself
I do need a shower and a solo trip to Target. But what I need even more is time that I spend being in the present, instead of constantly checking items off my to-do list. This is what yoga gives me: myself. Time to be only myself, to meditate and to move and to breathe. And on days when I struggle to give myself even this much consideration, I remember that I am better at everything else and for everyone else when I take this time. When I take the time to do yoga, I have more wholeness and patience to bring to the rest of my life. The yoga comes off the mat and travels with me, within me, so that the next time life gives me stress and craziness, I counter with slow, deep breaths and kindness.
This is why I set an alarm to get me to yoga class. The irony is not lost on me — a jangle of noise that startles me out of whatever I’m doing is the opposite of what I seek in yoga. But it’s how I get myself on the mat.
How do you do it?