The Importance of Routine in Your Yoga Practice
Whether you are headed to do yoga in a studio or taking a virtual class, the importance of instituting routine and ritual in your yoga practice cannot be underestimated. Without going into too much science, the brain is very good at recognizing cues from our environment and our bodies and will respond accordingly. So, when preparing for any activity, not just yoga, routine can help get the mind in the right state for the journey ahead.
As it pertains to yoga, ritual is already woven into much of the practice naturally, and likely purposely, when yoga was born in the East many years ago. First, you have the asanas (the poses) which are finite. Yes, there are variations for many but at the end of the day, the poses are the poses. In the Ashtanga practice, not only do you complete the same set of poses each time, but you do so in the same order. Talk about routine! Then, there are the rituals commonly employed by the instructor at the beginning and end of a class. Traditionally, you will begin in stillness, settling into the space, and connecting to your breath. At the end of the practice, you will slow your movement, find deep opening in the body, and again find stillness in Savasana. Lastly, those of you familiar with the Vinyasa practice, know that ALMOST every class will include Sun Salutations to warm the body, executed in a similar way each time, in a repetitive sequence so as to get the breath linking up with movement. These Sun Salutations are a true moving meditation and the epitome of yoga ritual.
So why is routine especially important for yoga? For most of us, the yoga practice is so much more than simple body movement. It is an opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves and use our breath to explore our current state of being. But this is very contrary to how we move through most of our daily lives! So, the brain needs some extra assistance getting into a mode where it is ready to fully embrace what the yoga practice offers. Giving the brain the signals of stillness, breath, vinyasas, etc. cues the mind to get into a mode that is receptive to our intentions more quickly and with less effort. And, the more often we execute these routines, our brain starts to learn what we’re trying to accomplish, and may even begin to automatically go to the mental space we desire.
Now that we understand the function and importance of routine at the beginning, middle, and end of the actual practice, I encourage you to implement your own personal rituals. I don’t just mean while you are in the midst of a class…try instituting a routine that resonates before you even step on your mat (or right after your Savasana). Meditation, journaling, and prayer are all options. Or, it could even be a simple sequence of poses or stretches you do on your own before or after your practice. The more routines and rituals you put in place, the more you are getting your brain ready for the journey. And, just as life itself is its own journey, the process of stepping on and off your mat can be its own profound experience. Enjoy it!