In the last few days before Christmas, while I was still at home in Sydney, yoga had started to disappear much further down the To Do List than it might normally be. (Of course, with all the last minute organising, yoga is probably exactly what I needed to keep my mind reasonably sane.) While I stood over pots of onion and chilli jam, despaired at failed shortbread (something I’ve never managed to fail at before!), and rushed out to the shops for panicked additions to presents, I realised that my usual yoga practice just wasn’t going to happen – at the yoga studio or at home. I needed to start thinking about what kind of practice I might be able to foster while I was rushing around all over the place.
I have a fairly dedicated home yoga practice. I was reluctant to give it up or change it. But, as I eventually realised, either it changed to fit the craziness that seems to come with the festive season, or I wouldn’t get any yoga in at all.
Of course, yoga is as much about flexibility of the mind as it is of the body. And in inner-city Sydney, yoga is almost always competing with chaos. The yoga studio I frequent most as a student sits right under the flight path and next to a scrap metal recycler; another studio I attend is just across the road from a popular (read: noisy) Newtown pub. Even in the classes I teach I’m often working around traffic noise or slotting into the lunchtime of a busy corporate student. And really, the festive season – and the interruption to routine that often continues well beyond 25 December – is just a heightened version of the balance between chaos and control that comes with everyday life.
As Sally Kempton, renowned US yogic philosopher says, “Whether consciously or unconsciously, we are all engaged in pas de deux between our desire to keep things under control, and our longing to ride with the unpredictable. One on hand, control is essential. Without it we would never mature, never accomplish our goals, and never transform bad habits… In so many ways, control is good, necessary and admirable… [But] that useful, necessary control mechanism has a tendency to turn tyrannical… since life is basically out of control, your attempts to control outcomes will often end in frustration. If you can’t let go of your need to control when necessary, you’ll be at the mercy of your stress hormones.”
And this is true with a yoga practice too. Sometimes life just gets in the way, and we might have to be content with a reduced or altered practice. I might not be able to have as expansive a practice as I’m used to, but surely some yoga is better than none at all.
Two days before Christmas my housemate and I took a break from our cooking marathon and lay with our legs up the wall in our front hallway; we realised we’d never seen our house from that angle before. Most mornings leading up to Christmas I practiced some form of pranayama, which is usually only a very minor part of my practice; I rediscovered the amazing impact this practice has on your energy levels. And quiet meditation – even just five minutes – has helped me get my thoughts into order and settle into the new places I’ve found myself as I’ve travelled around to visit my family.
Trying new things in my yoga practice has given me a fresh outlook – never a bad thing as the new year rolls around. I have a whole lot of plans (yoga-related and otherwise) for the new year, and they involve a shake-up of what was my routine before the Christmas period. I’m sure when I return to Sydney, yoga will change for me all over again, and I’m okay with that.