5 steps to getting on the Yoga mat (when it's the last thing you feel like doing)

As human beings we’re naturally drawn to what makes us feel good and when we start practicing Yoga, it can feel damn good. 

But like anything the honeymoon period can wear off. How many times have you started something with great gusto only to get bored after a while? Think of all those gym memberships that people take up in January and don’t use after March.

So how do we keep showing up when it’s really the last thing we feel like doing?

Tapas or burning effort* is one of the five Niyamas (personal disciplines or observances) from Patanjali’s eightfold path. It’s what keeps us going when boredom sets in, life gets busy or it ceases to be fun anymore.

Yoga isn’t all love and light. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve turned up on my mat with anger, resentment or frustration. It’s around this time our practice can fall away. Faced with what we perceive to be negative emotions, we think the Yoga isn’t working anymore and we move on to the next thing.

This is when the Yoga begins. 

In Sutra I:14 Patanjali tells us ‘that practice is indeed firmly grounded when it is pursued incessantly, with reverence, for a long time’**. When we balance Tapas with Aparigrahi (non grasping), we can show up constantly and know that whatever greets us is, in fact, part of the practice. As Pattabhi Jois said “practice and all is coming”.

So how do we cultivate staying power when it doesn’t come naturally?

  1. Set yourself a goal
    For example, I know of a student who wanted to work on her posture for her wedding. Simple, achievable goals help you work with where you’re at in your life right now. Remember to balance with Aparigraha (non grasping).
     
  2. Establish a routine
    I find routine is critical. I have to do my practice in the morning otherwise I’ll create a million excuses as to why I can’t do it after work. Work out a time that suits you and stick to it. Whether it’s 10, 20 or 30 minutes doesn’t matter – what’s important is that you establish that time for yourself. Live with a partner or family? See if you can get them involved and suggest everyone has 15 minutes quiet time in the morning.
     
  3. Buddy up
    For some, making a commitment to someone else is easier than making it to ourselves. Share your goals with a friend or partner and have them hold you accountable. Remember to reward yourself when you achieve your goal.
     
  4. Know that your mind will try and trick you
    Ever found yourself using excuses such as ‘I’m too busy, I don’t have time or I’ll do it tomorrow’. Yep, me too. Spending time with ourselves can be challenging and we will find every excuse in the book to avoid it. Expect it, recognise it and do the practice anyway. I often fool my mind by saying ‘okay, well I’ll just do five minutes today’ and before I know it I’ve done an hour.
     
  5. Explore all that Yoga has to offer
    There are plenty of ways to feed your body and soul. Go for a mindful walk, take a restorative class, attend Kirtan, read up on philosophy or enjoy a good movie - anything that inspires and ignites that passion for self-care.

How do you cultivate Tapas in your own life? I’d love to hear from you – share your experiences in the comments box below.

I’ll be exploring Tapas and more during my upcoming 12 week course ‘The Yoga Companion’. If you want to dive deeper into all things Yoga, develop a home practice and know your Yamas from your Niyamas, sign up for my newsletter and you'll be the first to know once dates are announced.

* Yogakanti, S, 2007. Sanskrit Glossary of Yogic Terms. 1st ed. Bihar, India: Yoga Publications Trust.
** Stiles, M, 2002. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. 1st ed. California: Weister Books.